Why America needs more civic technology, by Blaise Ebisch
If you’ve ever been frustrated with American politics, there’s a quote you have to read. On September 17th, 1796, George Washington said in his farewell address:
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
As a soon-to-be 21-year old American in the 21st Century, it feels a little weird reading that. Someone who had almost universal respect during his time told our founding fathers “don’t create a two-party system,” and they decided that was hogwash. Taking a couple constitutional debate classes taught me that this figure had very few “political views,” but this is a rare opportunity to agree with Washington. Over 200 years later, It appears our country still hasn’t recognized a 3rd or 4th main political party, after 200 years of economic, technological, and cultural development. I mean, seriously. It took 2 seconds to Google and find the Wikipedia page shown below.
Who of note is missing from this list? Not just China. Not just Russia. That’s right, the United States has (2) options. What if two-party systems were closer to one-party systems than to multiple-party ones? Our country known for its melting pot of world cultures and innovations should probably have one of the most diverse political climates, not the least. As crazy as this sounds, it seems like American diversity isn’t reflected in our politics. We have an abundance of talent, resources, and diverse geography. Various states could allow all sorts of political coalitions and projects to prosper. Maybe Washington had this in mind, maybe he didn’t. Either way, the American people should have more than 2 realistic options for their town, state, and country’s leadership.
Today, it’s easy to think a Democrat or Republican is the only option that can uphold some of our values. I was curious if Americans always felt this way, and luckily Gallup Polling measured American responses to “Which political party do you think can do a better job of handling the problem you think is most important?” From 1945-1980, the ratio of people that answered “No difference,” “Other,” or “No opinion” made it as high as 60% a few times. However, from 1980 to now, the number of “Democrat” or “Republican” responses was significantly higher–with the leading party constantly fluctuating. As a country, I think we keep changing our minds–hoping this side is better than the other, and vice versa, again and again. Whether or not the people of the 40s-80s were thinking about third parties, there was clearly a lack of faith in the two that ‘lead’ our free world today. Apparently it’s a semi-recent phenomenon that more Americans believe Republicans or Democrats are the solution. As a contrarian, I disagree.
Why were we so interested in the two parties sitting in our Congressional buildings today? Unfortunately, I think “the media” we’ve heard so much about has won. Their biggest trick was that we had two losing options from the start. I’m not going to analyze who started what, but when our major news stations pressed into explicit partisanship, I suspect these were effects:
- The news organizations had to “pick a side,” and stick with it. Even the parties themselves had to pick a side on each issue, then there’s no going back. This limits our creativity, leads to more assumptions, and distracts people with debates about whether something is “for” or “against” the parties. The question should be, “is this for or against what I believe?” There’s nothing wrong with changing your original viewpoint when you learn something new, or admitting to a mistake. However, this partisan system inherently shames that and expects everyone to fall into one of two lines.
- News sources can omit certain facts from a story when it’s strained through a partisan filter. When we try to discover information (or “report”), it can’t just be for the sake of justifying your original hypothesis. The hypothesis has to mold and grow based on the information we discover, across many experiments. Our basic human function of sharing information about the world has become a game of offense or defense with little to no regard for actual progress.
- Major news stations can manipulate our understanding if a party or group wants Americans to believe certain things about their party. I won’t get into who “owns” our parties or the major media companies, but I think the wealthy special interests probably couldn’t care less about which party wins. Asking what they could really want is a can of worms I’m keeping shut. The point is, a few centralized news sources with heavy ties to our political parties shouldn’t dictate what we know and believe.
Consider this as an opinion, but the Members of IndependUS believe that trusting news, organizations, and leaders solely based on party lines will stunt America’s potential to build a better world. When the narrative is controlled by a select few, it won’t be for the sake of the many. Communities need to work together at every level to find better representation and opportunities to collaborate. Maybe the government doesn’t try to represent us better, but with committed communities and a bit of technology, maybe the people can.
3 thoughts on “A Declaration for Political Diversity”
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