Former Congressman Joe Walsh speaks at the IMU on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. Walsh presented about the states of both major political parties and background regarding the presidential election. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Rosario: Joe Walsh’s UI visit highlights American political polarization

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Joe Walsh’s talk at the IMU left more questions about political division than the dangers of big government.

By Isabella Rosario

isabella-rosario@uiowa.edu

Joe Walsh is a UI alumnus, former congressman, and nationally syndicated conservative radio talk-show host. But if you ask the average young person, they probably know him foremost from his inflammatory tweets: “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out, Black Lives Matter punks. Real America is coming for you.”

Walsh spoke Tuesday night in the IMU in an event sponsored by Turning Point USA, a fiscally conservative group on campus. Walking into the South Room, on every seat was a sign with the words “BIG GOVERNMENT SUCKS #BigGovSucks.” While the event did begin with Walsh calling former-President Obama the left’s “black Messiah,” much of his talk was not focused on the right’s abhorrence of “identity politics” — barring a rather stale mocking of “transgenders” and “bi-queers” like myself that were met with cheers from the crowd.

Walsh hates both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party and says he is a libertarian who understands there’s more to the “transgenders” issue.  But for someone whose political views seem to be more rooted in nuance with an emphasis on limited government, Walsh still shares the view of much of the country that politics are starkly split between right and left. 

RELATED: Former Congressman says GOP no longer dedicated to small government 

Unlike Walsh, I think the most dangerous threat plaguing our country today does not lie in our broken two-party system or even our mounting debt.  Rather, I fear the growing popularity of pushing ourselves into corners by demarcating each other as rightists and leftists, when most of us, like Walsh, fall somewhere in the middle, or support some values from either “side.”  It was curious to me that Walsh spent so much of his talk not only generalizing people to these two camps but also that his criticism of Republicans such as Sen. John McCain and House Speaker Paul Ryan was that they aren’t “true Republicans.”  Of course, limited government is one of the issues Walsh is rather firm on.  However, the notion that people of a certain party are not really of that party only furthers the political polarization that traps us in these fearmongering, ideologically driven conversations.

Who is Walsh or anyone to say that there’s one way to be a “real” Republican?  Or that limited government is a set way of doing things and not merely a framework to work from? Conservatives today often quote former President Ronald Reagan’s inaugural address: “… government is the problem.” But the same man who revived American conservatism raised taxes 11 times while president — now, they weren’t all income taxes, but the fact remains that limited government and taxes can coexist in a conservative mindset.

As someone who has been pegged a “leftist,” I don’t endorse the new trend of liberals around the country shutting down conservative speakers with violence. Our right to freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to disagree with our government and each other, is what my family immigrated to this great country for. I encourage UI students all across the political spectrum to attend university-sponsored talks by prominent political voices — especially ones that feature those you disagree with. Walsh insightfully answered two of my questions and shook my hand afterwards. Discussion is what precipitates change, not the inhibition of it.

RELATED: Post election coverage: Local conservatives speak out 

Finally, I’d like to address one of Walsh’s closing remarks.  He said, “America is way too big and way too diverse. I don’t think the United States will ever be united again.”

I strongly oppose this bleakness, not just for its pessimism but for its inaccuracy. I wasn’t the only left-leaning student who engaged with Walsh critically but respectfully. I see examples every day of Americans working to bridge the divide between the “right” and the “left” without compromising their values. America is diverse. And for that, it is great.

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