Sen. Sampson’s November Column

November 4, 2019

Controversial Wolcott Assignment Evidence of our Widening Political Chasm

By State Sen. Rob Sampson

There was an issue in the town of Wolcott recently where a great many parents and constituents contacted me concerning political bias in the classroom. They were upset to see a classroom assignment so close to home that misinformed students on the true objective definitions of liberal and conservative (even inverting them), and that created an exercise for the students to self-identify as liberal or conservative based on the incorrect definitions.

There was a fair to-do about it, and I am confident that the Wolcott school district is making appropriate changes to mitigate any further controversy.

As a result of this issue, which went viral here and across the state almost overnight, I had the opportunity to speak with many new people across the political spectrum. This was extremely valuable to me because it clarified a host of perceptions about the world we live in that I have been grappling with.

Those who follow politics closely become familiar with complex issues. In time, we gain the experience both to establish our own values and to view policies in light of them.

However, what really hit home for me is how passionate opinions are not dependent on the amount of substance they have as a foundation. I found myself wondering if people view politics differently than they do baseball.

Of course, people who follow baseball fall across a spectrum of knowledge. Some can tell you every detail about every player in history and formulate complex and nuanced opinions on teams, players, and the rules. Others are Red Sox or Yankees fans merely because they grew up around others who were. You can see how this can be compared to politics. People have a range of understanding, with as many reasons for their allegiance to a team as there are fans.

I didn’t recognize how true this is in politics as well. The problem is that today the parties are diverging, and the Democrat party, in particular, has strayed far from that common point where American politics is rooted: a small government that derives its limited power from its people, the premise that we are all equal in our rights and in the eyes of the law, and that free citizens respect the right of other free citizens to believe what they choose.

In both political parties, there are people deeply invested because of well-considered beliefs.
What concerns me, however, is the intense passion people have for their political party and its candidates regardless of any in depth understanding.

I believe this is largely to blame for the deep and growing divide in our nation. Instead of recognizing each other as fellow members of the human race, identity politics is breaking us down into individual tribes, warring over everything from climate change to whether there is even right and wrong in the world anymore.

I hope you will join me in rejecting this trend.