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Changing the American Party System

Is it time to change the way politics are conducted in the United States?

     Since the Constitutional Convention of 1787, two major political parties have run the American political system. In 1787 it was John Hancock and the Federalists, competing against Sam Adams and the Anti-Federalists. Today it’s the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. But is this system a good one?

     In 2010, the Democratic Party lost control of the United States House of Representatives. In an interview on October 23, 2010 with the National Journal, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell commented that “[t]he single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” This vitriolic partisan statement is but one small example of the bitter partisan politics that have dominated both sides of the political spectrum for many years.

     Some may argue that we don’t have a two-party system in this country. We do have independent politicians, but in the Presidential elections they’ve played a very small role. Abraham Lincoln is the only independent Presidential candidate to win the Presidential election in the history of the United States. President Lincoln was a member of the Republican Party, but as he was the first Republican Party member to be elected, this made him an Independent candidate. However, independents rarely exert much control or authority. Are there exceptions to this claim? Yes. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was a former member of the Democratic Party, but in 2006 the Senator ran as an Independent, as a member of the “Connecticut for Lieberman Party” (his own party), and won. Senator Lieberman wields enormous power in the Senate. However no true Independent – in the sense of being an Independent for their entire career instead of changing parties for political reasons – has ever wielded great power in United States politics.

    In Pennsylvania, state judges are elected. This means that they are either Republican judges or Democratic judges. These judges are politicians. They get donations to their campaigns from political action committees made up of lawyers, who will undoubtedly have cases in front of those judges. In Pennsylvania, the Voter ID law was an issue that came before a Republican judge this fall leading up to the 2012 Presidential election. The judge originally found in favor of the law, but when it was returned to him by the state supreme court he issued a stay on the law until after the election.

     Countries like England, Denmark, and Australia that have coalition governments must rely on each of the many parties to work together in order to make their government function. While this may seem more complicated and confusing, the system actually makes more sense. Each party is set up more like an interest group, where one can vote for the people they feel really represent their best interests on specific issues.

     This still isn’t the ideal system. The ideal system for United States politics is a non-party system. Why have a party? What’s the purpose of the party? Candidates should be elected based on who they are as candidates and what they say they will do to help their constituents. Having the massive party funding and the stigma that’s associated with that party makes the election process less about the candidate and more about the party. The fact that one can just “vote the ticket” for all Democrats or all Republicans is a travesty. How can a voter be allowed to blindly follow the party they support? The breakdown of intelligence and responsibility in the hands of the voter at this level is awful.

     I aspire to a career in politics. I want to eventually run for national political office. But I can’t shake the feeling that with the current partisan politics and the vitriol spewing from both sides of the aisle it will be a difficult job accomplishing anything in Washington. We need a change. We need to encourage our elected officials to work together for the betterment of the community and of their constituents rather than for their party, be it Democratic or Republican. We need to put aside the elephant and the donkey and embrace the reconstruction of a great nation. The United States is a great nation, but it’s a nation in need of repair. Let’s begin the repair that must occur. Let’s fix the partisan politics and make sure our democracy doesn’t just continue plodding along, but becomes a truly great engine for change.

John C. Nagle November 07, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Chris, I certainly can not argue with your position. I would suggest that you start by getting involved with local politics. There is still a "party problem" as you discussed but it is orders of magnitude less and in many cases does not figure into decisions. Truth be told, you stand a better chance of "making a difference" at the local level.
Reesh November 07, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Chris, I am in complete agreement with your position. I also agree with the comment from John, starting local is probably the best way to get started and make a difference. I want to run for an office as well and help drive our country to be the United States again and repair the damage that has been done over the past 12+ years.
Christopher Merken November 07, 2012 at 02:49 PM
This is certainly true Mr. Nagle. I actually attempted to become invovled with the School Board here in Radnor. I proposed and pushed through the student position on the school board that came in last year. But of course it was given to another student. I certainly play to get involved as early as I can at the local levels. Hopefully I can do something to make progress on the many pressing issues facing us on the local, state, and national level.
Christopher Merken November 07, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Thank you for your support. I truly believe that through working together and getting away from the stimas associated with each party true work can be done to fix our ailing country.
Debbie Pakradooni November 07, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Chris, I am also in complete agreement . If our congress had to go by the rules of behavior in our schools or live by the perks given at normal jobs most of them would leave or be fired. I can only hope that our Congress realizes our Country is more important than their party bickering and that they all stop acting like preschoolers. Debbie Pakradooni
Christopher Merken November 07, 2012 at 09:20 PM
I agree with you Ms. Pakradooni. However I feel like when members of Congress get elected for the first time they certainly are bright-eyed and eager to follow their principles. But once they arrive in Washington they simply become another statistic in the partisan political machine. But I agree with you, that if these men and women were paid $35,000 a year and didn't receive free health insurance for life and many other benefits we may see a different breed of politician. Another issue altogether is the wealth gap, the fact that you must be very wealthy to run for political office and be successful. But that's another problem.

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