Randy J Robbins
How Do You Fix the United States? A Non-Partisan Government.
Photo by Brian Wertheim on Unsplash
The first U.S. President, George Washington, knew the dangers of political parties in September 1796. In his farewell address he said, “serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.”  He believed disagreements between political parties weakened the government. To this day, he is the only President not to represent or be a member of a political party to our detriment. Sadly, he was predicting our future. It is not too late to change our path and follow his guidance.
There is no denying the United States is in trouble. Not since the mid-19th century leading to the Civil War has our country seen such a divide. It doesn't seem too long ago the country united, heavy with pride, after the events of 9/11. But, a series of events since then has completely split us. A two-party system allows for a deep divide to occur quickly. The parties are not only involved, they run the entire country. They are private organizations who should not have this level of authority and power.
We have two parties to represent 340 million people, 50 states, and several territories. While dozens of other parties exist, not a single one has access to all the ballots in the country. The main two are the only ones with national access. While some have influence over local or state issues, none have national influence. This is a crime against the citizens of this nation.
It is not possible for two parties to represent 340 million people. People’s beliefs and needs vary too much. There are too many political ideologies for that to be possible. The two-party system has become so ingrained in our culture that people reduce everyone down to liberal vs conservative. They manipulate us into ignoring other options.
Our media and politicians like to misguide us with the Overton Window. The Overton Window is a useful tool to measure how ideas change over time and influence politics. It is not a measurement of where political parties sit on the political spectrum. There are dozens of ideologies that describe systems and individual people. The Overton Window is a contextual tool which shows that one party is to the left of the other. Which is not the same as them being a left-wing party.
There are many theories and ways to measure political beliefs. The most common is the political compass, which is a quadrant. It measures left to right but also up and down, considering both economic and social issues. Left to Right measures economic systems which is what people are familiar with. Up and Down measures social issues. Up is for authoritarian governance and Down is Libertarian. The United States, the global symbol of democracy and freedom, is in the upper, right quadrant. We have an authoritarian-right government where the only options are not as different as advertised. Americans are being bamboozled and it started decades ago.
It was not always this way, our founding fathers were progressives and classic liberals. They went against the global conservative views of the time which was a monarchy. A handful of monarchies ruled the entire world. Inspired by the Father of Liberalism, John Locke, they founded one of the world's first democracies. Locke's views were vital to the forming of the US Government as he believed in natural individual rights and the three branches of government - judicial, executive, and legislative . While it can be difficult to make a direct comparison between liberalism over two centuries ago and today, there is no denying their beliefs and intentions are not in line with what we see in Washington D.C. today. How did we get here?
A simple explanation is the ratchet effect . The Republican party applies force to move the party rightward and up. The Democratic Party does not resist this movement. They will recognize the rightward shift and fail to make any move leftward. Instead, they create a new center that is further right. This process has been repeated since 1968. We have reached a point where patches of the country are reaching authoritarianism and more extreme - fascism. For example, the recent ousting of two democratically elected legislators in Tennessee . For a fantastic visual of this and a long list of sources, please view this video by Second Thought.
The move into authoritarianism is a big reason why we see that larger divide in our political sphere. The hallmark of authoritarianism and fascism is creating an enemy. Pointing your voters and followers at people, places, groups, brands, entire professions, or anything else that will fit into the narrative. The entire platform thrives on negativity. They are not about building anything. They have no interest in lifting anyone up. It isn't about solving genuine problems. It is about using division to inflame followers, creating an abnormal devotion to political leaders. The followers believe the fabricated enemies are out to get them. They start believing in unfounded conspiracy theories a non-follower would dismiss as unrealistic. This gives way to groups like Q-Anon which further fan the flames.
We have seen this with Republicans over the last 6 or 7 years. They believe Democrats have the power to rig elections, including the Presidential election. They dismiss the lack of evidence or the logistical impossibility of such a task. They have attacked teachers, schools, the entire LGBT community, vaccines backed by the entire medical system, a long list of politicians, several companies, and others. The only people they trust are the politicians and pundits that feed into their echo chamber. They will attack their own if they disagree with even one thing in the narrative. They become a hive mind and they lack self-awareness as individuals.
With the use of political parties, especially only two of them, this was bound to happen. The divide is further escalated as the Republican Party sees their influence among voters decrease. They have not won a popular vote in two decades and are unlikely to see that change. Their party is an endangered animal, They are desperate to claim control before it is no longer possible. Some politicians, like Mitch McConnell, have recognized the party was falling behind. He has masterfully (and unethically) spent his years leading Congressional Republicans focusing on building a judiciary in their favor. This culminated in a 6-3 majority of the Supreme Court, which does not reflect the values of American voters .
It may seem that I am wailing on the Republicans while ignoring the problems from the other side. The Democratic Party misrepresent themselves to the public as liberals with leftist values. But they represent those who contribute funds to the campaign coffers to ensure they keep their positions.
We see them recognize the problems our society faces in speeches and social media. But, they do little to solve the problems. Their largest crime is the previously mentioned ratchet effect and their role in moving the country rightward. They are not the answer to what ails the country. I would argue that the Republican move towards fascism also creates a more dangerous Democratic Party. When one party moves to extremes, the other party looks competent and appealing despite their past record.
There is only one way to begin to fix this country. We cannot even start to fix the systemic problems which plague our society without this difficult adjustment to our political system. A change which the wealthy and most powerful citizens of our country will fight. We need to move both parties to the history books. The best outcome would be a move to a non-partisan system. We have that in my hometown of Kansas City. Our elections are about candidates, not parties.
The main goal of a government and the politicians working within is to solve problems. The problems are often large and systemic. Solving these problems involves research, data, analytics, expert consultation, statisticians, mathematics, and science. Ideologies have no place among these concepts. The correct solution is the correct solution. Whether it falls into a specific ideology is irrelevant.
With American politics, every politician will dismiss a solution that does not meet their party agenda or fit into their ideological box. It is mathematically impossible for the best solution for every problem to fit into specific belief systems, party agendas, or political and economic ideologies. The world is too complex.
Unfortunately, I doubt going non-partisan will happen in my lifetime. I do believe that the political and economic systems that humanity needs don't exist yet. Those future systems will lack political parties and strict adherence to ideologies. The use of parties and ideologies among decision makers and voters continue a long line of failure going back centuries. Humans make such great progress but also repeat the same mistakes.
The more realistic solution for the United States is creating a multi-party system. We could force the Democrats and Republicans to split. There are Democrats that could create a left-wing party. The MAGA wing of the Republican Party could form their own party allowing the traditional Republicans to return to their conservative roots. We have the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties with a noticeable following. With an open window, other parties would likely form. We could see a majority of Americans with representation for the first time.
This will not be easy as the two-party system has become ingrained into our society and many tie their identities to the two parties. Yet, the younger generations give us an opportunity to make this change. They have seen nothing but a horrible performance from our elected leaders on all levels of government. Gen Z is showing up to the polls as soon as they reach voting age at a level never seen before in young people. They have completely rejected the Republican Party. I hope they learn that the Democratic Party is not the long-term solution.
While other changes need to follow, everything starts with the destruction of the dual party stranglehold. It makes me think of the divestiture of Bell Operating Companies in the early 80s. They had full control over our phone systems. The Department of Justice found their monopoly was harmful to the country. The Department of Justice forced them to split into regional companies to allow for fair competition.
The Republicans and Democrats have created a duopoly which should violate antitrust laws. They cooperate in keeping other parties from having full access to the election system, such as national TV debates and ballots in all states and territories. I am not a lawyer, but this may be a path toward a resolution.
If we can get this done, we can work to eliminate money from the election system, institute term limits, move past the antiquated first past the post voting system, and require blind trust for all elected officials and judges. We will never see these things until we move past the two-party system. Without these changes, America is going to be another failed empire.
How we go about getting this done is a tough question to answer. It may require older generations to no longer be with us. Parties are far more popular and vital to the older generations. It will require unity among people from both parties. Americans need to realize that they are all facing the same problems. The hardcore leftist in NYC is facing similar problems to the devoted MAGA followers in Georgia.
A country with enough parties to give everyone a voice would be an incredible place to live. A place where the wealthy and corporate interests cannot control politicians would also be nice. Having politicians who told the truth and fought to fix the genuine problems should not feel like a dream. There is no reason 340 million Americans cannot fight and achieve such a place.
If we were to do this, we could have a citizen legislature on all levels of government. The people seeking to be career politicians for the power and wealth would move to different careers. We need people who are living like regular people in Washington D.C. This country needs our best minds solving our problems which are not beholden to a party or specific political ideology. Our legislators need to be filled with people who trust science. We need people who know what it is like to work in a factory, teach grade school, or experience homelessness.
The question is, how do we even start to change a system when the most powerful within it have no interest or incentive to do so?