Politics at MIHS: Leaning Right Doesn’t Have to Be So Wrong

Data Courtesy The Seattle Times

Data Courtesy The Seattle Times

Marley MacDonald, Staff Writer

It’s no secret that the small bubble in Washington that we call Mercer Island is predominantly Democratic. However, many residents may rarely consider whether the opinions living within this small area are shared by the rest of the U.S., or are just a small exception.

Mercer Island and the greater Seattle area are known for their broad acceptance of others, regardless of race, gender, and sexuality. However, this reputation of acceptance doesn’t take into account all members of our community, especially when it comes to politics.

Existing in every neighborhood, office, and classroom are Republican and conservative members of the community. Oftentimes, these members don’t make themselves known as right-leaning individuals. 

“I’ve had entire school discussions where I’ve stayed silent from speaking about my views. My parents have had conversations with me about how I need to stop sharing my political views in front of my teachers because they can treat me differently,” Julia Harper said.

We can’t ignore the fact that everyone has their own biases, but bias isn’t the problem. The problem is when teachers and students alike allow their biases to cloud their ability to fairly judge others. 

“During a class discussion regarding oppression, I stated that although I’m half black, I haven’t faced any racially induced, physical oppression. My teacher responded to me, ‘Just because you are a Republican and wrongly voted for Trump doesn’t mean that you aren’t oppressed,’” an anonymous MIHS student said. “I went up to my teacher and told her that I can say or do what I want, and the fact that I’m a conservative woman of color doesn’t mean anything.” 

The U.S. as a whole has a relatively balanced ratio of Republican and Democratic citizens. According to a political party affiliation poll by Gallup in January, 28% of U.S. citizens identify as a Democrat, 26% as Republican, and 46% as Independent. In King County, however, the Seattle Times recorded that 61% of citizens identify as a Democrat, 28% as Republican, and 11% as Independent.

With there being over double the number of Democrat to Republican citizens in King County, conservatives on Mercer Island are a minority. This minority is often generalized for all-embracing offensive views such as sexist and racist opinions. 

“It’s assumed that all Republicans are bad, and people think that what one person says, someone who may be very far right-leaning, speaks for everybody right-leaning,” Jess Geoghagan said.

“I’ve had people who just stop talking to me, and when I’ve asked other friends why this has happened, they say it’s just because I’m conservative. I get the stereotype, and I really don’t know how to overcome it,” Harper said.

MIHS needs to be reminded that the majority of opinions existing on Mercer Island don’t always speak for the U.S. as a whole. 

“I encourage people to travel outside of King County and meet people who don’t agree with them. Maybe people who are in a different social class than you, who have less money or more money. Have conversations with those people,” an anonymous MIHS student said.

Politics aren’t as black-and-white as some students perceive them to be. Democrats do not all share the same set of views, and nor do Republicans. Similarly, it is never fair to make assumptions about a student’s values based on their political party affiliation. 

MIHS can change to give every student their rightfully deserved respect, no matter their association to politics. If teachers can educate their students on both the left and right sides of the conversation, the school as a whole can normalize Democrat and Republican, or conservative and liberal. No one needs to change their views, but rather, simply listen to the other side.

“We need to understand why people hold beliefs, and not criminalize people for certain views. People are going to believe what they think is right, and I don’t think anybody at this school is holding political beliefs because they have ill intentions. People are believing what they think is best for society and the community,” Harper said.  

“It’s important to learn about both sides of the situation. Even if you don’t 100% agree with something, know what the other side is saying, instead of just assuming,” Geoghagan said. “Remember that people are people. People have feelings, and when you talk badly about someone or their views, it works its way around and can get back to that person.”