Some argue that within the last two years we have lost the ability to talk to one another, and that civil discourse is a thing of the past. Illinois State University students showed otherwise last week.
On Monday, there was a debate between College Democrats and the ISU chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a conservative nonprofit organization that centers its focus on specific issues such as free speech. The topics that were given the most focus were the state of the economy, free speech and health care, as these are the most contested issues of our time.
Who won the debate is not important. What is important is that the two wings of ideology in American politics came together and had a civil conversation without making the other side feel as if its views were marginalized or somehow less relevant than the other’s. Both sides made their points in ways that were respectful and clear, something that does not always happen when debating politics in a professional setting, and it most certainly doesn’t happen in debate on the Internet. There were moments that were tense, but that is natural with debate.
While these two groups obviously do not agree on much, Andy Byars, the vice president of Turning Point USA at ISU, conceded in his closing statement that there are still certain things the groups do agree on. If these two groups can work together on campus, they can be a model for the McLean County Democrats and Republicans going forward. Thinking the other side is evil is not the way to approach issues and conversations. Listening to one another is the only way out of the mess we are currently in, and these two groups showed they were, at the very least, willing to hear the other side out on Monday. This is a small step toward progress on campus, and is a far cry from what we see on the national level between conservatives and liberals.
This is not the first time TPUSA and the College Democrats have been able to come together in solidarity. Earlier this year, TPUSA had posters defaced and torn down all over campus. Some of the vandals went as far as calling them Nazis, which they most certainly are not. This displays that those on the far left can be just as ignorant as those on the far right. When this happened, College Democrats spoke out against this form of extremism and ignorance on campus. Calling those on the right Nazis displays a special kind of ignorance from some students on campus who have remained anonymous cowards. If that person truly believes that TPUSA is a group of Nazis, then own it. No one should ever take anonymous trolls seriously.
These two groups have demonstrated all semester that civil discourse is as vital to our nation as it has ever been, and it is refreshing to see students being able to converse in a respectful manner, even if the audience was not respectful at times. Common ground is necessary, and the two sides of the aisles must be able to find that common ground going forward and work on the issues they can even somewhat agree with one another on.
It may be hyperbole, but the fate of our nation depends on this level of civil discourse being practiced throughout our society.