It happened last month. I officially changed my voter registration from Democrat to Independent. When I was younger, I identified as a conservative Republican. Over the course of a few years, my views changed and I felt more inclined to the Democratic Party. Now, as I sit and watch the bitter anger sans solutions on the left, and gut wrenching gloating by those on the right, I can’t help but think, “What has happened to my country? Can we really call ourselves a democracy?”
We live in a bipolar country; our feelings toward it and our fellow countrymen change from day to day. We are being corralled in our separate pins by politicians more interested in self-gain and party loyalty than real good. And because we only have two pins to choose from (Republican or Democrat), we fall in line with that division and refuse to stray from the herd out of fear.
This rodeo leads us down a dangerous path: one not of free thought, but of party-line mind control. American citizens now take litmus tests for political participation at the expense of free discourse.
Democracy isn’t supposed to work this way. Democracy can only work when people listen, understand different viewpoints, and rationally determine where they stand on an issue. Democracy is about the people deciding for themselves, not someone else deciding for them. This delegation of free thought we may call totalitarianism or autocracy, the arch-enemies of democracy.
We are rapidly slipping into a totalitarian mindset. On the right, everything that Trump says is absolute gospel, while on the left Elizabeth Warren is the second coming. We let them tell us not only what to think, but how to think. They lead; we fall in line. That’s a dangerous game, because as soon as we stop thinking for ourselves and doing what we are told by party leaders, we open the door to further entrenchment and begin to view those who don’t agree with us as “the other.”
We are forming artificial political clans, spurred by the political class, advocating for absolute conformity over thoughtful dialogue. Is this not how totalitarian rule begins?
Do not get me wrong. Resistance and integrity are two important things for a democracy. When throngs of people took to the streets during the Vietnam War, public attitudes toward the war shifted and so did our politicians. When women took to the streets at the turn of the 20th Century, they gained the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. When disenfranchised blacks stood up for equal treatment under the law, we saw the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
We have seen time and time again that resistance and adherence to principle are good things. But the difference between those movements and the happenings of today is that they sought fundamental change, not ideological purity.
Our democracy is not working properly; its current state is propagated by fear and frustration. But there is a solution. If enough people re-register as independents, our politicians might get the picture that 79% of us want compromise over purity; they might place love of country over self-interest; and they might act for the good of all Americans.
Our responsibilities as citizens are to each other, not our political parties. When we allow ourselves to be corralled, we lose control of our own voices and intuitions.
So, free yourself by rising above the rancor and make your own judgments as an independent. Refuse to fall in line with political figureheads out of love for our Constitution, institutions, democracy, and, most of all, country. Send a message to the establishment, and join the real resistance. Do what I did and become an independent. It’s a lot less stressful.
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