Common Ground: Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and Independent voters

The statement prepared by the leaders of the Occupy Wall Street movement and read by Keith Olbermann the other day included a laundry list of wrongdoings by corporations (referred to as ‘they’) as the cause for all our current political and economic ills.

While the enthusiasm and zeal contained in the statements, as well as the hearts of the protestors, are admirable, we should reflect on the potential danger of the message. Such a heated and hyperbolic oversimplification of the problem only serves to perpetuate the problem being protested. It is not the government’s fault (Tea Party) or the corporations’ fault (Occupy Wall Street) alone.  The problem is more complicated than a ‘he did it’ or ‘she did it’ mentality assumes.

A major part of the problem is the disenfranchisement of the electorate in general.  We have a political process that, right now, only listens to the extreme voices in our system. Gerrymandering, campaign finance regulations, and ballot restrictions have created two “sides” of the political spectrum that only exist because the process has divided the electorate that way. In other words, our lawmakers have created the left and right extremes by inventing electoral laws that allow them to ignore the rest of us, all done under the guise of democracy.

It is a problem that can’t be solved by blaming government, corporations, the right, the left, the rich, poor, black, white, and so on.  It is a systemic problem. We have a system that only sees left and right, a process that rewards stubborn ideology over cooperation and compromise.

Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and Independent voters share a common trope: we are not heard because we are not part of the Democratic or Republican extremes.  Our ‘democratic system’ has been hijacked by people who are not concerned with what the collective ‘we’ have to say.

We need to stop the blame game.  We need to work on reforms, such as ending taxpayer-funded partisan primaries in favor of a primary system where all voters have an equal voice. We need redistricting by non-partisan commissions.  And we need to revisit campaign finance regulations.  We should first try and create a government where politicians are accountable to ‘us’ rather than the extremes of two unpopular parties.

Once that is fixed, we should have a more responsive system. Then we can go back to yelling at each other again.