For several generations, partisan leaders on both sides of the aisle have manipulated election and districting laws to reduce competition at the ballot box. The result is a political system filled with red and blue districts; a political dialogue that is conducted through ‘left’ and ‘right’ talking points; and, a political culture that discourages compromise.
A truly representative democracy requires that the represented have a meaningful voice in the electoral process. The current state of our American politics is a natural consequence of a system in which only partisan Republican and partisan Democratic voters matter.
But that may all be about to change.
While the media continues to frame the political dialogue in terms of superficial Democrat v. Republican talking points, real political reforms have given a meaningful voice to independent-minded voters in California for the first time. With Proposition 14 and nonpartisan redistricting now in effect, candidates in California must be responsive to all the voters in their district, not just the partisan majority.
There has been relative silence in the public dialogue regarding the potential significant of these changes. This is because the media itself has been absorbed into binary political paradigm.
Political news is primarily a distillation of “manufactured” news and talking points orchestrated by each of the two sides. As the two parties have refined their polling and focus group techniques, the political dialogue has increasingly become an artifice. Each Party attempts to maneuver the election cycle narrative toward a theme that will land the majority of voters on their side of a sharply defined simplistic question.
Voter-centric, rather than Party-centric election laws, like California’s new Open Primary, coupled with reforms aimed at increasing competition will, over time, increase independent voter influence and reward candidates and political parties who move away from the polarizing tactics that currently dominate American elections. The Party’s will, of course, continue to resist change. They will fight changes at the ballot box and in courtrooms.
It is only the beginning of the fight. But, the societal changes are irreversible. The political system must ultimately change too. It won’t happen over night. But, it will happen.