Democracies are not the normal order of human civilizations. Throughout history, and even today, people are far more likely to live under monarchies, dictatorships, and authoritarian regimes than they are to be self-governed. Our democracy was inspired by an era of enlightenment that recognized the importance of individual freedom and human dignity. Maintaining it requires vigilance and direct participation when things have gone awry.
Things have gone awry. The Republican Party, the strongest political party in the country by far, has been abandoned by moderates. Congress and state legislatures have been gerrymandered so successfully that after the 2020 redistricting, Republicans may achieve a permanent majority in Congress, putting us in true danger of becoming a de facto one-party state. In the meantime, the Democrats are feuding and the plurality of voices, those who do not wish to affiliate with either of these parties, are being drowned out and held hostage by the two-party system.
Our political system is the pipeline that feeds who will run our government. If the political system is feeding unaccountable, extreme, and corrupted politicians into the government, then our government will soon become unaccountable, extreme, and corrupted too. If we wish to address the issues in the government, we must first fix how we choose the people who represent us there. The five election reforms that I am running on, and that all New Jersey Awakens candidates are pledging to adopt, can be found here. These reforms go far beyond band aid solutions- they would fundamentally alter the choices available to us and give us greater flexibility in making those choices. These would constitute a genuine political revolution.
But how do we, regular people, gain power to get these election reforms accomplished? We must disrupt the system itself.
Harvard Business Review defines disruptive innovation as:
"...a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding...customers, they...ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality...Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving the advantages that drove their early success."
Sound familiar? The incumbent politicians have been servicing their most demanding constituents, the ones who vote in primaries and the special interests that fund their campaigns, while neglecting the needs of the rest of us. The opening is there for candidates with fewer resources to target those being left out of the two-party system and to displace incumbents. Donald Trump's candidacy and election disrupted the political system, but instead of enacting reforms he and the Republicans are eliminating safeguards that protect our democracy and public resources. We need to take a page from his book, but we need to elect people who are truly reform-minded.
That is why I am running.
I am running as a Republican for two practical reasons and two idealistic reasons.
The practical reasons are: 1) The New Jersey Democratic Party is too corrupt to give regular people like you and me a voice or platform (Phil Murphy has spent more than $10 million of his own money to try to buy the Democratic nomination, and he'll most likely succeed), and 2) Running as an independent carries a risk of vote splitting because the Democrats and Republicans have worked together to put laws in place that prevent third party challenges to their power.
The idealistic reasons are: 1) I hope that my running as a Republican will raise awareness about the fact that across the country, most elections are decided in the Republican primary, not the general election, so we need regular people with moderate views competing and voting in those elections, and 2) I hope that my candidacy will refocus our attention away from labels and towards the candidates and issues themselves. We should not treat our politics as a team sport; our democracy is at stake. We hurt ourselves when we defend a bad candidate just because they are on the same team and we hurt ourselves when we ignore good ideas or new voices just because they are on the other side.
This is a post-partisan movement stuck within the confines of a two-party system. This movement, my candidacy, and the candidacies of the other New Jersey Awakens candidates are beyond party labels and inter-party fights. The answers to our collective problems will not be found in overly simplified platforms that are rich in buzz words, but poor in ideas. The answers are to be found in a dialogue between us all, regardless of what label you assume. We must move beyond the Democrat vs. Republican mindset and unite to preserve our democracy as People v. the System. Even if we disagree on everything else, representative democracy is our common bond, so we must work together to restore that.
Editor's note. This column originally published on New Jersey Awakens' website and was republished in its entirety with permission from the author. To learn more about New Jersey Awakens, visit the group's Facebook page and website.