Divided We Stand: How political stances shape UPA

Digital+illustration+of+a+Republican+%28left%29+and+Democrat+%28right%29+fighting+each+other.

Digital illustration by Vidya Achar.

Digital illustration of a Republican (left) and Democrat (right) fighting each other.

By Vidya Achar, University Preparatory Academy

As a result of the November election, tension and bitterness run high on both sides of the political spectrum. At UPA, several students are struggling to maintain relationships because of differences in political beliefs.

Impact on Relationships

“I think [different political views] will definitely bring some disagreements to a friendship and it’s going to make it difficult to truly connect, but if both people don’t have prejudice, it could work out fine,” Sophomore Nina Retuta, a Republican, said.

Contrary to Retuta’s statement, Democrat Nazhah Mir, a senior, is reluctant to have friends who oppose her political beliefs.

“It depends on how severe those views are,” Mir said. “I’m Muslim, so if you support Trump’s Islamophobia and him putting travel bans on all Islamic countries and him wanting to send Muslims out of the country, I can’t be friends with you.”

Sophomore Maxine Dizon’s views on a bipartisan friendship are akin to left-leaning Mir’s.

“I try not to be friends with [someone with opposing political views],” Dizon, a Democrat, said. “I feel like if we have different political views, our morals are also going to be different.”

Unlike Mir and Dizon, Retuta has friends who strongly oppose her political views. She believes debates and disagreements have made her a better person.

“Honestly, if you say you can’t be friends because of their political stance, I think that has a lot to do with your self-confidence and ego, and how much you think you’re correct, when in some situations, you’re not,” Retuta said.

It’s so weird to me because people say that Republicans hate Mexicans and are sexist, but not all of them are. I’m Latina and I’m a woman as well, so it never made any sense to me.”

— Nina Retuta

While Retuta has friends from across the political aisle, she agrees with Dizon that there is a palpable difference in ideology between both Democrats and Republicans.

“[My political views] definitely shape my morals,” Retuta said. “Like, for example, I’m not going to fully accept the LGBTQ community. I, personally, don’t agree with it and I think those relationships are wrong.”

But, Retuta does prefer to refrain from making inconsiderate comments even if they align with her views.

“If I know you as a person, I’m not going to comment on [your sexual or gender orientation] or say hurtful things to you because of that,” Retuta said. “I think we should learn to keep our opinions to ourselves.”

Mir sees withholding opinions differently, as she believes opinions and ideas about the world form much of our identities.

“I think we should freely express our opinions,” Mir said. “Like, [Trump’s] views on LGBTQ communities, and how he bans transgender people from the military. I feel like we should all be very accepting [of transgender individuals] and if you support his discriminatory behavior or enable it, I don’t want to associate with you.”

Clashing ideas can lead to heated arguments over what is considered moral by the stance and ideology of each party.

Party Ideals

“The Democratic party stands for acceptance,” Dizon said. “It’s accepting anybody regardless of race, religion, class or sexual orientation.”

A Pew Research study from October 2016 showed 82% of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans identify with or lean toward the Democratic party, while 18% identify with or lean toward the GOP.

While Dizon believes the Democratic party stands for acceptance regardless of religious beliefs, Retuta thinks the Republican party stands for commitment to religion.

“The Republican Party mostly stands for God and believing in God,” Retuta said. “You know, this country was built for worshipping God and the freedom to praise God. Republicans are godly people and good Christians.”

A 2014 Pew Research study survey found that 43% of Christians identified as Republican or Republican-leaning, while 40% of Christians identified as Democrat or Democrat-leaning.

President Trump gives a speech at a campaign rally in Valdosta, GA on Dec. 5. (Photo courtesy of Doug Mills/The New York Times.)

Although Christians make up the majority of the Republican base, Retuta acknowledges that President Donald Trump has not always adhered to Christian values.

“I know Trump has done some bad things, but we need to forgive and forget, like it says in the Bible,” Retuta said.

Mir believes that if people have the ability to forgive and forget, they are in a position of privilege.

“Not everyone has the privilege to forgive and forget,” Mir said. “For example, say the people in cages [on the U.S-Mexico border]. They can’t just forgive and forget Trump and ICE for putting them in cages. There’s nothing that oppressed people can gain from forgiving and forgetting.”

In addition to the divide in party ideals, preconceived notions and misconceptions about the other party can lead to discrimination amongst peers and feelings of rejection from the opposing party.

“Individuals might not be racist, but Trump hates [Mexicans and Asians], so you’re supporting someone who does, and essentially you’re supporting that kind of bigotry,” Mir said.

Opposing this opinion, Retuta believes that a few racist people do not define a whole group.

“It’s so weird to me because people say that Republicans hate Mexicans and are sexist, but not all of them are,” Retuta said. “I’m Latina and I’m a woman as well, so it never made any sense to me.”

Misconceptions

Following Retuta’s perception that Democrats associate the Republican party with close-mindedness, Dizon expressed her initial reaction to finding out someone is right-leaning.

“If someone introduces themselves as Republican, my first thought is they’re probably ignorant or close-minded, or they’ve been swayed by their parents,” Dizon said.

Retuta finds this assumption hurtful and recalls an instance in sixth grade, the day after the election results were announced on Nov. 8, 2016. She came into class wearing a Republican pin instead of the Democratic pins a few of her classmates were wearing. The teacher decided to have a discussion about how newly-elected President Trump’s presidency would affect the country and students.

“I remember constantly raising my hand throughout the whole discussion, but the teacher never called on me,” she said. “She was too politically left that she only called on the students who hated Trump.”

I try not to be friends with [someone with opposing political views]. I feel like if we have different political views, our morals are also going to be different.”

— Maxine Dizon

Retuta remembers feeling irritated that she could not share her opinions on the subject and debate other students about their views.

“It was hard to sit there while everyone was talking dirt about someone I strongly supported,” Retuta said. “I wanted to explain why he wasn’t so bad and how he would make our country great, but she was too egotistical to give me a chance.”

Retuta went on to explain that after the election, most of her friends stopped talking to her and offering to hang out with her.

“Once they found out I was a Trump supporter, they were like, ‘you racist piece of s—,’ and they never talked to me again,” Retuta said.

Even now, Retuta is afraid of losing friends because of her political stance.

“They would probably judge me for everything I said, even if it was not political,” Retuta said.

Mir also thinks there are misconceptions Republicans have about the Democratic party.

“Because, personally, not all Democrats are extreme socialists and communists,” Mir said. “[Republicans] think that we’re all super left-leaning, and like communists, but that’s not the case for all Democrats; some of them are actually pretty moderate.”

Dizon believes that like any group or idea, the Democratic party has strengths and weaknesses.

“Democrats are just more inclusive and more accepting to LGBTQ and different kinds of people and races,” Dizon said. “But, the worst thing about the Democratic party is that people sometimes just follow it blindly because of their parents or relatives.”

Regarding Dizon’s claim of Democratic diversity, as per Pew Research Center in 2018, 56% of women, 84% of African Americans, 63% of Hispanic voters and 65% of Asian voters affiliate with or lean toward the Democratic Party.

Retuta acknowledges the strengths and flaws in the Republican Party.

“The best thing about Republicans is that we respect God and are more godly [than Democrats], but I think the worst thing about Republicans is sometimes they don’t listen to statistics,” Retuta said.

Though they fall on different points of the political spectrum, Retuta, Mir and Dizon all agree politics is important.

“Regardless of who you vote for, politics should be talked about because it affects every part of your life,” Dizon said. “People need politics to figure out how to solve their problems and have a voice in their community. Needless to say, you can’t just expect other people to solve your problems.”

Photo from Joe Biden’s acceptance speech held in Wilmington, DE on Nov. 7. From left to right: Douglas Emhoff (next second gentleman), Kamala Harris (Vice President-elect), Joe Biden (President-elect), Jill Biden (next first lady). (Photo courtesy of Amr Alfiky/The New York Times.)

The Democratic and Republican candidates who competed in elections both nationwide and statewide differed on policies regarding climate change, racial justice, abortion, immigration and the approach to dealing with COVID-19. Mir agrees with Dizon about voters choosing the candidate they believe best represents their values, but she adds that voting is not the end of a voter’s civic duty.

“Your job isn’t over after you vote,” Mir said. “The decisions you make and the [ideas] you support continue to either hurt or improve society.”

This story was originally published on Aquila on December 8, 2020.