The average American’s political affiliation is as intertwined with their personal identity as their favorite band or their choice of salad dressing. 

It affects everything from the friends we choose, to the media we choose to consume.

Media outlets, like Fox News and MSNBC, understand this latter choice well, and have both become adept at providing their highly-demanded product: truth. One need not spend more than an hour watching either before they notice that with that truth comes a hefty helping of disgust for their counterparts. 

Where we find real political conversations, we will find raised voices and red faces and more than we have in the past, we will find turned backs and closed ears.

The American people are stubborn. Too many of us plop down on the couch and swallow our spoon-fed news, painted either red or blue, and ignore the slant and dissenting opinion.

It seems that all presidential candidates need to do to score political points is to open the newspaper, find the opposing candidate’s quotes from the previous day and disagree with every word.

Our misplaced sense of self-assurance can only lead to the great and glorious day that H.L. Mencken, America’s greatest cynic, wrote about almost 100 years ago, when “the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Perhaps that day is only 10 months away. As the 2016 presidential election approaches, we should encourage the American people to take advantage of the unprecedented amount of information available to them. Before Nov. 8, we all should take the time to do some research. Find each candidate’s platform and read it. 

Once we understand where and why we agree and disagree with each candidate, we will be better equipped for the political conversations that need to take place more often in this country.

Above all, we should remind ourselves of our fallibility and confront the self-doubt that we ignore every time we turn on Fox or MSNBC.

Those that take pride in their refusal to compromise are failing in their duty as American citizens, just as much as those that take pride in their political apathy.

Inevitably, political conversations become personal, loud and uncomfortable, but democracy can only survive by listening and understanding dissent.