Despite a constant increase in partisanship in politics, both parties’ national membership is shrinking. Data shows that year by year, more and more voters either renounce their political affiliation or, for new voters, simply choose not to pick one.
Independents are among the largest political bloc in America, and yet are the least represented. Every election, the Republican and Democratic parties fight over the votes of independents, and the winner is the party that can persuade the independents that it is the lesser evil.
When in office, officials of both parties have little to no motivation to pander to the independents’ interests, as there are next to no actual independents in office they need to work with. While most of the legislative fights are along party lines, No Labels, which is now led by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, represents a small group of leaders working to fix the partisan problems of government.
Founded in 2010, No Labels is unique because it does not advocate for policy changes. Instead, it advocates for reform of the legislative process. Its proposed reforms include withholding Congressional pay when no budget is passed, a mandated up-or-down vote on all presidential appointments within 90 days of nomination, filibuster reform, the ability to bypass committee chairs via anonymous discharge petitions, and bipartisan mixed seating in both houses of Congress.
None of these reforms are political in nature. None scream Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, red or blue; instead, they represent common sense solutions to our political problems.
America has no shortage of great minds, ambition or will to succeed: our problem is that we are increasingly terrible at working together. Our culture has become far too acceptive of the “my way or the highway” mentality, not noticing that such a policy works in no form of government but a monarchy. Our republic is dependent on compromise for its success.
The greatest moments in our country’s history have not been when one party acts alone and completely ignores the other, but when both sides work together to hammer out a compromise that stands the test of time.
Indeed, one could easily argue that our nation was born in compromise. The Constitutional Convention was full of compromises, from the “Great Compromise” that created the House of Representatives and the Senate to the “Commerce Compromise” that allowed the taxation of imports, but not exports. With compromise being so necessary to the very creation of our nation, it only follows that compromise is necessary to ensure its continued existence.
Setting an example of this compromise at work, the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy was well known by some not for his failed run for the presidency, but for his ability to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. While his career was highly admirable and worthy of recognition, it’s rather disappointing that the ability to actually work with one’s peers is now so rare in government that we use its mere existence in an individual to define his entire career. It ought to go without saying that the members of our government know how to work together, but clearly this is not the case.
The increasingly gerrymandered congressional districts and closed primaries only exacerbate the issue. The new districts pack members of the same party together, and closed primaries only allow members of a political party to vote in the primary elections of that party; these combine to produce hyper-partisan candidates from both parties for the general election, while almost completely alienating the independent majority from picking who runs for office.
It is for this reason that so many are unhappy with the results of elections: no matter who wins, the voters of the opposing party are angry and the independents are annoyed at having had to yet again vote for the lesser of two evils.
This system of binary democracy is no longer able to truly represent the interests of the American electorate. The problems we face are much more complex than red or blue, and political reform is long overdue. As the years press on, the two major parties are both losing influence, and the moderate generation will be the decider of all presidential elections to come. The parties must face the truth of this new, independent reality if they want to remain anything more than a footnote in the history books.
Stefan Herlitz is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org