Rural America must be wondering if either the Republicans or Democrats represent them. The loss of jobs in their areas has caused disruptions of epic proportions. (Blog 4/4/2013) Despite President Donald Trump’s assurances he will restore opportunities for blue-collar workers, evidence points to the contrary. (Blog 4/4/2017) Unable to support themselves, men have escaped to the cities, joined the military, or descended into drug and alcohol abuse. According to Stephen Marche of TheGuardian.com, “By 2050, a third of men under 54 could be underemployed…” (Excerpted in The Week, March 31, 2017, pg. 16.)
Rural America isn’t alone in its discontent with our political system. The disappointment is almost universal. A 2014 Princeton study offers one reason. It shows voter preferences had zero impact on Congress when it shaped public policy. The reason for the indifference? The two-party system, a duopoly that has sucked the air from competing political ideas. As it stand, the goal of either party isn’t to serve the county at large, writes Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter. The goal is “to cultivate loyal funding sources and motivate partisan primary voters.” (“Why Politics Is Failing America,” by Katherine Gehl & Michael Porter, Fortune, March 15, 2017,pg. 75.)
Gerrymandering, the practice of dividing voter districts to give special advantage to one party or the other, has been key to keeping the two parties in place. With safe seats, compromise becomes unnecessary and gridlock reigns.
Gehl and Porter offer several ways to break the gridlock, but one strikes me as immediate and doable without an act of Congress: nonpartisan primaries. In nonpartisan primaries, candidates would be obliged to make their appeals to the public, rather than special interests. The idea isn’t new. A few states have flirted with the idea. Think about it. What could be more democratic than to allow voters to opt for their candidate of choice without declaring their party registration?
John Adams, our second U. S. President warned the country of the danger of a duopoly in 1789. “There is nothing 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.” (Ibid pg. 75)