In Texas, where extremely conservative Republicans are ubiquitous in elected positions, Democrats often counter conservative ideology by running toward the opposite end of the political spectrum. Democrats set themselves apart from the Republican Party by calling themselves progressive, thereby labeling conservative viewpoints as backward. In doing so, Democrats use the same tactics that their counterparts do in order to delegitimize the opponent — which stymies open, healthy political discussion. Since Republicans hold majorities in both houses of the legislature and essentially dominate state politics, Democrats face the challenge of pulling conservatives closer to the middle. Insulting their beliefs is not an effective method of gaining political traction.
The political landscape of Texas definitely needs a change toward a more open dialogue on both sides. It is a known fact that conservatives often attack the liberal agenda, which includes same-sex marriage and reproductive rights, by claiming that it ruins the traditional fabric of society. When these viewpoints enter into the realm of politics, unfortunately, they do not work to better society. Instead, they are used to oppress and marginalize certain groups of people. While faith should never be the sole reason behind a law or political agenda, those who label themselves as progressive should never ignore or deride fundamental beliefs by regarding them as the opposite of progressive thought, especially when both parties appeal to morality as the reason behind a certain political movement. We often assume that if an idea isn’t progressive, it is considered to be regressive or stagnant — and both of these labels have severe negative connotations. But the reality is that ideology is not so black and white.
One such example of contention between conservatives and progressives is the death penalty. The party platform of the Texas Democrats calls for the abolition of the death penalty, detailing that our Republican governor has overseen the executions of over 200 people.
Although I could probably be the poster boy for progressive politics, I am unapologetically in favor of the death penalty in certain instances. The criminal justice system should work to keep the innocent from being executed; with even the slightest amount of doubt, the death penalty is an inappropriate punishment. However, I do believe that with sufficient evidence inculpating a murderer, the death penalty is apt. As many progressives consider the death penalty to be an antiquated, cruel form of punishment, I am sure that my viewpoint on the matter is considered to be regressive. Like many of the other divisive social issues that polarize the parties in Texas, politics surrounding the death penalty involve ethical, religious and emotional arguments that can’t be disregarded by one party or the other regardless of a logical need for justice.
People who label themselves as progressive often vilify those who do not completely jump on the bandwagon of progressive politics in the same manner that conservatives attack liberal political viewpoints. Discounting conservative views as the opposite of progression implies that those ideas are unintelligent. With the largest municipalities in Texas being in blue counties, there is great potential for Texas to become a battleground, or “purple” state. However, a shift in political power should not come at the risk of demeaning those who hold conservative points of view — continued attacks on moral beliefs will only further polarize state politics.
Davis is a French and international relations junior from Houston.