2016: Why America Needs an Independent
The American Civil War happened, essentially, because half of our nation determined that it could no longer reside in peace with the other. This was a long time coming, the two groups, North and South, drifting apart ideologically and culturally until the differences became too great.
So there came a war.
Yes, I'm going to compare America's current political polarization to that era. While some might think it a bit dramatic, I fear it isn't, and for one reason:
Whether we let ourselves see it or not, there's a lot of bitterness in America on both sides of the political aisle on an array of political topics from economics and foreign policy to social issues and societal norms, and I fear it has become like a cancer, lying untreated, seemingly dormant right beneath the surface.
This a huge reason why someone as venomous as Donald Trump has been able to garner so much support. Many people want to hear and even echo what he is saying. Maybe not every word, but some of it. And that's enough to help what's festering underneath to grow a little more each day.
Donald Trump is a symptom, not a disease
My fiance's brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer several months ago, a rare Sarcoma that has produced a tumor mere millimeters from his spine. It developed over the course of many years, indicated only by intermittent back pain that could easily be mistaken for some minor, chronic condition. But now that it has been discovered for what it truly is, heroic measures will need to be taken by doctors, surgeons, and just as importantly this patient, loving father and his wonderful wife.
I wonder if the bitterness spreading in America isn't just as perilous. If leaving it unchecked for too long will eventually create the need of heroic measure to stop something terrible from happening.
A lot of people have said to me, in one way or another, "How could this happen? How could someone so hateful, so flippant, so grotesque, capture the minds and hearts of millions upon millions of Americans with such rhetoric?" But perhaps it would be better to ask, "What has taken place in the minds and hearts of those who are flocking to his words?"
Much of the republican party and many of its elders, such Mitt Romney, for a long while begged voters to support someone who is more respectable, someone Americans will elect over a democratic party they vilify as unpatriotic. Someone who acts with dignity, who treats others with respect. Someone who unifies and is able to make meaningful progress toward the most important needs of Americans; yet, the negativity Trump uses is not always that different from how republicans demonize democrats (it works both ways). And that leads me to what we actually need.
We need a leader to unify a nation, not a party
Political parties disagree; it's just the nature of things. They represent diverse groups holding different beliefs and ideas, and democratic nations are better off not being ruled by one party alone. Yet, that is exactly what the two parties, in essence, believe would be best right now (and maybe forever). Much like the Confederate States and the Union States, these parties won't engage with each other in any meaningful way. They hardly believe they have the foundation for such conversations, only when necessary (like if it means stopping a government shutdown).
Few things frustrate me more than politicians who believe they are always right for everyone in every circumstance. No one ever is because there are so many choices on how to live life in today's world. Life is full of tradeoffs mingled with win-win situations depending on the nature of the issue, so politicians should listen, sympathize, respect, and, of course, persuade.
But they hardly do any of that right now, though it shouldn't be a surprise. It's another symptom that reveals the state of things, the direction we seem to be headed in. If we are ourselves bitter and feuding, unwilling to compromise, how likely are we to elect leaders who are any different?
Yet, we need what many of us aren't. We need a leader who isn't typical. Someone who can calm the storm and listen to both sides. And you will be hard pressed to truly find that in either party. It's hard to be successful as a republican or democrat if you get too close to the other party nowadays. The emphasis is on the party, not the nation, and that doesn't really cultivate an ability to work together. So we need someone above that, someone who will calm the storm and govern from both sides of the aisle.
The possibility of an independent in 2016
At the end of the day, it's not likely. It's never likely in this country because we're a winner-take-all democracy where second gets you nothing. Many other democracies allow for smaller parties and thoughts to have influence by doing proportional voting (10% of the votes gets a party 10% of the seats in the legislature). But here, an independent needs over 50% of voters, democrat and republican, to choose a different route than the one they've always known.
Hence, I didn't say that America would get an independent, just that it needed one, and I have explained why. Simply put, we need someone to bring us together. Sadly, the chances are slim, yet not impossible. Trump and Hillary are wildly unpopular to the general American population (relative to previous elections). This means that if a truly great independent candidate emerged, one who could capture the hearts of Americans, just maybe there would be a hope.
If there were an election where it would be possible, this would be it. But maybe it's just not possible in America for an independent to win. Maybe we're left with my previous thought that Hillary wins and the status quo reigns for a few years before 2020 gives us another choice. I don't want that to be the best option, to delay the healing our nation needs. I want this nation to become one with itself, and neither party seems to really want that for the time being.
And so, maybe the cancer will get four more years to spread.