The politicians and commentators wringing their hands at last week’s coup attempt in Washington were for the most part united in their protestation that “this is not America.” They were wrong.
This is what America has become. The ideals are there, perhaps, but the reality is a nation divided with no end in sight unless people are willing to change – which they don’t seem to be. Donald Trump didn’t create the problem, he is just its mirror and magnifier.
That Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” would rise up in armed force to seize the seat of government could have been predicted. (And why there wasn’t an adequate plan to keep the mob from the Bastille, I mean the Capitol is a question that should be addressed. Someone needs to be fired, not just Donald Trump.)
The question that the world is asking is, can America be healed? Can the country again become “one nation under God,” or is it time to decide the experiment has failed and split the place up. Are the divisions too deep, too widespread, for the States to ever be united again?
I could go into great length about how the American dream devolved into the American nightmare. I could list the turning points, name the names of those who have had major roles in the weakening of the social contract and the erosion of American society.
But that wouldn’t be constructive. Instead, some thoughts on how to fix the political problem.
First: the people who don’t agree with you aren’t demons in human form. That seems to be a tough concept for people on both the left and the right, for conservatives and liberals. That is where Clinton found her famous basket remark, which may have cost her the presidency.
Recognizing the humanity of your opponent goes a long way into finding common ground. As Sting said, “Russians love their children too.”
Second: Political reform is urgently needed. I can see a couple of possibilities that would ratchet down the tension and improve the state of American democracy.
Those would include an independent electoral commission with rule changes to prevent gerrymandering and introduce spending limits to political campaigns. Yes, there would be a lot of screaming from those with entrenched interests. But don’t you think it would be interesting to see what an election looked like where ideas and personality were more important than money?
I also see the need for a viable third party in American politics. The us versus them, black hat versus white hat dichotomy is tougher to maintain if there are more than just two choices. Unfortunately, so far smaller parties in the U.S. just haven’t been able to gain any traction.
There are other ideas I could suggest, but those are perhaps the biggest. And I’m not touching on the social issues in this post, issues which may indeed be bigger than the political ones. Politics is a field in which I am somewhat expert, I’ll let someone else address racism and poverty in America – areas in which I am merely an informed layman.
You may remember when “lightbulb jokes” were all the rage. My favorite was: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? The answer: “One. But the lightbulb has to want to change.”
Does America want to change? Do American’s want to change? Or are they happy on the path to national destruction, as long as their side wins?
I completely agree that we need to stop treating people with different political beliefs as if they were demons (a phrase that, in the current state of politics, is no longer hyperbolic). Politics are inherently divisive, but if we all practiced a little more rational thinking and constructive discourse, I don’t think it would be a problem—certainly no where near as big a problem as it is.
I’ve actually been advocating for a third major political party for a while, but recent events being what they are, I’ve changed my mind a little. Even if three (or why not even four or five) major political parties could be established, I wonder if they wouldn’t, over time, dissolve back into two leading parties. Humans are still tribalistic in nature, after all. How could we prevent the two party system from resurfacing again (if we’re even capable of moving away from it in the first place)?
Americans can’t get past the only-two-party syndrome. Other democracies (Canada, Germany, France, the UK, just to name four) have more than two parties. Government tends to be with one or two of those – but having an alternative keeps things interesting. Canada, for example, has five major parties at the moment, though only three have a shot at forming the next government.
Only inertia keeps the US where it is. Everyone agrees the system is broken, no-one is willing to fix it. The problem in the US is proponents of a third party usually start at the top with a presidential run. Change though starts at the bottom. Run a few candidates for state offices, get established, then elect some people to Congress. Creating a viable third party would take time. If you started today, I figure your candidate could win the presidency in 2044 or 2048. It could be done faster in a Westminster democracy, or if America’s political funding laws were overhauled, but building something that will last takes time.