VAUGHT: A new approach to party politics
By Jackson Vaught, Chair of Fiscal Responsibility at CSA Vanderbilt | Vanderbilt Hustler - 2/10/2014
In the final minutes of his most recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama declared, “Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy.” And, although I may not agree with our President on many policy issues, he’s completely right on this point. Democracy is hard. However, this challenge is something that’s endemic to the American ideal. It is this challenge that has allowed us to survive two and a half centuries, two world wars, a dozen recessions and a host of other struggles. It is something that spurred the recent creation of a new club at Vanderbilt, because we cannot allow party divides to threaten all that our nation has built from beginning to crumble.
As young adults, we must take initiatives to repair rather than divide, to work together rather than apart, so that when our generation begins to lead this nation we are ready for the job.
Last fall, I was approached to join a new campus political organization, Common Sense Action (CSA). As a member of the Vanderbilt College Republicans executive board, I was very hesitant to become involved with a group that I feared would just be factions of young adults pointing fingers at one another and asserting why their political views were right and everyone else was wrong. Thankfully, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
As the task force chair of fiscal responsibility, I was in charge of working with my Democratic counterpart to craft a set of bills that reflected our collaborative efforts and ideas for reform on taxes as well as the national budget. Although I had agreed to take on the position, I was still extremely hesitant. In my head I kept repeating, “There is no way myself and a Democrat are going to agree on anything. He wants tax increases, I want decreases. He believes in Obamacare, I do not.” The list went on and on. Basically, I assumed that since he and I envisioned two different futures for America, there would be no way for us to compromise on some of these beliefs we hold so dear.
And, it’s true. We did not agree on everything. In fact, there were often times when we came close to scrapping potential bills altogether because we both refused to compromise. However, on every issue we discussed, we eventually unearthed common ground. Although neither of us got exactly what we wanted on every single policy, we were able to finish with a set of bills that both of us felt would be acceptable to people with our own ideologies while still allowing the other side to have their say. Despite beginning as an organization this past September, we have been able to accomplish quite a bit in a short amount of time, most particularly our Campus Congress that occurred in November. On a Sunday afternoon, a representation of students from myriad political philosophies discussed, debated and passed almost over a dozen pieces of legislation about issues ranging from social security reform to a bill that world require all Congressmen to visit high schools in their respective districts, meeting with young voters in order to promote higher levels of civic engagement. Perhaps most importantly, though, we were able to repair the ill feelings we had against the opposing side’s viewpoints and realize that maybe we don’t disagree on so much after all.
This idea of repairing politics, in fact, is something I believe all Americans should be dedicated to. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you fall on, I think we can all agree that an increasingly polarized America has few positive benefits for our political future. The current Congress has neglected to pass bills on immigration reform, agriculture or economic issues because our nation’s political leaders spend too much time arguing with each other on cable news networks and devote hardly any energy to sitting down at the negotiating table and making those tough choices. Honestly, it’s no surprise that Congressional approval ratings reached 5 percent this past fall. With our nation facing increasingly critical situations both domestically and abroad, it is more important than ever that we come together not as parties divided, but as Americans united. We all want a better, brighter nation poised to take on the 21st century with all of the challenges it faces, and our nation’s leaders, as well as ourselves, must commit to repair this sharp divide if America is to remain a global beacon of hope, showing the rest of the world that democracy, liberty and freedom are achievable for all.