It’s an election year, and it seems like nobody’s happy. Or, I should say, most folks are lukewarm. A lot of people are feeling tepid support for one candidate or another. Maybe even for two or three. But I get the feeling that much of the voting populace isn’t feeling anything close to unwavering allegiance.
Alas, we’re also in a time where our politics have become deeply divided, even personal. We might not even be for one party so much as we’re against the other one. Partisan gridlock has made Congress one of the most ineffective legislative bodies in the world. Members of Congress fear that reaching across the aisle – you know, compromising – is going to alienate them from their base. (And really, they aren’t wrong.)
Gang, when it comes to improving collaboration in Washington, We the People aren’t doing a whole lot to help the situation. In this atmosphere, politicians don’t stay employed by doing what’s “right” over what’s “popular.” A 2014 survey from Pew Research showed that more people than ever saw their identified opposing party as a “threat to the nation’s well-being”– with 38 percent of Democrats having a very unfavorable view of Republicans, and 43 percent of Republicans having a very unfavorable view of Democrats. On both sides, there was nearly a 20 percent gain in how many reported having such strong opposing views compared to 20 years before. In other words, we’re just growing farther apart.
The reasons for our divisions are complex. I don’t think media coverage is doing us any favors. But overall, the one thing I’ve been thinking a lot lately is that having a two-party system, and being limited (realistically) to being governed only by those two choices, is causing us a lot of harm.
Many of the world’s largest democracies have more than just two major parties ruling their system of government. They have several, and they come in different shades on the conservative-to-liberal spectrum. People to the more extreme sides of each have their representation, but it also leaves a lot more room for moderates. While the people on the fringes tend to be the ones making the most noise (and getting the most attention), I really believe that most voters are middle of the road.
But since we’re living with this two-party system, maybe we can learn how to make it work for us. Really, we need each other. Democrats are the lofty dreamers who bring in the big ideas. Republicans can give a needed dose of reality to keep things more grounded. Ideally, there would be give and take between those two, rather than the name-calling and ugliness we’re seeing out of our candidates and the electorate.
Unfortunately, we’ve devolved into anger, bitterness, and bickering, a trend I don’t think is going away during this election season—or anytime soon thereafter.
What do you think—can’t we all just get along? Email me at pbrown@AMTonline.org.