The massive divide our nation is experiencing provides a compelling reason to reevaluate the American election process. Making structural changes to our system could address many underlying causes of this division and ultimately unite Americans.
For years, voters have expressed their desire to cast their vote for someone outside of the binary choice they have been given, but they fear that a vote for a third party will be wasted, or worse, unintentionally result in the election of the establishment party candidate they like least.
George Washington’s farewell address is often remembered for its warning against hyper-partisanship: “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”
John Adams, Washington’s successor, similarly worried that “a division of the republic into two great parties ... is to be dreaded as the great political evil.”
Americans should welcome the departure of the two-party system and instead encourage members of either political party who feel disenfranchised to create new political parties that better fit their ideologies and beliefs. Watching cable news, you’ll see views on the far ends of the political spectrum, but the majority of Americans are centrist and simply want the government to effectively provide core services.
Most importantly, rather than continuing to force the square peg of their political beliefs into the round hole of Republican or Democrat, voters would finally have the opportunity to support a party with which they truly identify. As many aspiring presidential candidates have learned, attempting to force an established political party to morph to fit one’s belief is an exercise in futility.
One day a “Texas Independent Party” may flourish from a centrist ideology that focuses on fiscal issues and core government responsibilities such as education, health care, infrastructure and public safety. The Texas Independent Party could balance out the fractious far left and right leanings of the incumbent parties.
We should also consider abandoning the divisive primary election process that has been in place since 1968. Instead, all American voters should cast their ballots on the same day in a national primary.
This would serve to dilute the undue influence of some states over others and prevent the inevitable devolution of political campaigns from civil discourse to mudslinging. After all, the old sports adage that “over scrimmaging” is more damaging than it is helpful certainly applies here.
Finally, to allow newly created political parties to flourish, we should consider shifting our government to a parliamentary system. The partisan polarization that has eroded many citizens’ faith in government could be replaced with the means to create coalition governing.
Each political party would have the opportunity to be part of a process that governs our country, while limiting the partisan divide that has metastasized throughout the last five decades. Throughout the world, parliamentary systems of government have proven successful and have been the preferred method of governing in places throughout Europe and beyond.
To make fundamental and profound change in government, the architecture must be changed. Changing the people who occupy the offices every four years provides for entertainment but not true transformation. If you are discontent with where our political process has led us, now is the time to demand change.