Hyper-partisanship is a death spiral for reasoned, responsible law and policy making. It’s a game with a very select few winners, and the rest of us are paying the price.
We pay the price every time Congress fights to a draw over spending, and “compromises” by agreeing to spend money on everything. That’s why we are looking at a TRILLION dollars in deficit spending next year, and of course $21 trillion in debt already on the books.
We pay the price when the politicians in Washington, DC, can’t even sit down as adults and work out what should be nonpartisan challenges, such as immigration, criminal justice reform or restoring our 4th Amendment protections.
The list goes on…
But the reality is stark: We find ourselves today in a Gordian knot of two-party extremes that sometimes appears, at first look, to be beyond disentangling.
Even the Founding Fathers recognized that the elegant system they created had a potential flaw: The possibility that the national government could come to be dominated by only two “great parties”. Washington warned of it, as did John Adams.
It’s not the Founders’ fault, but we’ve managed to expose that flaw in a very costly, dangerous way. The Republican and Democrat duopoly have joined to tie a Gordian knot that has left the majority of Americans scratching their heads at the silliness Washington, DC, has become…and watching with growing frustration and alarm as a government designed to protect their most basic freedoms devolves into little more than a partisan playground.
But just as the Founders created the opportunity for the Gordian knot to be tied, they gave us the solution, if only we take advantage of it.
As is often the case, the solution is competition. Each of the two “great” parties thrives off the other, a reality that inevitably results in the extremism we see today. It’s the political equivalent of Coke and Pepsi. Each depends not on defeating the other, but rather on limiting the marketplace to a couple of slightly different varieties of the same old flavors.
Just as consumers have come to demand options beyond Coke and Pepsi, Americans are ready to demand a political marketplace that allows other options on the shelf. Today, political independents outnumber each of the “great” parties. The leverage is there. We just need to put it to work.
The fight to break the hold of the duopoly has many potential fronts: The winner-take-all rules that govern most states in the Electoral College, having the effect of negating millions of votes in presidential elections. Ballot access laws that erect ridiculous and unfair barriers to candidates from the Libertarian, Green, Constitution and other legitimate third parties. Debate criteria designed by R’s and D’s for the exclusive benefit of, you guessed it, R’s and D’s. Partisan gerrymandering that artificially and increaingly empowers the hyper-partisans with each successive census.
The unfair advantages resulting from Republican and Democratic self-dealing are many, but each can, and must, be challenged.
Imagine a world in which the real majority of Americans — those who reject extremes and have open minds — can participate on an equal footing with the hyper-partisans, without having to settle for the lesser of evils.
It can be done. The Founders gave us the tools: Freedom of speech, freedom to vote, freedom to petition, and yes, when necessary, the Courts. If exercised, those freedoms and rights will ultimately overcome a political duopoly that is, in reality, representing fewer and fewer Americans with every passing election.