Our Two-Party System Needs Revising
- Nov. 15, 2012
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We keep seeing the words “deeply divided” in discussions of American politics. But are we really as conflicted as we think? It’s a little hard to tell when there are only two options in today’s political atmosphere. It’s like the options of “on” and “off” or “pregnant” and “not pregnant” — either you are or you aren’t. So which way did you vote, Republican or Democrat?
Getting away from the “divided” theory, ABC News instead called the election results a “resurgence of the middle.” How can we know the true middle ground? Even though we may admire the other smaller parties, most of us aren’t willing to sacrifice our vote in order to nurture a new addition to the two-party system. In the end, those who harbor split sentiments or are unsure about their stance on some issues are forced to make a statistically polarized vote by choosing to vote Republican or Democrat. After the election, we seem to forget our own inner struggle and, worse yet, to ignore that numerous others faced the same. We picked one party and went with it; so did they. Looking at election results, though, it is easy to see a “deeply divided nation.” But of course the results appear as extreme opposites — there were only two options.
It seems likely that we as people have more in common than we think, yet we embody both the appearance and the spirit of contradiction in our political process. Before we demonize one another any further, we need to consider a major overhaul of our two-party system, not adding new parties, but getting rid of it entirely. We need to consider how to utilize our technological prowess to extend the option to vote a la carte on the issues as they occur. We need to build a case that in our complex society, voting once every couple of years or so for distant proxies — who, in theory, “think like us” and will “represent us” — is not cutting it anymore. Representatives who truly “represent” should have statisticians on their staff and constant surveys on their web pages. They should no longer be voted in according to their oratory skill or political views. Instead, we should base our judgment on their honesty, accountability and dedication to representing us with carefully collected facts and data. Maybe I’m harping; I know I’ve said that before.
In addition to constant polling, online voting (combined with telephone and mail approaches for those who don’t have computers), could complete a new data-rich approach to political representation. Some say that it isn’t yet possible to make online voting technically secure, that it can’t be done with our current state of technology. Well, okay then, let’s figure it out. We are the nation that produced the atomic bomb in two years and then shot a rocket to the moon. But why must our best technological efforts always come under the umbrella heading of “national defense?” By the same logic, though, it may be that internal cohesion poses one of the larger threats we face today. Whether our divisions are statistically inflated or truly as deep as they appear, maybe it is time to put some work into intranational defense instead.