I’d like to think of governing as an art, but lately America has been pretty artless. This is largely due to the inability of congress to represent its constituency. But before we can get into this, I’ve got a bone to pick with the generic masses. Folks, our ‘democracy’ does not function as a ‘two party system’. It’s atrocious, but when people describe the process of the American government, there are certain key words that crop up more often than any other.
1. Democracy (yes, but we’re really not a democracy…)
2. Representative democracy (that’s better)
3. Of the people…
4. Free market (hate to break it to you folks, but that’s not a form of government…)
5. Two party system
Let’s focus on number five. America doesn’t have a two party system. A two party anomaly, two party problem, two party rule, any of those are a better way of putting it. But don’t refer to our governmental process as a two party system. There’s nothing inherently two party about our constitution, culture, or way of life.
Trouble is, when we think of ourselves as ‘two party’ it’s easy to believe that partisanship is a problem. It’s almost impossible to listen to the news today without hearing pundits or politicians complaining about partisanship. If the talking heads are to be believed, partisanship is the cause of every congressional deadlock, economic downturn, military death, etc… Politics has become a game where the players keep saying “they are doing it wrong, so let us do it.”
What’s wrong with this picture? If voters fall into this trap, we allow anti-incumbancy to become the modus operandi of our government. And anti-incumbancy is not a useful dialectic. It’s not a dialectic at all. It’s akin to that childish effort of trying to shove that square block into the round hole, and then giving up on that, and instead trying to shove the cylinder into the square hole. Let me suggest something different. Let’s try finding all the pieces to our governing puzzle, and then put them in their corresponding holes (no pun intended). In this way, partisanship isn’t the problem; rather, partisanship becomes the solution.
When was the last time you had a conversation with a pure Democrat? Or a pure Republican? There’s no such thing any more. We’ve had to shift our language to try to keep up with the disconnect between the people and those who represent them. We talk about leftists, and progressives, centrists, neocons, the Christian right, tea-partiers, etc. Yet, we still go through the motions of voting along party lines that are not represented in our culture. What’s wrong with this picture? Let me be blunt. Our current form of government has stripped away the ‘of’, ‘by’, and ‘for’, thereby leaving its ‘people’ naked.
It might be that what we need is a more radical partisanship. One that allows for the many voices present in our culture to find a representative voice. Americans can’t be broken up into the categories of Democrat and Republican. Should our government?