By EMMA BROWN
With the conclusion of the first presidential debate and the 2020 presidential election right around the corner, tensions between political parties are higher than ever. Carmel High School students are no stranger to the divisions between those identifying with the Republican Party and those supporting the Democratic Party, and over the past four years right-leaning students living in a primarily left-leaning area have noted a trend of mistreatment against them and a lack of tolerance.
“I think it is unfair to say that all Trump supporters have his same mindset and narcissistic qualities,” says CHS senior Leila Chappell, who identifies as a liberal. “However, they still look up to him as a leader, and this essentially makes them not concerned about human rights. Like I said, I cannot make a generalization about everyone who supports him, but in general I think I would have a lot of conflict with these people.”
As politics have become increasingly polarized, friendships between those who differ ideologically have become strained. Many students that support Donald Trump note having lost friends over their beliefs. Left-leaning students note having less of an issue with people who simply identify as a part of the Republican Party, as opposed to those who support Trump.
“I’m not friends with Trump supporters because of their political beliefs, but because of their support of the president himself,” says senior Jaden Sissem, who is an active supporter of Joe Biden. “I believe in the U.S.’ two-party system and believe that both Republicans and Democrats should have seats at the table. However, Trump’s Republican Party is wholly different.”
Some right-leaning students note a disproportionate amount of hate from left-leaning students than they claim to reciprocate and have expressed frustration with the lack of openness from students supporting the Democratic Party.
“People like to start fights with me about politics and religion over social media,” says junior Josie Steiney, whose beliefs align with the conservative platform. “I believe that is extremely pointless when neither of us are going to change our minds. Honestly, it gets old, but I am fully aware that by voicing my opinion I am putting myself out there for people to disagree, and I don’t mind having conversations.”
Despite claims associated with just wanting to “get along,” due to differing viewpoints regarding race, sexuality, socioeconomics and social justice issues, there has been an increased belief among some high school students that supporting Trump means agreeing with all of his beliefs.
“I don’t care about which party you’re a part of, but supporting Trump will always be a no for me,” says sophomore Estella Leavy, who would vote for former Vice President Biden if she were of voting age. “At this point, there is no excuse for liking Trump unless you’re racist, sexist or homophobic.”
The Trump administration has denied allegations of racism, citing historically low unemployment rates of African Americans during the past four years of President Trump’s leadership. However, some students have argued that Donald Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacists in the last presidential debate and some of his previous statements make him a racist. Some CHS students believe that by supporting someone that they consider racist, his followers also must bear the term.
“I thought Trump’s response to the question about white supremacy was absolutely appalling,” says sophomore TJ Linnivers, whose views align best with those of the Democratic Party. “The way he told white supremacists to stand back and stand by, protecting them from the ‘evil left’ or whatever he has circulating in his mind, is just so disgusting. His refusal to acknowledge that white supremacists are what starts the riots and not the left being unruly just shows how unfit he is to be president.”
Some conservative students claim that after expressing their opinions, they have been labeled as racist, homophobic and more by members of the opposing party on social media and in private conversations.
“I started being vocal about my beliefs and now there is no going back,” says CHS sophomore Kailey BeVard, who aligns herself with the conservative platform. “I get tons of backlash. I’ve been bullied, lost friends, been called awful names, and people made rumors making things worse. My words were changed and perceived by others in the wrong way, and for those reasons, people think things about me that aren’t true.”
Despite some feeling hurt by the names, others are unphased by the alleged actions of other students.
“The insults aren’t hurtful because politics to me shouldn’t be personal,” says senior Kat Scattini, who describes herself as politically conservative. “It does make me very sad that the society we live is in a world where we are so divided. It is near impossible to find common ground or to even be civil in times when we disagree this much with each other. It would be great if people were able to have dialogue that didn’t turn into aggressive disputes.”
With the upcoming presidential election, tensions between parties are bound to rise, but both liberal and conservative students look forward to a day where conversation can be less divisive.