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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Evaluate politicians holistically, not just on their most recent policies

Jeff-jackson-Headshot 2 (1).jpeg
Photo courtesy of Tommy Cromie.

Several weeks ago, N.C. Rep. Jeff Jackson, a congressman and active user on TikTok, voted for the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act. This bill would force ByteDance, the Beijing-based company that owns TikTok, to sell the app or face its removal from U.S. app stores.

Jackson then posted a video on TikTok, that has since been deleted, explaining his decision to vote for the bill. The video garnered significant criticism online and ultimately cost the congressman over 200,000 followers.

Likely, many of his followers thought Jackson’s vote was a betrayal. Known for his brief explanations of government and world news on the app, Jackson built his platform on honesty, transparency and community education. Even after publishing an apology on the app for his handling of the situation, many still deemed Jackson a hypocrite.

This situation highlights a greater issue in U.S. politics. While we should hold our politicians accountable, we must note the danger of writing off their actions without considering the rest of their political history. It is dangerous to reduce our representatives to one or two policies or decisions. By doing so, we forget how government works: through compromise.

Tossing out a politician for one policy we disagree with them on or refusing to vote is not an act of defiance or protest; it is actively pushing us in the wrong direction of democracy.

If you are anything like me, you are likely dissatisfied with the state of U.S. politics. More and more often, I hear the phrase “lesser of two evils” thrown around when discussing politicians. We face extremists on one end and too many moderates on the other.

If you are anything like me, the options in the upcoming election do not inspire much confidence in the future.

If you are anything like me, you are tired of watching polarization grow each year and politicians taking steps to the extreme with each passing day. Yet, we must remember that nothing will change if we do not first take the little steps forward.

If you are anything like me, you are open to forgiving Jackson for his vote because he is more than just one vote on one bill. 

Our first steps toward change should not be throwing out candidates because we disagree with one policy or decision. We must accept that our options are imperfect. No one is without fault, not me or the latest congressional nominee. No one will match our individual ideologies perfectly — if you are looking for a perfect political match, run for office yourself.

Of course, we all have dealbreakers. There will always be beliefs that you will never budge on, and that is important. Being principled in a contentious political environment is invaluable. However, it is your job as a voter to decide which politician is better for you and aligns most closely with your beliefs — even if they are not perfect.

When voters relinquish their vote as a form of protest or out of indifference, little direct change will benefit them. As election season quickly approaches and we prepare to face a contentious rerun of 2020, we should focus on researching our prospective politicians beyond the latest headlines and recent articles.

Change does not happen overnight. If we want positive change in politics, we should work to elect people we can generally agree with, hold our lawmakers accountable in the court of public opinion and, most importantly, vote. When we look at our options holistically, we are able to better understand the person we are choosing to represent us. By educating ourselves about their policies and personal beliefs, we are capable of judging our representatives more thoroughly.

While politicians have to compromise in government, we too have to compromise when choosing our representatives and the platforms they support. 

@dthopinion | opinion@dailytarheel.com

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