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Column: Stop treating politicians like your favorite sports team

Photo via Larry Larson.

As a young professional attempting to break into the sports broadcasting industry, I do my best to abide by a decreasingly-popular phrase in order to cultivate a likable image: “stick to sports.”

I don’t post about my political leanings on social media. I try not to talk about them with people outside of my inner circle. I consider myself civically engaged and an educated, informed voter; I just don’t feel the need to post about it or attempt to change anybody’s mind via Twitter.

However, lately, I’ve picked up on something peculiar and ultimately disturbing while following American politics. They’re being treated like something else I follow closely: sports.

No, no — I don’t mean sports and politics are being intermingled (as they will continue to be, whether you like it or not). I mean that too many folks in the United States are treating political figures and parties in the same manner they treat their favorite sports teams and athletes — with undying loyalty and unabashed fanfare.

To an extent, politics have been treated in a similar manner to sports since professional sports leagues became mainstream money-makers. “Horse race” media coverage of polls in voting races is commonplace. Candidates and others involved routinely use sports terminology in campaigning.

But over the last six-or-so years, it’s been taken too far. If we don’t snap out of it, our democracy as we know it could be in danger.

This trend started with President Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2015, continued throughout his administration and has since taken over a growing faction of the Republican party and boiled over to the other side of the aisle with democrats.

Soon after Trump declared his candidacy, spotting his trademark red “Make America Great Again” cap on somebody’s head at the grocery store or seeing a neighbor fly a “TRUMP” banner on a flagpole, as if it were the Stars and Stripes, became common occurrences.

I thought that after Trump won these symbols would be put away until the next election cycle in 2020. But they stayed. And have continued to stay after Trump lost reelection to President Joe Biden, despite the 45th president’s claims that the election was “stolen.”

While it’s perfectly acceptable to sport your favorite team’s gear after a tough loss, it’s a bit off-putting to see the gear of a former candidate in public months after the election has been decided.

While supporters of Trump and a large contingent of elected officials continue to defend nearly every move the former president made, it’s clear to me that people are very hesitant to break from party lines or even slightly disagree with the people they voted for.

As I mentioned earlier, this fandom mentality goes beyond Trump.

Even many “likable” politicians with large followings — namely Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and senator Bernie Sanders — shouldn’t be fawned over.

Frankly, nobody should act like a fan of political figures. As citizens of a democracy, we select the people we’d like to represent us at every level of government. We don’t work for elected officials. Elected officials work for us and should be held accountable.

Throughout the years, it feels like politics have been treated like a bitter sports rivalry with a my-team-against-yours mentality. Now, it’s been taken to an extreme as friendships and even family bonds are broken over allegiance to a candidate.

Do your research, identify your beliefs, vote for candidates and parties that you identify with, but for god sakes, think for yourself and keep an open mind. There’s often no need to center your entire life around one political candidate or party.

If so many people continue to live their life that way, deadly episodes like the one on Jan. 6 could become much more commonplace.

Before we continue to be set in our own ways and beliefs, take a step back to think about the big picture. Nobody will claim you’re a “fair-weathered fan” if you attempt to hold your government representatives accountable for their actions, whether that be at the ballot box or the social media platform of your choice.

One person won’t solve all of our country’s problems, much like one great athlete often can’t carry a mediocre team to a championship.

A democracy is built around differences of opinion and as a result, folks won’t always get along. And that should be embraced — peacefully and respectfully.

At the end of the day, whether your party or candidate wins or loses, we should all be working toward the same goal: the success of this nation.

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