If we want to grow as a country and elect the people whose values truly represent our own, we have to stop playing ballot box “Connect Four” with the party we know.
Editor's note: Ron Hart is travellng this week and offered these thoughts from his son, Jeb, instead.
“It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for certain that just ain’t so.” - Mark Twain
People say that the political divide in this country is worse than it has ever been. It’s not good, I will give you that, but there was a time when we fought a four-year war that killed more than 600,000 Americans over political differences… but hey, those mean tweets are crazy, right?
Our politics are polarized for a multitude of reasons. In my estimation, the biggest cause is the great “groupings” in our society. Like-minded individuals sort themselves into groups that only hold the same beliefs. If you asked someone who intended to vote for Hillary if Donald Trump could win the election, you would get a variant on the response of “Hell no, I do not know a single person who would ever vote for that person.” We lean on this self-constructed society we build around us and use it as a 24/7 confirmation bias of everything we believe.
There are many negative externalities to this, but the main one is the propensity to vilify anyone who thinks differently. Policy warfare has become party warfare, and that is where it gets dangerous. No one wants to engage in productive policy conversation anymore. Instead, they want to tear down their perceived enemy (the opposite party) at whatever cost necessary.
The discourse should never be about party politics; it should be about ideas. Those ideas should be discussed on their merits, not on which party proposed them. We are so busy trying to win the battle between the parties that we have lost sight of the fact that we are on the same side in the effort to make our country a better place.
I have long said that the two-party system is where good ideas go to die. But the system is so ingrained in our political and social fabric that it would be impossible to just do away with it overnight — if at all.
The obvious question would be, “Jeb, what would you do to fix this problem that by your own admission is impossible to solve?” It’s pretty simple. If I could snap my fingers right now and make one change that would have the greatest impact on our political system for the long term, it would be removing two letters, R and D, from every ballot in every election in the country.
For far too long people have used party affiliation to disengage from the political system; we judge each politician more by the letter next to his or her name than by any ideas proposed, using the letter next to a candidate’s name as a cheat sheet in the voting booth. We have become disengaged and politically lazy.
When one casts a vote, a valued and protected right, it has become commonplace (especially in local and state elections) to vote for a person’s name one has never heard. We just vote based on a letter next to the name on the ballot.
If we want to grow as a country and elect the people whose values truly represent our own, we have to stop playing ballot box “Connect Four” with the party we know. An educated electorate will elect a capable candidate. And idiots who only vote along party lines might either have to do some research or not vote.
Every candidate and his or her ideas deserve a fair shake. Everyone deserves to have his or her ideas heard, critiqued, analyzed and cross-examined. Those ideas should be what matter.
In more districts than I can count in this country, the congressman is decided by the DNC or RNC. Regardless of who the committees appoint as the nominees, they will win. I lived in downtown Memphis for years, and if the DNC nominated a random guy who worked at Sonic for Coen’s seat and the RNC nominated a reincarnated Albert Einstein, Kyle from Sonic would win. Because the electorate does not look at names, just for the “D.”
D vs. R has become shirts vs. skins or Bloods vs. Crips. Yet we live in an America where 31% identify as Democrat, 24% as Republican and 42% as Independent. Every election year the largest majority is forced to pick between what is, in their minds, “the lesser of two evils.” We end up voting for the evil of two lessers.
Jeb Hart lives in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and works in the technology field. You can reach him at JebHamiltonHart@gmail.com.