I’m pleased to say that we’re on the home stretch. Two weeks from now the political ticker that is Facebook will quiet down and everyone can go back to inane comments and photos of their dinner. Well, actually it will probably be three-weeks from now – as those who vote for the winner will need to spend time being sore winners while those who vote for the loser will need to bemoan the end of the nation, the triumph of evil, and take phone-pics of their plane tickets to Canada.
The truth is, no matter the outcome, I’m expecting to lose.
In my entire voting history I can honestly say I only ever voted for one person. Don’t misunderstand me, I’ve voted in every election, but I’ve been voting to keep someone out of office. I’ve been a political bouncer. My votes have been a blockade instead of a support.
Two choices. Neither one appealing. Yet, one must be taken. Like I’m standing at a buffet of diseases and saying “I’ll take the bad case of flu so I can avoid pneumonia”. For me it all stems from our two-party system, and the diseases are getting worse.
Watching political candidates run has become a reality show about an extended job interview. Each person does everything in their power to undermine the others and appear both unique and specially equipped for the job. And then, like those job interviews, the person awarded the position will turn out to be less impressive than expected.
Opposing sides of government can and should be like a loving couple striving to improve their lives. They won’t always agree on the way forward. Sometimes the fight will be ugly. But ideally they have a common goal. And like a couple, when an impasse is reached the best way through is often introducing a third person who can mediate between them or simply point the way to middle ground.
Unfortunately, our two political parties have been in the midst of a bitter and lingering divorce for most of my lifetime. And like the warring couple, with each passing year they become more entrenched in their extremes.
Sadly the problem extends even into the parties themselves. I was hired to edit many political commercials this year, and watched strategists refusing to find middle ground with those they are supposed to agree with. Here inside groups that suggest consensus bloomed repugnant tactics and a dedication to labeling their in-party opponent as secretly on “the other side”.
Of course, extremes are easy, and they make great news stories to fill the twenty-four-hour news channels. But the result has become no sense of middle ground or compromise or even one side saying “yeah… I agree with you on that, let’s move on”. Politics in this country has become a binary culture, black/white, on/off, yes/no – if one picks white then the other simply must pick black.
Yet it seems to me that many people look at the world and see a lot of gray.
The introduction of a legitimate third party would allow a tie-break in some cases and in others provide a release value to the pressure of sides. Right now it’s news if a government official sides with the opposition on any issue. They are supposed to adhere to a rigid line of thinking and abandon the middle ground of compromise or change. Imagine if any of us lived this way in the real world. We’d all be pissed off, alone, and no one would really be happy. Kinda like our government.
Now there are two loud responses to my line of thinking. First off are those of you who desperately need me to understand that one of the two parties is evil and cannot be compromised with at any cost.
Evil. Here’s a word almost as over-used as “Genius”.
Someone being Evil suggests a pro-active attempt to undermine things and a plan or dedication to making things worse. Declaring either side “evil” means you believe they are sitting in rooms with their fingers tented like a Bond villain as they ponder how to make America worse for the sheer fun of it.
Here’s an idea. The next time your spouse disagrees with you, call them “evil”. Step back and see how productive this thinking is to any conversation.
I can’t believe I have to type this: Neither party is Evil. Both have well meaning individuals who would like to see America prosper and become better than it is today. And both sides also have misguided fools who shouldn’t hold a sno-cone let alone a governmental office.
There. Is everybody equally offended? See… democracy works.
The second larger problem to the third-party idea is of course the Electoral College. It’s fascinating to me that so much time is spent trying to remake or rethink the founding fathers governmental structure for the modern time, and yet no real effort has been made to say “yeah… this was a bad idea”. Witness the now infamous Bush vs. Gore election where Gore won the popular vote yet Bush won the Presidency. I’m not coming down on a side here, I’m just saying that we talk about America as the great democracy and yet the will of the people doesn’t actually decide the President.
Or, if you prefer, look at H. Ross Perot and his most-successful-alternate bid for the Presidency. He lost. He never had a chance. The electoral college has to pick one of the two sides. And yet somehow people believed that if enough people voted for him then the Electoral College would have to listen.
Tell that to Al Gore.
So imagine my surprise a few months ago when I came across the website ISideWith.com. It’s a quite ingenious survey that asks your thoughts on all the major issues of the election, and then calculates which candidate you agree with. Of course all the hot button issues have yes/no answers available, but there’s also other answers that speak to the gray-areas that often fill our lives and perspectives.
I pondered. I clicked boxes. And then I was told that I quite overwhelming agreed with Gary Johnson.
I’d never heard of him. Literally. At that point I’d never even heard the man’s name. He’s the Libertarian candidate. I don’t think of myself as a Libertarian, but I do want a middle ground between the extreme-grudge-match of the donkey and elephant. Apparently that middle ground aligns with Gary Johnson. Okay. Cool. Oh random, he’s a rock climber. Oh look he balanced the budget of New Mexico. Oh…
I may as well go into the voting booth and write in my own name. Third party candidates have no hope. We need people in government who don’t feel tied to one side of the issue or another, but it’s never going to happen in current system.
I am unrepresented. And sadly, it goes far beyond the candidates for President.
One of the founding father concepts that has been trampled by our modern time is the intention of the House of Representatives. You and I should feel we have a connection to our government through our congress, and yet we don’t. These were supposed to be the tradesmen, farmers, soldiers, family-men who had real lives in real towns and ventured to Washington only when necessary (the word congress does mean something, after all) to hear issues and cast votes.
Up until the early 1900s, the congress grew with the population. Each member represented about 30,000 people. Then when the House reached 435 members it was decided that this was large enough and the whole thing has been capped ever since. So now one member of congress represents about 700,000 Americans.
What happens when small group has the power and access? In Hollywood it means those people get kissed up to and manipulated by those that want something. The same thing happens in politics.
No wonder we don’t feel heard.
Now I realize that a 10,000 person Congress might seem absurd, but if one member were to represent 100,000 people then the number turns into 3,000 and that’s smaller than most mega-churches on a Sunday morning. Gathering that many people a few times a year is very feasible. Plus the internet could connect congress remotely. Think how much harder would it be for special interest groups to buy or pressure more than 1,500 people to get their way. Today they have to push around just over 200 folks concerned about keeping their full-time government jobs so they can continue living in Washington and enjoying their lives. That’s practically shooting fish in a barrel for a large group with deep pockets. But thousands of people from all over the country present a very difficult moving target.
If we had more people in congress it would return to a journeyman position. Our representatives would be people who lived among us instead of “inside the loop” of the D.C. culture. In fact, if being in the House of Representatives was about actually voting on behalf of your life experience and your part of the country then we would probably find ourselves… Represented!
At this point a strange thought enters my third-party-minded, disenfranchised brain. If Congress was looking for 3,000 of us to lead real lives and speak up for the people then I’d run for office. Because even though I’d rather go to the dentist than be a politician, I have great interest in real people being heard.
Of course I wouldn’t want to run as a Democrat or Republican, so the whole thing would probably stop before it started.
Plus I hate ties. And I have long hair.
Those two things sound like the beginnings of third party…
Who’s with me?