Opinion Column: Everything is Bipartisan
If you don’t agree with the other side on something, you’re doing it wrong. That’s one of the most important political lessons I’ve ever learned. From the time I started to have political ideas, I have been a staunch liberal. I believe in the policies of the Democratic party on basically every issue. If I don’t, it’s usually because my ideas are farther left than those of the mainstream Democrats. When it comes to being bipartisan, there’s never been anything wrong with my ideology: you can hold strong views and still find common ground. What was a problem, however, was my hatred of the other side. Not only did I never agree with Republicans, but I despised them. Soon enough, I’d realize that was wrong. In eighth grade, I joined a discussion group made up of two liberals, an independent, and two conservatives. For months, we went back and forth on all of the issues. I never agreed with my Republican counterparts, and I wouldn’t be friends with them either. Why would I? As time went on, my views started to shift. Not such that I was becoming more politically right or center -- that would never happen. No, I was shifting my opinions of these people. They were nice, funny, and I enjoyed talking with them. I realized that maybe setting politics aside and opening myself up to friendships with conservatives, Republicans, and even Trump supporters wouldn’t be so bad. This was the first step of my revelatory change. As we continued debating, always disagreeing, but respecting each other and having fun, I had a second realization: nothing will ever get done if we can never agree. Sure, politicians can wait until their party wins every part of the government and then start making change. I’ll surely be doing so myself as a progressive leader 20 years from now. In the meantime, though, going back and forth while accomplishing nothing helps no one. In the group, abortion was always our foremost issue of discussion. It was interesting, we starkly disagreed, and there were lots of nuances and philosophies to explore. In early 2020, I decided to find something on which everyone could agree. What if we focused not on whether abortion should be legal or illegal, but why it’s necessary in the first place, I thought. We could implement economic maternal support and access to birth control, rather than arguing over abortion bans. When I brought this to my conservative friends, they agreed. I then went on to use this argument as my focus at a Model UN conference about reproductive rights, where it united almost everyone and won me the Best Delegate award. I was surprised but excited by this success. By putting aside my partisan views and digging deeper for common ground, I had discovered a uniting force of an idea. Now, I still believe we should expand access to abortion, of course. That’s still important. But if everyone’s not going to agree on that, we can help people in another way. Every issue, from guns to healthcare, has this shining bipartisan center. We don’t have to abandon more partisan views to find real ways to help people that are agreeable to all. This lesson changed the way I think about politics. It will change the way I lead forever. I hope everyone else can experience this change, too; it’s how we’ll achieve true bipartisanship.