The Ultimate Political Dichotomy

Religion and politics. The two biggest no-nos of holiday dinner conversation topics. Nearly every American citizen can relate to this sentiment, as it seems we can’t walk two steps in today’s society without running into someone who wants to argue with us. Political topics specifically pose interesting discussion material because they are usually the foundation for our more surface-level beliefs. Whether or not we give money to the homeless person on the street or how long a prison sentence should be for a particular crime are perfect examples of this. Our political affiliation as a whole defines the general perspective we take on a wide range of issues.

However, as time goes on, it becomes clearer how many problems there are with a cut-and-dry two-party system. At a minimum, one cannot deny the peculiarity of telling the population of a country that their fundamental view of moral values has to fall under one of two options. I can think of almost no other aspect of life where we encounter such a stark generalization of opinions. We can choose from dozens of different brands when selecting a car, let alone the dozens of models within each brand. The average suburban city has roughly three to four grocery options and even more of a selection for convenience stores. We can choose from over ten major airline corporations, hundreds of different educational institutions, and even hundreds of job categories. Hell, we even have more than a dozen choices for popular dating apps. But for some reason, we have restricted our choice of moral values to a measly two options: Republican or Democrat.

If you are like me, this brings you a great deal of frustration and perhaps even a bit of anger. As an eighteen-year-old who will be majoring in political science and pre-law and has been in politics since the age of sixteen, I can attest firsthand to what it feels like to try to integrate yourself into a political party. Spoiler alert — it isn’t very welcoming of new ideas, and that’s equally true for both sides of the aisle. Passing the general checklist for joining a party is essentially agreeing with each of their standpoints, or what I like to call pillars.

In terms of the GOP, this usually includes being pro-life, pro-traditional marriage (though this one is starting to move more to the left), pro-capitalism, pro-death penalty, pro-gun ownership, and supporting only legal immigration. Democrats, on the other hand, are expected to be pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ+ marriage rights, anti-death penalty, pro-gun ownership but only for certain guns and after passing extensive background checks, and pro-offering legal asylum to refugees. (I omitted an economic standpoint because the Democratic party is currently very divided on that particular pillar. There are capitalists over to supporters of democratic socialism/national socialism within the party.)

If you do not conform to the large majority of these boxes, you will essentially be a ghost member of your party. This is especially true for politicians themselves. Ever wonder why it is that the establishment candidate nearly always gets the party nomination? It’s because of this exact problem. The parties themselves can choose where they pump their money, and they always divert it to the candidate who is the most electable, which is nearly always whoever has the most name recognition. Consequently, money is diverted away from all other candidates running within the party, essentially forcing them out of the race one at a time due to bankrupt campaigns. This method prevents any candidate who doesn’t have a previous political history from excelling in a federal election.

If you’re just an average citizen like myself, you most likely see the other side of this coin, which is receiving the dreaded “radical” label. If you are a Republican and support someone like Ted Cruz or a Democrat who supports someone like Bernie Sanders, you have almost certainly been called this more than once. Candidates and their supporters who don’t confine to the establishment approved list of political pillars are labeled as radical to prevent them from hurting the majority candidate’s chances of winning. The only way to be truly accepted by either party is to support the candidate that is doing the best financially — which is always the party-funded candidate.

Thus, we have finally arrived at our main problem. Your choices are either a) confine to a party and therein all of its establishment beliefs, b) choose a candidate to support based on how much you agree with them and be labeled as a radical by your party. The last option is c) stay out of politics completely because getting your voice heard is an unwinnable battle. Unfortunately, nearly half of Americans choose option c. Though voter turnout has increased over the years due to efforts from both parties and the 2020 election saw the greatest voter turnout in the history of our country, our percentage of voting-age citizens who cast ballots on election day is still one of the lowest of all developed countries across the globe. This can only be attributed to the fact that people don’t feel like they have a say. And unfortunately, they’re right.

If people felt that their opinions made a difference, they would vote. That’s basic human logic. When one wants something changed, they speak up — but only because they feel that by doing so, they’re going to make a difference. If people aren’t voting, it means they don’t view their vote as worth casting.

Citizens of America, we have to get out of this toxic cycle. Our current political system is the equivalent of going into a clothing store and squeezing into a top that doesn’t fit well at all, and buying it anyway because “it fits”. We can’t continue to operate this way. Forcing yourself into clothing that doesn’t fit eventually results in rips and tears — and we’re seeing that already today.

Our population is becoming so divided that we can’t even have discussions anymore. We’ve resorted to violence — to the point of breaking into the United States Capitol building. It’s disgraceful, and no one should be proud of it. We need more political parties, end of story. Confining people into boxes that force them to sacrifice all but one of their values for the sake of voting for the “lesser of two evils” is evil in and of itself. We preach that no one should be a one-issue voter, but our two-party system has inherently created that problem. How ironic.

Humans, we can do better. The change starts with you. Having conversations about this issue on a 1:1 level is exactly the way to go about creating fundamental change. We need it now more than ever.

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I am an 18 year old high school student from a small town in central Iowa. I have a fiery passion for political writing and producing conversation-starters.

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Jaden Bartlett

Jaden Bartlett

I am an 18 year old high school student from a small town in central Iowa. I have a fiery passion for political writing and producing conversation-starters.

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