Seeing Past the Party Divide

September 29, 2010

In sixth grade, I wrote a research paper on what I wanted to be when I grew up. The answer was simple: the first female president of the United States. Throughout middle school my classmates would playfully tease me about this ambition, but I was determined to not write off my goal as childish dream. I saw the political position in a glorified light; an office devoted integrity, morals, and steadfast progress.

Eleven years later, I find myself in Washington, DC as a Running Start Fellow. I have always pictured DC as a place of com bating view points, but despite these differing political parties, I have expected educated, well-reasoned compromise to be prevalent. What I have encountered is polarized politics. I still believe that the presidential office is one of integrity and morals; however, the steadfast progress which I long for is often hindered by representatives aligning themselves directly with their political parties. Starting my fellowship in September of an electoral year has further reinforced this viewpoint. All of the top newspapers are discussing Congress wanting to end session a week early so that representatives may return home to campaign. When analyzing their arguments, it is easy to understand the logic. Simply put, not much is going to happen during this month long congressional session. The two political parties are not going to be able to agree on any bills because the Republican Party will use a filibuster to block legislation proposed by the Democratic Party. The lack of compromise and understanding is cultivated by the political game which is continuously being paused due to fouls and unruly conduct. These infringements have multiplied due to the electoral year making my introduction to Washington one which challenges my lifelong desires to enter the political arena.

On a few rare occasions this political polarization has extended into the Running Start Fellowship house. All of the women I live with are motivated and talented young individuals. I have a deep respect for each one of them. One evening, the conversation shifted to criticize a certain party. Instead of arguing, I removed myself from the conversation as my fellow housemates failed to recognize that I was a member of the said party. I brushed off comments as negativity fueled by Washington’s two party systems. A few days later, I found myself in conversation with the other girls who had also noticed the startling clear separation of the two political parties. We argued that some of the separation on the Hill seems completely pointless. For example, why should there be both Republican and Democratic female intern panel sessions? The topics covered in either session consist of almost 100% overlap. For the rest of the semester, my roommates and I have chosen to follow the “we are all friends after 6pm” rule. We attend both Democratic and Republican galas as a group using each event as an important leaning and networking experience. It is these women who motivate me to continue my pursuit of a career in politics because although it might be an arena for the toughest, it is one which can result in great victory. Seeing the compromises of my roommates and I leaves me with the hope of a more unified political future.

– Elsie R., Star Fellow Fall 2010

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