DEFINING MOMENTS IN A DIVISIVE TIME

How do you label your own political beliefs?  Are you quick to judge and label someone else for their beliefs?  Are you open to listen to other points of views?   Do you look for common ground in arguments?  My mother taught me we should at least listen to the other point of view; that is why we have watched both political conventions every 4 years (this was the first one she missed as she passed away in 2013).  To understand views and platforms, I even attended a Green party convention a few years ago.

Because the political conversation has become so contentious, I decided to blog about our divisiveness and our various viewpoints. Certainly, Americans were divided even before the 2016 elections especially when it comes to politics but that division is growing!  Perhaps we never truly overcame the division of the Civil War days, and many states still want to succeed from the Union. Was there a time in American history when we were on the same page, or is there something that might bring us together?  Maybe 9/11 was the closest as we do tend to help one another in disasters.

Political views are really just a snapshot of our personal values.  We are a country divided by ideology and beliefs.  Many think government should be involved minimally (maybe just military), and others who feel it should be a conduit for ensuring the well-being of its citizens and environment; a caregiver of sorts.  We see outrage and contention in town halls, in editorials, and in the news.  Some of us have had people unlike us on Facebook.

Clearly, we have many sets of beliefs and values that conflict.  I am not sure if we can or should try to overcome our disparity?  I don’t see how this administration can ever bring us together or even claim they are even trying to do so.  However, we may find the necessity to come together to preserve our democracy and freedoms which are now being challenged in ways we have never seen before!

Political points of view seem to be divided into at least four categories even though we basically have a 2-party system (not specified in the Constitution by the way).  It is unclear as to which group is the largest now and many people have given up caring or voting.   I would conjecture that the first group would include the middle or moderate points of view, basically encompassing both moderate Democrats and Republicans.  I see this somewhat mirroring the GOP of the 1960’s as parties have changed over time in our American history.  It is made up of those who are fiscally conservative.  The Republicans of today aren’t the same as they were in the 1960’s; back then parties could work together and did accomplish some major legislation!  Republicans also do not hold the same values as when they began   in the late 1800’s.  They are not the party of Lincoln anymore!  Using labels, I would say that leaders like John McCain and Speaker Ryan have quite differing viewpoints even though they are both Republicans.

The Democrats have also experienced party changes since the Roosevelt era and continue to face challenges in reinventing the party after the split in 2016. The party that drove social changes and helped pass legislation that provided Social Security, Medicare and Voting Rights is now being challenged by new issues and Corporate money.   Dems are now somewhat divided between those who wanted candidate Bernie Sanders and those who wanted Hilary Clinton. They are working on lessening that divide by the new National Democratic Party leader Tom Perez touring the U.S. with Bernie Sanders.  Some of the divide is over ideology and the influence of corporate money.  The party is now more composed of the educated upper middle class, and lost some of the labor and poor working class by not addressing their growing needs.  But interesting to note, many who liked Bernie voted for Trump and some who hated Trump voted for Hilary. We may never know if Bernie could have brought more people together?

The first category of Republicans has been taken over by the Tea Party Right Conservatives, now referred to as the Freedom Caucus.  Even though some voters continue to vote and call themselves Republican, the party has split in ideology and needs revision or division into two parties.  That group I will name the third category which is likely the smallest in actual numbers.   When you consider the elections under the popular vote in which only 58% voted, (20-year low) meaning 42% didn’t vote at all!  About 4% of votes went to the other parties.  Hilary Clinton won the popular vote, so that really leaves a small percentage of the electorate who favored the current President.  Both candidates were quite disliked unfortunately and we need to learn lessons from the 2016 elections in many ways exclusive from the Russian interference.

The last and fourth category I would contend is the Progressive Socialist Democrats.  This group could be recognized by the populism of Bernie Sanders and is very active.   Socialism gets a bad rap too.  Much of us enjoy socialist programs like shared roads, bridges, fire and police departments, libraries, Social Security and Medicare.  I doubt anyone would want to have to pay separately for each of those services though if some Republicans get their way they could be privatized and we would have to pay for them.

However, I urge us to take care in labeling others too quickly or to put people in tight boxes, instead work to understand one another’s points of view.  We may not reach consensus or agreement but we will likely find many things in common.  I am not saying it is easy to do, but labeling someone by a single statement is too narrow a viewpoint.   We have so many critical issues from climate change to healthcare to fight for, we need to find areas where we can come together to win those debates.

Other labels that are confusing and misleading include liberal and progressive. I became caught up in arguments on Facebook on two pages, one calling me too liberal and another saying I wasn’t liberal enough.  Liberal became a word conservatives used negatively and so it was changed to progressive.  I would argue there is also a spectrum in beliefs of those who call themselves progressive; most Democrats would say they are progressive yet again that spectrum goes from moderate to left so you really must dig deeper into a specific issue to see where someone stands.  My view is that not all Democrats are truly ‘progressive’ in the way I view it.

After defining what I see as three or four categories of political parties, I think there is a need to divide into other ‘third’ parties, or to at minimum reform the existing ones.  Most elected officials don’t even read the party platforms to know what they are supposed to stand for!    That needs to happen. There are a few movements afoot to create new parties.  One is www.draftBernie.com  for a People’s Party.  Sign up if you agree.   In many ways, the Democrats have become an elite, educated party and left the blue collar and poor people by the wayside (and I am not against being educated).   But leaving out the populace that needs the most help needs to change or another party will be needed!   Here is an interesting article to read: https://www.thenation.com/article/the-democratic-party-must-change/.

Saving my best idea for last, I think we should do away with the party system all together.  This would allow anyone to run on their own merit and ideas.  We would get money out of politics. Everyone would put forth their own ideas and raise their own funds from individuals.  Just think if we had a Congress made up of individuals, instead of party-affiliates who could vote their own conscious on a bill.  We would not have the division, sides pitting against one another, and could get some exciting ideas brought up and voted on!  There would be no need for gerrymandering, for filibusters, or for Supreme Court justice nominees not being confirmed in a timely manner.

On a brief side note, how does it help our country to spend time undoing everything a prior administration did?  That will mean the next administration of another party will have to undo that again and it is a vicious cycle that gets us nowhere fast.  We can never make progress!  It didn’t help America for the Republicans to block everything Obama wanted to do, even to the point of not allowing his nominee for the Supreme Court a hearing. That was a first and it was not right!   If we don’t work together we will never get anything accomplished. Sometimes I think we do need to break into two countries because an oligarchy cannot mix with a democracy!   We need to discern our common values in order to work together in fighting  the nefarious issues of our times.

Our Constitution does not mandate that we have a two-party system; it has only evolved into   the two main parties we have now.  There are many other parties but they only represent less than 10% of the voting electorate at this point. That doesn’t mean that it should stay that way!  Perhaps the time is ripe for a new party or parties to evolve?  If you were a strong Bernie supporter, you can go to draftbernie.org and sign up to create a new People’s Party.  The time is ripe and it might be worth a try.   Or we might take my idea and just toss the parties out the window and let individuals make a run for elected offices!

To me one of the biggest issues of our day is money and greed.   We must get money out of politics!  It leads to corruption and pay backs.  The Koch Brothers mostly own the Republican Party and we are seeing orders that benefit them like the Keystone Pipeline.   Now we have an administration full of billionaires who play favors and reward the rich; and the chance of Wall Street causing another financial disaster is prevalent.   Bernie ran a great 2016 campaign and almost succeeded as the nominee with only small donor contributions.   It can be done!   Candidates who spend time courting donors can’t help but owe some favors later.   And those who are elected are then faced with raising money immediately to start their next campaign.  We need elected officials who are not bought and paid by corporations and who are there to work for US, not to campaign or cash in paybacks!

Here are some other ideas.  We need to overturn Citizen’s United and not let money speak, nor corporations have person hood!  If you agree, sign on to Move to Amend and work to change the Constitution to say money isn’t speech and Corporations aren’t people! I would argue that a Presidential term should be 6 years and one term only so that they are not concerned about their second term, just getting work done for America.   If all elections were publicly financed, all elected officials could concentrate on their job, not dialing for dollars.

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