Does anyone remember the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002? That bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by one conservative Republican and one liberal-leaning Democrat, was designed to reduce the use of soft-money by political parties.
How about the No Child Left Behind Act? That law was another far-reaching piece of legislation that was supported by both Republicans and Democrats. It had the support of both business leaders and civil rights groups.
Some of us are even old enough to remember the friendship and cooperation between Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neil. Chris Matthews even wrote a book about the two men and the way they managed to argue and disagree yet still respect each other. It was a time, Matthews wrote, “when politics worked.”
Now fast forward to today.
Can you even imagine both of our political parties sitting down to address any serious issue facing our country?
Ever since Mitch McConnell famously announced that his goal as the leader of the Republican-controlled Senate was to “make Obama a one-term President”, the proverbial handwriting has been on the wall.
Under John Boehner, Republicans vowed that there would be “no compromise” with Democrats on healthcare, spending, or taxes.
Over the course of the Obama Presidency, both the Democratic and Republican parties became more partisan, more entrenched and more bitter. The ugliness of the birther movement introduced an era of such intense anger toward the “others” that everyone in the country seemed to have chosen a team.
Call it partisanship, call it tribalism, call it a breakdown of democracy.
I call it the natural outgrowth of the two-party system.
We now find ourselves in a country where two political parties control the entire government. It is virtually impossible to be elected to any federal office as an Independent or third-party candidate. Even Bernie Sanders gave up his Independent status in order to run for President.
We live in an endless game of political ping-pong. The morning after every election, the winning party begins its campaign to hold onto power. Meanwhile, the losing party begins its attacks on the winning party.
Facts no longer matter; everything is spin. Neither side will ever compromise with the other about anything. Ever.
Given only two parties to choose from, both of which are more focused on their own power than on the country, more people every year are choosing “neither one”. The fastest-growing voting block is the “unenrolled” or “independent” group. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that more Americans are unenrolled than are members of either party.
Americans are clearly frustrated with the complete gridlock in Washington. We are increasingly aware that our elected leaders would rather stab themselves in the eyes than work with anyone on the “other side”. We have watched endless, repetitive investigations of each side by the other.
Our lawmakers spend their time attacking each other rather than trying to save us from slaughter by guns. They spend their time trying to dig up dirt on each other rather than working with the rest of the world to save the planet from total destruction.
They can’t work out a spending plan. They won’t address the deficit. They don’t seem to even know that we are endlessly at war.
Instead, each party spends millions of dollars (our tax dollars) investigating each other, over and over and over again. All the power and energy of the US government is spent attacking the US government, if you really think about it.
What a huge waste.
It is time to end the two-party stranglehold on our democracy. It’s time to move past the idea that everyone on the “other side” is dishonest, cruel and unpatriotic. We need a third party, a fourth party, an independent party, a climate party, a birthday party, whatever.
Of course, there are currently many small parties out there. We have the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Socialist Party, the Reform Party and more. But because the two main parties are funded by big corporations and billionaire donors, the smaller parties are kept out of the news. They are denied the debate stage.
We need change, and we need it now.
We need real choice. We need to stop pinging back and forth from one party to the other. We need the people in charge of our country to stop using the words “us” and “them” and start talking about the needs of the people.