Chances are that you have heard of the encounter between Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump at the recent State of the Union (SOTU) address. If not, here’s a summary of the events. First, President Trump refused to shake Nancy Pelosi’s outstretched hand when he entered, so she responded by introducing him without the customary “I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States.” The hostility that evening continued after Trump’s speech when Pelosi tore up her copy of the SOTU address on national television. Shortly after, Republicans filed an ethics complaint on the matter, claiming Pelosi “disrespected all the people Trump honored in his SOTU address,” among other things. It’s ironic that this drama occurred just around the time I’m writing this article; it perfectly represents the unpleasant consequences that result from our country’s two party system. Both parties are motivated to find some way to libel the other in order to exploit it and elevate tensions to a stratospheric level.
Sadly, it’s inevitable that this polarization will happen in a two party system. Think of it as two gladiators in a ring – they are willing to use any means necessary in order to achieve victory and watch their opponent fall to the ground. Instead of trying to work together to find the best solutions for the American people, Republicans and Democrats attempt to win political battles by clashing with each other, making productive compromises impossible. As John Adams warned us, “a Division of the Republic into two great Parties … is to be dreaded as the greatest political Evil.” John Adams was not the only founding father who feared what our two party system has come to today. In fact, all the founding fathers feared political parties would destroy the nation, and if our two parties continue to fight each other instead of cooperating, our nation is bound to be destroyed by the conflict.
One thing on which Republicans and Democrats alike can currently agree is that they are as divided as ever. According to the PEW research center, 78% of Republicans and Democrats believe the division between their parties is growing. This division is attributable to the extreme beliefs of both Republicans and Democrats and the growing divide between them on the political spectrum. The Republican party’s platform is primarily composed of core conservative beliefs, while the Democratic party platform is mainly made up of solid liberal beliefs. Despite this, Solid Liberals only make up only about a third of all Democrats, and similarly, core conservatives make up only about a third of all Republicans.
Due to our two party system, the Republican party platform is dominated by the core conservative group, and thus the other two thirds of the party is unable to effectively get their voices heard. If any politician, Republican or Democrat, votes across the party line, chances are that they will be criticized by their respective party for not exhibiting the party’s core values. This is the exact shortcoming of the two party system – only two opinions on a matter are expressed even though there are so many other opinions in between, which often represent the majority of the country. Despite making up only one-third of their respective parties, both core conservatives and solid liberals make up about 50% of all politically engaged people in their party, proving the fact that their opinions are largely the ones expressed in their respective parties. If America’s goal is a political landscape where all opinions are expressed through our laws and where politicians cooperate with each other instead of pointlessly criticising each other for their position on the other side of the aisle, we must look at ways to reform the two party system. That starts with both moderate Democrats and Republicans breaking away from the chains of their political party, allowing for more diversity of opinion in our politics. Because as David Brooks said, “Eventually, conservatives will realize: If we want to preserve conservatism, we can’t be in the same party as the clan warriors. Liberals will realize: If we want to preserve liberalism, we can’t be in the same party as the clan warriors.”