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More civility needed between political parties in public discourse

As everyone knows by now, the night of Nov. 4 was a joyous one for Republicans around the nation. Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time since 2006, expanded its majority in the House of Representatives and won 24 out of 36 of the contested gubernatorial elections. An impressive sweep like this instills strong emotions on both sides of the party divide, and while Republicans should no doubt be celebratory and Democrats disappointed, it is my belief that civility and respect must be observed first and foremost. Republicans should be prideful in their victory without being boastful or demeaning, while Democrats should try their best not to be bitter and look forward optimistically to the next election. Anything less than this serves no purpose but to further divide us in an already politically polarized country.

Here at Rutgers, generally considered to be a “liberal campus” in a blue state, I have observed both civil political disagreements and hostile antagonism. In every instance, I have tried my best to adhere to the civil route rather than the latter, more hostile one. For example, one of the many activities that College Republicans does here on campus is tabling. We set up our own table, with the College Republicans banner proudly displayed, at the fall and spring involvement affairs and at the Rutgers Day celebration. On Rutgers Day, we sell American flags and give the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as give out free candy. Several times over the years, I’ve witnessed people come up to our table when they notice we are the College Republicans and hurl insults at us or tell us we are bad people. Although I could easily snap back with another insult, I always chose to ignore these people. Again, to engage in hostility with them really serves no purpose.

I wish those who have insulted us in the past could follow the example set by those they probably are in political accordance with — the University Democrats. The President of Rutgers University Democrats happens to be an acquaintance of mine, and we have never exchanged any ill will despite our political differences. Just four days before Election Day, my co-chair and officers from the University Democrats were featured as guests on the “Rutgers Recess with Chisa and Katie” radio show. While we debated and disagreed over issues like the federal deficit and foreign policy, we were always cordial and even had a friendly conversation about the things we did agree on after the radio program.

On election night however, I was once again witness and victim to intolerance by some of those who have different political views. Having announced on Twitter how proud I was of being a Republican and the night’s electoral victories, I received replies from two Democrats I personally know (who are not members of the University chapter, as far as I know), voicing their disgust at my being a Republican and saying they wanted to do obscene things to me and anyone who was a Republican and gay (which I am). It’s sad that certain people that claim to be tolerant have to result to online intimidation and sexual harassment simply because they are disappointed with the outcomes of one election. I find the fact that these two people are so bothered by my being gay and Republican quite interesting. Republicans have never reacted negatively when they learned that I am gay. Quite the contrary, they usually are happy because it shows just how diverse our party is becoming. On the other hand, on several occasions, liberals and Democrats have become upset at me when they learned I am a Republican. Despite being deeply uncomfortable with the sexually aggressive and inappropriate Tweet directed at me (and many others), I chose not to engage. Again, civility wins the day.

This is not to say I have always been above the fray. I, too, have had my moments where I have slipped into uncivil discourse. Last spring, as the Condoleezza Rice controversy engulfed much of Rutgers, I found myself loudly arguing with one of the liberal activists who had organized the #NoRice movement. While I disagree with #NoRice to my core, I admit I should have not raised my voice or let the disagreement spiral into an argument. During the controversy, the College Republicans were personally invited to meet with University President Barchi himself. He reassured us that he was committed to having Rutgers be a politically tolerant campus and that he was strongly against having former-Secretary Rice step down from being commencement speaker.

Just as our elected officials are expected to be respectful and civil in their lawmaking bodies, public discourse, whether in person or online, should adhere to these standards as well. A university campus that is politically tolerant and welcoming of all viewpoints, where different political groups could co-exist, is the most beneficial and desired kind there is.

Sergio Rojas is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history and journalism and media studies. He is the chairman of Rutgers College Republicans. His column, “Common Sense Conservative,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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