Divided state could use a third political party
It's obvious we live in a politically divided nation. It is, though, striking as to how split down the middle it seems to be.
A Gallup poll in December showed that 28 percent of Americans were registered as Republicans and, yes, 28 percent were registered as Democrats. Those who said they were Independents reached 41 percent, but extrapolated out further, those who were Democrats or Independents who "leaned Democrat" totaled 43 percent and those who were Republicans or Independents who "leaned Republican" totaled 45 percent.
It doesn't just seem that this great country of ours is split in half politically and ideologically — it is. The state of our current political dialogue, along with the deeply entrenched two-party system, sets that divide in concrete. The two parties despise each other, but at the same time, are dependent upon each other as foils, to strike fear in the heart of the other in order to prompt donations, in order to keep the machine running. It's a love-hate-money-power relationship.
Both parties remained entrenched, as they have for more than 150 years, despite substantially transforming during the past six to eight years. Maybe their capacity to transform is what keeps the two-party system in place.
The Reagan-Bush era of compassionate conservatism that ruled the GOP for 35 years was shelved in favor of a Limbaugh-Trump spirit of combative conservatism, a spirit of disruption to norms, and core Republicans are mobilized and excited by that.
While Republicanism is now one thick red line drawn by Donald Trump, the Democratic party is several blue streams. Among them: the new "Democratic Socialist" wing that wants to reform the nation into a more European model; a quieter feminist faction that is pushing for more women to be elected into offices across the nation; the longstanding union arm of the party; and the old guard, the moderate/history-tied wing that wistfully quote FDR, JFK, RFK and MLK.
Kind of like Will Rogers used to say: He didn't belong to an organized party — he was a Democrat. If this party is unified, it's only in its disdain for the current president.
But let's face it. Democrats and Republicans will always be divided. The key to this country becoming more unified lies in the hearts and minds of the 40 percent of the people who vote but who are not tied to either the donkey or the elephant. In presidential politics, these people essentially allow the parties to drive the train, only to get on board at the last second to decide which gets to serve as conductor and which is relegated to lead complainer.
To break down the divisive climate in American politics will take a break-down of the two-party system. Why do we let essentially two groups of ideologues, neither with more than 30 percent of the population, dominate 99 percent of the political conversation in America?
A strong third party? One focused on unifying the country as opposed to vilifying the opposition? The creation of a three-legged political system that requires inter-party cooperation to get any majority or any bill passed? How wonderful could that be? Conversation might surpass intimidation and castigation in Washington.
A step in that direction would be to reward candidates and conversation that boldly question, that stand up to their party. The other night in New Hampshire, the question was asked the Democratic field if any of them were concerned that a "Democratic Socialist" might head their ticket. None of the seven on stage raised their hand in concern, until Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar did. The move helped her shoot up from deep in the polls to a very strong third place in the New Hampshire primary. It may have also sunk her chances to win over more radical, mobilized, organized, left-leaning voters of her party, ever.
But it did seem like one hand being raised out of the muck to the question: is anyone tired of this?
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