“I hate all politics. I don’t like either political party. One should not belong to them – one should be an individual, standing in the middle. Anyone that belongs to a party stops thinking.” – Ray Bradbury
“Democrats, what are some things you think of when you think of Republicans?”
“Racist, homophobic, misogynistic”
“Rich white guys”
“Republicans, what are some things you think of when you think of Democrats?”
“Bad at money”
The previous was an actual exchange in my Political Parties class during my senior year of college, and I’ll never be able to forget it. This day in class served as an eye opener for me because each response was a degradation of another ideology by your future community leaders and policy-makers.
If you identify as Republican, what are some things you think of when you think of Democrats? If you identify as Democrat, what are some things you think of when you think of Republicans? All good things, right?
Imagine a company where half of the board never agreed with the other half. That’s right, they intentionally set out to thwart everything the other half did:
“Yes, I have a proposal to re-allocate 5% of our budget and incrementally increase profits as that money is invested in a more worthwhile venture.”
“No! That’s a terrible idea. How are you going to pay for it? It’s never going to work!”
“If you’d just let me give my presentation-“
“I know that, because you’re in accounting, it’s going to be a disaster! You’re a disgrace to this company!”
“But I put together a proposal with-“
“BOOOOO! NAY! I say NAY!”
Something tells me this company isn’t exactly going to flourish. To make progress, we must be open to new ideas, no matter what department or political party the other person is in, and be willing to ask “What if this guy’s idea could actually work? What can I add that will make it even better?” instead of immediately shooting it down.
Unfortunately, our political system is one comprised of labels, and being labeled as Republican or Democrat means that your ideology must fit within parameters, and parameters limit perspective. Thus, new legislation is often met with the same response as the previously mentioned hypothetical company. The law of the universe states that if it is believed, it is possible. What this means is that if we believe an idea will work, our brains will scour our world for opportunities, pinpoint reasons why the idea will work, and get to work on taking steps to ensure its success. Inversely, the same is true if we believe an idea won’t work. Immediately saying “no” and discrediting an idea only prolongs or destroys the chance for the discovery of a solution. When we work together to search for opportunities to improve upon an idea and work toward a common goal, we create a diverse number of paths to reach that goal. When we’re more focused on our differences, like many policy makers are, reaching that goal becomes more about defeating the other ideology than creating solutions. Imagine if both ideologies were combined to work together instead of used as an excuse to repel each other…
The 2-party system creates an us vs. them mentality; shifting the focus from achieving results to achieving victory over the opposition
If the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers got together this coming Sunday to determine new, creative ways to keep football players safe from head injuries, about sixteen people would tune in. We’re drawn to us vs. them conflict because we like the idea of clear winners and losers. To be able to say “I’m better than you,” has become a need for our programmed egos. While this concept works great in a football game or other sort of competition to determine a winner, it doesn’t exactly foster productivity. With election season in full swing, we’re being bombarded with candidates looking to run the other candidates’ reputations through the mud to prove that “I’m better.” The media, playing off of our egoic desire for winners and losers, has perpetuated this format, and dammit, it’s working. We want to see candidates either stomp on the opposition or crumble under the pressure. We want to know who “won” debates and which party will edge the other in the election. Are we talking about solutions to situations facing the country? No; we’re talking about which candidate we want to win. In reality, all good politicians want to improve this country, and we, as human beings, all want the same things:
- Basic needs to be met (food, water, sex, shelter, etc.)
- Safety and security (including health, family, property, and job security)
- Love and belonging
- Confidence, self-esteem, achievement, and respect
- Self-actualization through acceptance, equality, morality, problem solving, creativity
However, the need to defeat the opposition has become more important than achieving these needs, and that’s why party labels are not only cracking the foundation of our political system, they’re setting the explosives to blow it up.
To trump (pun not intended) the competition and make them look bad has become the goal of politicians. If this weren’t the case, why are Republicans simply trying to repeal Obamacare while not offering to help craft a new healthcare plan that more people can get on board with? Why are presidential candidates focusing their campaign strategies on tearing down their rivals instead of presenting solutions to problems? Ladies and gentlemen, it’s all about the showdown because the showdown instills emotions in the voter base, and emotions draw ratings, clicks, and passionate (frequently hateful) comments. Creating solutions isn’t sexy, but conflict is.
If we’re looking to make progress and improve upon our current system, which, deep down we all want, we have to focus more on progress and not on trying to win or make the other side look bad. In the Super Bowl this Sunday, no one is going to come up with better helmets, more efficient rules, or stricter medical procedures to improve player health, however, someone will win and someone will lose, just like with politics. Except, in the case of politics, when the focus is on wins and losses instead of fostering growth and pursuing the security of all basic human needs, we all lose. Once we eliminate party-line labels, become individuals, and focus on leadership and growth, we can start thinking again. Thinking expands our perspective, introduces new options to propel growth, and inspires a group mindset in pursuit of a common goal. In that case, there don’t have to be winners or losers because everyone has an opportunity to win.