“I believe in the two-party system,” quite a few elected officials are now declaring. They generally follow that statement with vague words attempting to mitigate the reflection of insurrection and sedition on themselves. It seems to me they are missing the point entirely and may be dooming their own re-election prospects rather than saving them.
The popularity of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump with the electorate may indeed show the polarization that divides us, but it also clearly shows that the public wants an end to the wash-hands-wash-hands type of politics that have been around for centuries and have been increasing in recent decades, mostly calling itself the Two-Party System. And it doesn’t have to do with the radical stances of the politicians.
The two major political parties both do business this way, scratching each others’ backs. And we encourage those parties by giving them massive preference in elections, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year providing them, among other things, primary elections and early preference.
In these major political parties, rather than representing a variety of views under one umbrella as they generally did up until at least the 1960s, candidates and office holders are expected now to “toe the party line” on various issues. Rather than truly representing the citizens of the country, they play this buddy-buddy political game meant only to keep each other in office.
Let’s say that the majority of Party A voters who vote (which may be only 20% of the citizenry) seem to be in favor of – to pull an issue out of the hat – greater wattage in traffic lights. Therefore, conclude the machers of Party A, candidates who say they will fight for greater wattage, or more than the current minimum wattage, should get the nod from the Party hand-washers. Then the voters will elect them because there will be ultimately no one else to choose from.
That is backwards, I think. Some citizens (who vote or not) will be in favor of brighter traffic lights, but maybe those who live in the apartment right beside the lights will be ambivalent about their brightness and may be calling for a redesign of the fixtures. Maybe there are even more citizens who are color-blind and would like different colors of lights, or at least not to have them mounted horizontally so they cannot discern which is lit. If we can get those folks to run for office, too, and can find a way either to support their candidacies under the party umbrella or to give them equal access under another party’s banner, then we get a wider breadth of perspective into the discussions about traffic lights and a broader field of candidates running.
What I am trying to say is that neither party should be all one opinion or all the other on any issue. Not all Democrats are or should be far, far left Snowflake Liberals, and not all Republicans are or should be far, far right QAnon White Supremacists. Yet both parties are acting as if seeming to be one or the other is the only way to get themselves elected. And conversely, the parties try to paint each other with those extremes to pull their own party affiliates away from considering the other party’s candidates. (Of course, they also cater to selective interests to garner special support, promising to vote in a certain way on that one matter if the voters will elect them.)
Moreover, the “third” political parties and the Independents (a political body) should have equal access to participating in our government at all levels, precisely to attenuate this polarization.
When we polarize, we leave the path open for autocratic demagogues to grab and keep power. We let them amass armies, and foment insurrections. We essentially elect them King.
And they see the rest of us as those who would dethrone them – as their enemies.
The electors and officials so empowered, emboldened, and anointed see this as a tactical war, as we heard the invaders saying during the storming of the Capitol building: kill the libs, take the country back, subjugate the Native Americans, burn the Jews, deport the immigrants, the Bible says to stone the gays, the Bible says the outsiders are evil, BLM and Antifa are the cause of all our problems. (The very notion that any of this could be considered “patriotic” is itself horrific.)
But this is not a tactical war, because the disease is within us. Those folks are a part of us. And when a pestilence takes hold in a body, blowing oneself up to get rid of the pestilence simply is not the answer.
(I must add as an aside, though, that some of those maskless invaders seem to think that getting as many people as possible sick with COVID is the way to cure that disease.)
You know, there are many who look to the skies and ask the Almighty to “give us a sign.” I cannot think of any more clear set of signs showing we have unifying global problems that need our immediate attention than what we are currently receiving.
Most major religions hold a few tenets as high priorities: addressing poverty, tending the earth and all on it, tending to the sick, teaching love, and seeking peace. These also seem to be popular secular ethical lessons taught in many schools.
Our global failure on all these fronts has helped bring about health disparity, wealth disparity, social inequality, poverty, pain, hunger, war, and what I see as the ultimate sin, killing this planet.
There are storms, plagues, weather inversions, floods, earthquakes, melting glaciers, increasing numbers of tropical storms, and the bees we rely upon for food are dying and being murdered by invading species.
People feel disenfranchised, discontented, ignored, and overwhelmed, and that feeds hatred. The hatred fuels physical violence, as they are willing to believe lies telling them that they are at war.
The disillusioned bring back the same old tropes of who is guilty and who must die for perceived transgressions.
Meanwhile, the fat ones in power are more than happy to keep up the diversionary tactic of feeding the tinder of falsehoods to stoke the fires and keep the masses fighting with each other, because it keeps them in power – and eating cake, too. (This is apparently easier than having to raise campaign money to stay in power, which I also find objectionable in this time of easy access to information when none of us should rely on advertisements or paid media to help us choose where to place our votes. That is a thought for another day.)
Apparently some folks will stick with fellow party members to the bitter end, regardless the evidence against the wisdom of that choice. Maybe it’s fear of those with ultimate power – the power of the higher office holders who do not deserve the fealty, or the power of the voters who have believed the propaganda – rendering them so willing to sell their souls.
We need to revise and reclaim the system. This was reinforced to me the other day, driving along interstate highways and seeing large signs saying “Trump Won Kill The Libs.”
Last week’s haftarah (Shemot) from Isaiah tells of fat wealthy men eating rich food and getting drunk on wine while the general populace seeks a viable pathway but hears only murmurs sounding like the teacher in Peanuts cartoons. I picture the public walking around robotically following their tweets – tsav latsav, tsav latsav, kav lakav, kav lakav – seeking truth and hearing nothing but the incomprehensible.
We should all understand by now that personal freedom may also be that rich food, and is not the ultimate answer to all our problems, it is just another form of gluttony. We see it deployed now: personal freedom not to wear masks, personal freedom to spread the virus, personal freedom to carry guns to be able to shoot any perceived enemies on sight, personal freedom to hate, personal freedom to spread lies. Personal freedom to storm and loot the Capitol Building.
Our first priority is recognizing that the primary focus must not be about that personal freedom at all, it is about us. We must start getting along, stop the polarizing, before the world goes mad in two directions at once. Our common cause is the planet and our communal health and welfare, the common good. The planet’s poor health helped foment COVID and many other toxic consequences we are now contending with. We do not have a right to kill the earth; we do not have a right to endanger each other with disease. We do not have a right to kill each other; we do not have a right to dictate what others believe. We all have to live together. United we stand.
The mask-wearing controversy drives home the bottom line, as we try to avoid contact with those who are barefaced: living in fear of everyone we see must become a thing of the past. There are no strangers, we are all travelers on the same journey.
Meanwhile, back to the politics. If you are one who has used all of this conflict as a reason to avoid political involvement, or if you have never cared to be involved before, you are absolutely one who really should be venturing in, at least enough to make wise choices and to protect that which you consider important. We all have a stake in the city, the country, the world, and we need to run for office and elect representatives who reflect our mutual interests; we must monitor and influence laws, law enforcement, justice, and administration to the best interest of all of us. Government’s job is tending to the common good, period.
When only the wash-hands-wash-hands folks are involved, it is self-perpetuating. And that makes it harder for the rest of us not only to have a say but to survive.