Saturday, November 7, 2020

Are we really that divided?

 Although Joe Biden came out on top the election was much closer than anyone had imagined. Democrats could not imagine that so many people would be willing to overlook Trump's racism, his lies, and his handling of the corona virus to ever vote for the man. Yet close to half of the country did.  It seems this country is hopelessly divided with little chance of finding common ground. Is this really true? It certainly is if you listen to the political rhetoric. Republicans think Democrats are all radical leftists who want to take their money and give it to immigrants. Democrats think Republicans are all klu klux klan and nazis. Are they both right? Certainly there are factions within each party that might fit those descriptions, but most of us know not all do.

 I submit that the perceived division in this country is a direct result of the two party system we have perpetuated all this time. If we take a look at European democracies we see that they are all multiparty systems that cover the entire political spectrum, and that it is very rare for any one party to hold a majority. In order to form a government the parties must form coalitions with other parties. Right away this means that they have to be willing to work together and make compromises. In our two party system there is little incentive for the parties to work together. Multiparty systems can cover the entire political spectrum. Voices on the extreme ends don't have to be shut out. They may represent small minorities but they still have a place at the table.

Lets take a look at how this might look in the US if we broke up the two parties the way we used to break up big corporations once they became a monopoly. I am not a political scientist so these are just what comes to my mind. I would welcome input from true political scientists as to these groups. As I've said many times politics is a spectrum with extremes on either side and most people somewhere in the middle. So I'll start on the extreme left and work my way down to the extreme right. I'll try and include existing third parties that I am aware of. Note: other than the most extremes I may not get them in the correct order as far as more right or more left.

The Left

  • True Socialist: There probably aren't that many of them but there are some people that believe that the government should control all means of production.
  • Progressive / Democratic Socialist: The Bernie Sanders camp. They believe in free enterprise but with strong government regulations and social safety nets so that everyone prospers.
  • Justice and equality: Most concerned with systemic injustices created by racism and marginalization of Native Americans and immigrant populations.
  • Labor: Used to be a big one for Democrats.
  • Green Party: Climate change is the existential threat of our lifetimes.
  • Moderates: Sympathize with parties to the left but may not think their priorities are achievable. Health care may be high on their list.
  • Social Conservative: True family and traditional values not the phony republican kind.
  • Neo-liberal: I had to look this one up "favoring policies that promote free-market capitalism, deregulation, and reduction in government spending." So here we are already spanning corporate Democrats and Republicans.
  • Conservative: Obstructionist. Resist all change.
  • Christian Right: Abortion may be their big ticket item but I think it's obvious that they really want to control society based on their religious beliefs.
  • Nationalist: America first. No immigration, no foreign aid.
  • Libertarian: Laws are for other people, not for me.
  • White supremacist: Bring back segregation.
  • Fascist: Favor strict authoritarian government.

The Right

So 14 parties might be a bit unwieldy and some of these might combine right away. But still instead of a 50/50 split we'd have a few parties with maybe 20% and some with as little as 1% or 2%. Would we feel as divided as a country if we could see the full political spectrum represented by parties? If we could see that the most extreme parties really only represent a small fraction of the people would we feel as much animosity toward them, or as threatened by them? If Social Conservatives were not tied to the Republican party might they not think that Labor and Progressives are really doing more for families than the Christian Right? Might Moderates see that they really have a lot in common with Social Conservatives? Wouldn't everyone across the spectrum realize that the Green Party's agenda is crucial to our very survival as a species?

I think the illusion of a deeply divided country is perpetrated by the two party system and by those that profit from it. Career politicians, talk show hosts, YouTube pundits, and even the free press all profit from having us believe the country is irrevocably divided right down the middle. What will it take for Americans to realized we are not defined by the Democrats or Republicans? Is it possible to even change our political system? I may have some ideas ....