At some point during your college years, you will be asked by your family to do something that relates to your major. If you are a musical theatre major, you may be asked to sing a showtune from an old Rodgers-Hammerstein Show. If you are studying business, you may be invited to smoke cigars and play golf. And if you are like me, a Journalism and Political Science double major, you will be asked about politics. At every family function since the start of the 2016 Presidential Race, I have been asked the same questions: “You hear what Hillary said last night?”, “What makes people like Hillary/Trump?”, and “What country is the easiest to immigrate to if Trump becomes president?”. The evident feeling my family members’ questions is confusion. My old Comparative Politics teacher, when discussing election trends, always added the verbal footnote: “except, perhaps, the current presidential election”.
When my family asks these questions, they always expect (since I am related to them), that my answer will reaffirm their political beliefs. I can usually tell what response they are listening for by how they word their questions: “Who’s going to win, Trump (followed by knocking on nearby wood) or that lying manipulative robot?” are pretty easy to categorize. If I don’t hear their opinion in the question, I will definitely hear it in their response to my answer. My answers do not change if I know their opinions or not. Here are a few responses I have given: “I am fine with a socialist running for president, I am much more scared of the fascists… I mean Republicans running”, “I think Ted Cruz is so religious that he acts like a biblical figure i.e. Lucifer”, “Bernie Sanders sounds like Larry David, looks like a retired Muppet, and has the political opinions of a Lower East Side Poet”, and “Donald Trump is the political embodiment of the terrors described in the Book of Revelations”. Following my one liners is usually a quick laugh/look of shock followed by a speech that my family member had planned before asking me the question.
The interesting thing about this questioning is that my family members expect me to be able to answer their questions objectively. My family is looking for facts, but all I can give is opinions. Usually, these are well-informed opinions with examples and explanations and a smattering of textbook terminology, but they are still opinions. I am by no means an authority of political discourse.
Being a political science student is different from being an engineering student. My twin brother is studying to be an engineer and if I ask him how my headphones work, he will be able to explain it to me with scientific facts. But if he asked me which political candidate will fix the economy, I would only be able to compare and contrast the two tax plans proposed by both candidates and give my opinion on which is more likely to fix the economy. There is no such thing as objective political science. Bias is evident in all subjects but it is made into a career through political science.
However, being a political science major is much more than just learning arguments and statistics to reinforce your opinion. Political science classes give students not just a list of government institutions and their functions, but gives a lens to observe the world. Politics influence everything around us whether it is realized or not. While it is not healthy to analyze the politics behind everything in your life, acknowledging how politics pertain to your life is necessary to be an informed citizen.
Political opinions can teach you a lot about someone. I have realized a lot of why my family members do and say certain things through learning their political opinions. You can tell how opinionated someone is through something as simple as the amount and content of their bumper stickers on their car. However, I should make it clear that political views do not always accurately define someone and should not change how you feel about a person. All conservatives do not go around yelling at poor people to get a job, just as all liberals do not protest every second of the day.
My family is a hodgepodge of differing political opinions. We consist of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. One thing we do have in common is that we love each other. Love trumps all political opinions. At all of our get-togethers, my family always listens to my political opinions, no matter how radical or ridiculous I may sound. While a heated debate can occur, it is always ended amicably. Imagine what the world would be like if people did not let politics divide them? I imagine it would be a little like my family.