Politics should not pervade non-partisan issues

Keely Ganong

In today’s political climate, it seems as though any remotely controversial issue is dragged into a partisan battle. While politicization is not a new development, it has recently become more present in issues that do not belong in politics, especially with matters concerning scientific fact. This is in part due to the increase of polarization and radical views regarding policy change. 

According to the Pew Research Center, partisan animosity has more than doubled since 1994. Today, intense partisans are found to believe the opposing party’s policies are “so misguided that they are a threat to the nation’s well-being.”  Despite being named the “United” States of America, now, more than ever, citizens are hardly united. 

With the cavernous split between political views in our country, we are often unable to find common ground on even the most indisputable topics rooted in science and fact. Many extremists and general party members now form their opinions solely based on their political parties’ stance on the issue and rely on their party’s polarized view rather than listening to experts’ advice. Citizens should conduct their own research to form sound opinions on which side they support in a matter, and partisanship needs to be curtailed in order to allow scientific evidence to be assessed by individuals without political interference.

Along with just about every decision in the management of COVID-19, the decision to wear a mask has become politicized. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Democratic leaders have been vocal about the importance of masks, echoing scientists’ assertions that everyone should wear one in public. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have shown that masks can reduce down the chance of both transmitting and catching the coronavirus. As a result, the answer to this debate should be simple: everyone should wear a mask.

Illustration by Livy Selden

Whether or not there is bipartisan support for masks, what matters is the scientific research behind their usage. However, with many Republican officials downplaying the need for protective equipment like masks, our nation has become divided over something meant only to protect public health. Both political parties have taken advantage of this controversy to gain power for their own side and discredit the opposition, turning mask-wearing into a political debate rather than a public health issue. Democrats quickly developed a critical view of those refusing to wear a mask while Republicans in turn argued that mask mandates infringed on their rights. Decisions to control the pandemic and overall health should not be complicated by politics. These opposing claims are a waste of time amid this already-complicated effort to control the virus when scientists have found evidence proving the validity of one side of the argument. 

Likewise, views on climate change should not be swayed by political divides. When it comes to scientific and environmental matters, we should always trust and accept data provided by scientists. However, as President Donald Trump continues to understate the reality of climate change, his polarizing views influence his supporters to discredit scientists. According to a Pew Research study, trends show that partisanship consistently corresponds with the trust of environmental scientists. While more than 70 percent of liberal Democrats trust climate scientists to provide accurate information about climate change causes, only 15 percent of conservative Republicans feel the same way. Conflicting sides are unable to see climate change through the same lens, as they perceive data from scientists from different perspectives with varying levels of trust. However, politics should not distort solid facts: as we come to face the environmental consequences formed by our lack of action, we must realize that party identification is irrelevant and climate change is affecting us all. In order to address climate change, we must join together in a nonpartisan manner and trust the facts.

This is not to say politics aren’t important. We are reliant on our government to use political power to set policies and create laws. Dissenting political views were essential to the formation of our modern government and the lasting structure created from the Jeffersonian era has allowed for wide representation of citizens’ ideological views. However, the issue arises when polarization is so prevalent it interferes with any productive government action. Regardless of political association, science should never be considered a partisan debate. 

As we continue to face both a pandemic and the looming reality of climate change, now, more than ever, we must realize the importance of scientific facts as a tool to create policy. In order to handle future controversial issues in a less divisive way, we must put aside partisan politics and focus on changes moving in the direction of unity and not benefiting political parties.