The United States has been divided into parties since the election of 1796, with the emergence of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties. The two parties competed from 1792 to 1824, during the wave of politics known as the First Party System. Federalists believed in federal assumption of state debts, taxes to repay debts, a national bank and fostering banking and manufacturing. Republicans stood against executive power, tight federal control, and a standing army and navy. The Second Party System ensued from 1828 to 1854, and the Whig party, led by Henry Clay, contested the policies of Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party. Whigs favored government expansion, charters, a national bank, and paper currency, and Democrats were opposed to these ideas. The Whig party fell apart in 1852, over tension regarding expanding slavery to the territories.
Following the Whigs’ split, the two contending parties for presidency have remained the Republican and Democratic. Without the eagle-winged protection these parties provide, candidates have little chance of gaining popularity and votes on a national scale. In the 2016 election year, there has been a multitude of Republican candidates divided against each other and negative propaganda every-which-way. Candidates are not only vying for political power party-against-party, Republican versus Democrat, but against individuals of their own party. There has been mudslinging, and Republicans could care less if their dirt clods land on a blue shoulder or red.
The parties, like teams or unions, lend solidarity and funding. They are branded- “red and blue,” colors that were adopted in 2000 to differentiate the parties, “donkey and elephant,” beloved from Nast’s political cartoons. They have different core beliefs.
This year, we have seen the shift in political ideology of both. Trump, a controversial figure due to his demeanor and celebrity status, is also controversial because his views do not match up with those of the Republican party. Trump wants to withdraw from the world trade stage to focus on America. Regardless of if this would be a positive move for the American economy, this is not a typical Republican view. It restricts free commerce, free trade and free competition. He flip-flops on his views of abortion, he opposes a flat tax rate plan, and he is not overtly religious (arguably, Bernie has more pronounced religious views and morals). Bernie has been divisive in the Democratic party, scooping up youthful voters, fighting against Wall Street’s hand in politics *hint, hint, Clinton*.
There have been previous years when tensions have been aggravated. America is no stranger to uncouth debate. In 1828 the infamous Democratic donkey made the limelight, used on campaign posters because his opponents referred to him as a “jackass.” These feuds and grievances are progressive and needed, but we have to keep things constructive. Use humor, laugh, but we need to understand that these issues are very real.
I re-registered to vote last month and registered within party. I have never been a partisan voter, because there is no party that I identify with 100%, but I registered in party out of habit. Every morning I listen to talk radio, and for the past week, I have listened to our potential President(s) squabble and bicker and take cheap shots at each other. Last Friday, I re-registered…or, rather, un-registered. I checked the unaffiliated box, understanding that I won’t be able to vote in some primary elections. For the moment, I’m happy with my decision. There is no party that represents “me,” and that’s okay. I’m not red or blue. I’m red, white and blue.
Political parties serve function, but do they hinder more than they help? Trump has changed his mind during the election. Hillary has changed her mind during the election. Bernie has not, and this is one of his greatest assets. I can believe Bernie. Do I want him to run the country? Maybe not, but he is honest. Despite Trump and Hillary playing the table, investing here, changing there, they both are ahead of Bernie at the polls. When I hear about Trump, altering his views on major issues every other week, I think of him as a snake in the grass. But is Trump the problem, or is partisan politics the problem?
If every Republican candidate must have the exact views of the party, and his predecessors, we are missing the opportunity to have fluidity. What if Trump held certain views, but could not initially express them due to party values? We are forcing candidates to choose a platform, denying them the freedom to have views that are outside of the boxes. Why is it that Americans feel contented with the option to have a right or left choice? The world is varied, and through variety, our country would have an edge. Sticking to a vein of partisan politics, despite the fact that the party policies are iron-clad and our world is not, is unfortunate. Twelve Republican candidates were in the public’s eye during primaries. I wonder if all of them stood by the same Republican ideologies, or if, secretly, there is dispute in some areas of interest. If someone wanted to lead, they have to choose the party that most closely represents their values. Perhaps they do support all of the values of their party.
If the politicians drop their tags, will their views change? If we decide to view a leader as a leader, versus a Republican or Democrat, will there be greater overlap? We have the smaller affiliated political parties, but we are still polarized. I wish for a world in which there are many parties, parties that can see the pros and cons of different delegates without being turned off by their party label. Imagine an election in which “Republican” and “Democrat” become less important than “Hillary,” “Trump,” “Bern,” “Cruz.” Instead of a conservative voter asking “Which one of these red choices should I select?” they would say “What are the issues? Where is this representative conservative, where are they more liberal?” Perhaps if we allowed candidates freedom to think outside of party lines, they would be more true to themselves, and more motivated when they stepped into the White House.
Political founders George Washington and John Adams feared parties interfering with the unity they hoped to foster in their young country. Adams once wrote in a letter to Jonathan Jackson, Oct. 2, 1789:
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
It’s a scary world when we have only two doors of choice. Lingering in the hallway will not help. If there is anything this election has taught us, it is that we are at a stalemate. The strength of America is evolution and revolution. I’m tired of the parties. Let’s talk about the issues.