To Fix Broken Political System, We Need More Independent Voices

As a new election cycle picks up speed, I have little hope that the main contenders for the White House will veer much from prescribed party lines, leaving us, once again, trapped in an increasingly unproductive partisan agenda.

A few may run as independents, promoting new ideas that are promptly dismissed as off-range and unrealistic. In the end, we will inaugurate a Democrat or Republican and the race for the White House will begin all over again.

In a way, our two-party system has made American democracy durable and stable. The outcome of elections in the United States is, however, a zero-sum game. Those with the most votes win. It is not so in multiparty democracies, where parliaments and assemblies are made up of various parties covering the whole ideological spectrum.

In these systems, a coalition of rivals is necessary to form a majority. This, in turn, often insures that ideological purity is kept in check before a government is formed and power is exercised.

One might say that a two-party system achieves much of the same goal in the end, but the problem with it is it muffles voices of leaders like Ralph Nader, Bernie Sanders or even Elizabeth Warren. In a multiparty Congress, such voices will be represented by their own parties, not forced to coexist – and vanish – in a powerful entity, run more like a corporate business than a people’s movement. Citizens will get to hear a plethora of clashing views, allowing them to identify more closely with candidates, instead of voting for the least objectionable party.

Don’t take me wrong.

The oldest modern republic is still magical and attracts a huge deal of good will internationally. Often thankless, the United States tries to make the world a better place, sometimes against its own best interests.

Despite strong skepticism and conspiracy theories, Americans lose more than they gain by getting involved in Middle Eastern conflicts or trying to keep the world a safer place.

Putting an end to endemic corruption at FIFA, the world federation for soccer, was a huge relief to fans of the “beautiful sport” everywhere.

But the world, like Americans at home, needs to know that their continent-size nation with close to 320 million inhabitants contains a wide variety of perspectives that have a place at the main forum of public opinion. Such voices would indicate that we are a nation of independent thinkers, inspired by the grand principles of the Revolution that created the modern political system, not beholden to narrow partisan interests or affiliations.

The United States is too big, rich, and diverse to be represented by just two parties.
Anouar Majid, author, professor, and administrator
The United States is too big, rich, and diverse to be represented by just two parties. Our entrepreneurs and innovators are constantly disrupting old paradigms, creating exciting new products and possibilities for a fast-changing world.

The three main television networks are a shadow of their former selves. Every business and industry is being challenged to adapt to new global realities. Our system of representation must do the same.

The hegemony of a two-party political culture explains, to a large extent, the cavalier way elected representatives in Washington treat each other and hamper the development of our nation.

So much needs to be done to ensure the perennial supremacy of our republic, yet much time is wasted in petty, name-calling political squabbles leading to gridlock and paralysis. No wonder politicians get some of the lowest marks in public polls. This, too, may explain why about 40 percent of eligible American voters never make it to the ballot box. Such scenes do not paint a healthy picture of our body politic. The free nation bequeathed to us by the founders risks to unmake itself through the lack of statesmanship and patriotism.

We need to bring more people and ideas into our political system and welcome any change that could reinvigorate sentiments of citizenry and patriotism. We must encourage free and independent thinking, not force Americans into well-guarded ideological tents. We owe it to ourselves to make the nation anew.

Editor’s note: This opinion piece, written by Anouar Majid, originally published in the Portland Herald Press on July 6, 2015, and has been slightly modified for publication on IVN.

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