On the surface, it looks like the Republican and Democratic parties are more divided than ever. If we keep heading down this road, we’ll start circling in crazy eights.
What I mean by that is every four years we’ll elect a new party into the White House, with a complementary Congress. Then in two years, when our policies have gone too far in one direction, we’ll rein it in with a split Congress or one wholly opposed to the executive office. This pattern will just continue; two steps forward, two steps back.
But it occurred to me after the 2016 election that some people voted their conscience while others voted for their party line. I know a lot of intelligent people who voted for our forty-fifth president who really didn’t think he was a good person for the job. Many of them justified this action by claiming “there was no other option.”
However, one party provided fifteen other candidates, and two additional parties offered two candidates each. That’s twenty candidates whom voters could’ve considered for president of the United States. Now splitting the popular vote in so many directions would hamper the country’s ability to develop a consensus, so we have a three-party system. It’s a shame the Independent Party is generally perceived as one of far left-wing liberals, because that’s not what it was conceived to do. The Independent Party is supposed to represent independent thinkers; people who may have differing opinions on each issue that do not necessarily fall along party lines.
Let’s talk about a few examples that baffle me. One issue is that of pro-life. I understand that pro-life proponents believe in the sanctity of life; that life begins at conception and no one has the right to end it. I think that is a perfectly legitimate belief. But I don’t see how anyone who thinks this also can believe that it’s okay for the average citizen to own a gun for protection. Obviously, firing a gun at another person increases the likelihood that said person will die. Therefore, if you believe in the sanctity of life and that no one has the right to end a human life, then it stands to reason that a pro-life proponent would oppose individual gun rights. And capital punishment. And a breakdown in foreign diplomatic relations that could feasibly lead to war, in which the sanctity of human life is violated in egregious proportion.
Let’s take another issue: Welfare. Some people view welfare benefits as promoting lazy, irresponsible behavior; others see it as a means to help underprivileged people get ahead. Since welfare benefits stem from taxpayer dollars, many people see this as wealth redistribution. But here’s the rub: I don’t want to pay high taxes any more than the next person. To think that there are people who want to pay high taxes is absurd; it’s not even a reasonable belief. It demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the underlying premise of kindness, empathy and compassion for other people. These are things I personally consider to be Christian principles. So it’s hard for me to understand why people who claim to live according to Christian principles do not understand why some people may be willing to pay higher taxes to help those less fortunate.
In fact, many Christians are very active in helping the less fortunate. They bake turkeys to serve to the homeless at Thanksgiving; they hold shoe drives and coat drives and do all sorts of philanthropic work. But one meal once a year doesn’t really help a poor person get on his feet. Housing, food, and medical care are ongoing expenses that, when subsidized, can fundamentally help a person get ahead and off of welfare benefits. So it seems to me that people who don’t want the poor to rely on welfare benefits for their entire lives would understand that a short-term government subsidy is more likely to accomplish this goal than herb-stuffed dressing once a year.
I have so many questions like this. For instance, on one hand I personally do not think that the government should tell private companies how to run their business or treat their employees or stand behind their products. But that belief assumes that every company will abide by a strict ethical code, and they don’t. I have known and seen this first hand; they don’t. But if you are a person who absolutely believes with your head and heart and passion that government should stay out of business affairs, then how do you reconcile that with believing the government should get involved in personal lives and mandate who individuals can and cannot marry? In other words, the government should stay out of the boardroom but go into the bedroom?
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how one person, let alone half the population in this country, reconciles these disparate beliefs that seem to contradict each other. And I’ve come to a rather enlightening conclusion: They don’t.
I don’t believe that all conservative voters support every issue on the Republican platform and I don’t believe that every liberal voter supports every issue on the Democratic platform. These political platforms just make it easier to synthesize issues and eliminate the need for each voter to get the facts and consider his or her own position on every single issue. We just broad stroke them, categorize them into one political party or the other, and give voters only two choices.
This is how we ended up with our forty-fifth president, but it’s really not a good way to determine the leaders of our country.
If we don’t like our choices, we can do better than that. So this is what I propose: get rid of our party system altogether. We can become a free thinker nation; one hundred percent independent thinkers. Some people will still follow previous party lines, but I think – I want to hope, I want to believe – that the majority of Americans will determine policy going forward by considering the facts and merits of each issue individually and vote for candidates that most closely represent their combination of beliefs.
National Clearinghouse of Facts
To do this, let’s revamp the way we conduct political campaigns. Let’s create a single, national election website that operates as a searchable clearinghouse for all political candidates at every level – local, state and federal. Candidates would need to pay/fundraise only the fee necessary to support their entry on the website and complete a standardized questionnaire so that voters can compare apples to apples. That way a candidate can convey his or her beliefs on each individual issue and demonstrate real consistency in values, such as being both pro-life and pro-gun control. Pro-welfare benefits and pro long-term fiscal responsibility. And while we’re at it, let’s eliminate campaign advertising altogether, including television, radio, internet, signage, bumper stickers, direct mail, email and phone calling. Let’s make good decision-making not about who pesters us the most. With a centralized clearinghouse website and accompanying resources for people who do not have internet access, voters can avail themselves to the facts and information necessary to make their own decisions without campaign spin.
That’s the Way It Is
Fundamentally, a lot of things have to happen to make this feasible. For one thing, the press should stop reporting opinion and stick to the facts. Renowned newsman Walter Cronkite once observed that, “We are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders.” I believe the job of the press is to help provide that education. Presently, I think there are too many “political analysts” that influence people with their personal opinions. I wish reporters would interview only true subject matter experts and eschew partisan thinkers altogether. And I think the president and other politicians should receive media coverage only when they do something newsworthy, not gossip worthy.
If we can access true and unadulterated facts, if we morph to a no-party system, if we stop towing the party line and become a nation of independent thinkers, perhaps we can get off this crazy-eight rollercoaster that’s going nowhere. Perhaps then, we can move forward.
©CO Insights. 2017.