There is a sufficient lack of political discourse in the United States. Independent voices, now representing 45 percent of the national electorate, are not heard in mainstream political discussions. Citizens are presented with two choices at the polls, in the media, and even in every-day political discussions: Republican or Democrat?
This represents a tragedy for the public at large. We are presented with two, often very similar choices. Yet, the American public is extremely diverse and intelligent. The public is waking up to the fact that a mere two choices no longer satisfies their needs as citizens or the country’s needs and responsibilities as a global power.
Anouar Majid is a professor at the University of New England (which has campuses in Portland and Biddeford, Maine, as well as Tangier, Morocco), author, and vice president for Global Affairs and Communication. In an interview for IVN, Majid stated that “[t]he traditional party system [is] way too dated for the realities of the 21st century.” The language of politics today is “stuck in the 1950s,” he said. While public opinions have evolved, the political system has not.
Majid argues that the political parties have “hijacked the political discourse.” The two-party system allows the Democratic and Republican parties to absorb grassroots movements, loosely affiliated with one side of the ideological spectrum, and then drown out those differing voices under one ideological tent.
What is dangerous about limiting discourse in this way is that you “end up disenfranchising a large chunk of the population,” Majid explained.
The impact of disenfranchisement is ideological alienation, skepticism of career politicians, and cynicism in the democratic process at large. When people feel their voice is not recognized by the politicians chosen to represent them, they disengage from democratic participation.
Majid argued that Americans are experiencing not only ideological alienation from the two parties, but social and economic alienation, as well. He explained that those in the lower socioeconomic strata “do not see any of their voice reflected in the parties and feel abandoned by the process.”
Empirical evidence confirms Majid’s sentiments. Political scientist Larry Bartels found that both Republicans and Democrats are not responsive to the lower third of Americans. In fact, politicians over-represent those in the top third of the income bracket.
When people feel their voice is not recognized by the politicians chosen to represent them, they disengage from democratic participation.
When prompted to discuss solutions to this phenomenon, Majid concluded that the movement needs to come from the grassroots. Even when progressive speakers, who represent different ideologies like democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, try to change the discourse, they get drowned out by the political parties.
There is a “sense of frustration and maybe even defeatism – they feel they are going against Goliath [with] no chance of changing things,” Majid said. People like Sanders and Warren cannot do it alone. Majid contends that grassroots efforts are critical to increasing independent voices in mainstream discourse.
Majid explained that when people look at the United States today, they see much of the same language and syntax as they do from the 1950s. Other nations need to see the United States as the complex, diverse, and innovative country that it is, he said. Independent voices have to keep pushing through diverse views in as many social forums as possible.
Majid concluded that people have evolved to gather outside of political parties in different forms of civil society, such as non-governmental organizations, Twitter, Facebook, independent media, etc. The two-party political machine should do the same.
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To Fix Broken Political System, We Need More Independent Voices