On Nov. 9, 2016, many students and faculty on the Tufts campus found themselves shocked and confused after the presidential election. The election of Donald Trump sent shockwaves across college campuses and liberal cities throughout the nation. The election highlighted the huge disconnect between younger, urban areas and older, rural areas — the phenomenon known as the “liberal bubble.” More specifically, this term describes the idea that liberals tend to cluster in certain areas, like university campuses or coastal cities, and in these areas, they outnumber conservatives significantly and alienate the ones who remain. These liberals thus become unaware of the desires, values and concerns of conservatives across the nation.
The bubble is a real phenomenon, and it has nationwide repercussions. It is important to note that the bubble effect occurs within conservative circles as well, though this phenomenon is not as salient on our campus. Research has shown that people across the political spectrum, now more than ever, feel most comfortable when surrounded by those who have a similar political ideology to their own. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of consistent conservatives and about half (49 percent) of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views. This social divide between liberals and conservatives has made it increasingly difficult for the two groups to communicate with each other, thus pushing conservatives further right and liberals further left.
Ideological echo chambers, whether conservative or liberal, are problematic because of the divisiveness they have caused. Conservative media outlets can contribute to ideological stagnation within the Republican Party, fostering an environment of continuous self-affirmation. Conversely, ideological echo chambers on the left are not only divisive, they are detrimental to the liberal ideology itself. Liberal echo chambers tend to encourage generalizations and assumptions about conservative-minded people, such as the belief that conservatives are bigoted or that they are less intelligent simply by virtue of their political affiliation. These stereotypes lead to an exclusion of conservative ideas and thus mangle the very basis of the liberal ideology: open-mindedness.
Tufts is largely a liberal echo chamber. For example, in 2004, 100 percent of donations to political campaigns over $100 made by Tufts faculty and students went to Democratic Party politicians. Recently, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) was invited to speak at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life’s Distinguished Speaker Series. He is a Democrat, like all but five of the previous political speakers of the series. Undoubtedly, the majority of the student body and faculty were thrilled to have the opportunity to see Kaine and all the other Democrats who have come to speak at Tufts, but the university should do more to encourage ideologically diverse conversation on this campus. It could start by making an effort to bring in more conservative speakers or to hire more conservative faculty.
We are facing an indubitably polarized political landscape. We must acknowledge that it can be difficult, and at times impossible, for certain marginalized groups to engage in bipartisan dialogue due to the threatening rhetoric perpetuated by Trump, his campaign and now his administration. But despite the challenges, it is imperative that people from both sides of the spectrum seek reasonable opportunities to broaden our ideological horizons in order to halt the political divisiveness that plagues our country. Given the strongly left-leaning nature of political discourse at Tufts, our campus would be a great place to start.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that four of the previous Distinguished Speaker Series participants. There were five. The Daily regrets this error.