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Polarization not a source for joking

Mary Catherine Connors

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It’s big news: Taylor Swift is now being used as a pawn in the game of polarized politics. Late Friday afternoon, Speaker of the House John Boehner tweeted, “Dear Mr. President, there is no #BlankSpace in the taxpayers’ checkbook.”

The same day, the Speaker posted an entry on his website, speaker.gov. The article, “12 Taylor Swift GIFs for you,” was an attempt to install humor in the Speaker’s apparent distaste for President Barack Obama’s “America’s College Promise” plan.

The president’s plan involves offering free community college tuition to over 9 million students. According to Bloomberg, the plan will cost $10 billion over the course of 10 years. Congress would provide most of the funding while individual states would pitch in the remaining cost. There is a debate as to whether the substantial short-term financing will outweigh long-term 
economic gains from improvement in higher education.

The Democrats’ official Twitter account responded to the tweet with a GIF depicting Taylor Swift in her “Shake It Off” music video. Beloved Taylor was pictured with her microphone, and the caption read, “Haters gonna hate.”

It is disheartening and infuriating to see government officials joke about polarized politics, a real and debilitating factor in the 114th Congress. In fact, the Pew Research Center confirms that last year was the most polarized Congress has been in history. Democrats are becoming more liberal, Republicans are becoming more conservative, and the potential role of independents in our government has become more of a pipe dream, although the number of independents in the American public is in 
fact growing.

The American people need to see compromise, agreement or even a degree of civility between the Republican and Democratic parties. We need to see effort and results, not immature stabs at the opposite side through the salty words of Taylor Swift. The tweet is only a small portion of a bigger problem.

It may seem like something to brush off for the time being, and polarization is not a secret. But how deep does it run – how much is it actually incorporated in Congress? The only thing known for sure is the Speaker of the House, a person high in the line of succession for the presidency, and the Democratic Party’s official Twitter page think a little bit of division is okay to brush off.

The replies to the tweets were diverse. Some thought the tweet was juvenile. Others thought it was hilarious and were happy that the usually serious politicians were attempting to connect with younger crowds. Reading those tweets disadvantages our young people; they learn that there are only two sides to an issue, that it is okay to joke about free education or maybe even a plan that will dig the deficit hole even deeper. There are other means to connect with teens and college students.

Who knows how Taylor Swift feels about this issue? Politicians have often teamed up with celebrities to reach larger audiences to gain support in campaigns. Maybe I’m a hater, but it’s hard to believe that the fashion in which Boehner and the Democratic Party communicated is becoming to their positions. Government officials should try to connect more with their constituency of all ages, but in a way that relays a matured and impactful message.

Mary Catherine Connors is a sophomore majoring in 
mathematics and economics. Her column runs biweekly.

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Polarization not a source for joking