What’s Wrong with America’s Political Parties

You’ve read plenty of criticism of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in recent weeks and I’m not going to add to it.

However, I do want to examine the process that led the Republican and Democratic political parties to put up candidates in this presidential election who were unlikable to large swaths of the electorate.

On the Democratic side, that process included party operatives (many of them friends and associates of Hillary Clinton) tuning out and turning away the more progressive supporters of Bernie Sanders.

On the Republican side, it included party operatives failing to unify behind any of the 16 candidates that had political experience, and watching them one by one be vanquished by Donald Trump, who prevailed by following his own instincts.

Going forward, both political parties now need to regroup, bring in some fresh blood, take a good look at what Americans really want, and then work to redefine their parties.

These parties have never been static; they have evolved and will continue to evolve.

Today’s Democratic Party, catering to the liberal elite and ignoring the plight of rust-belt workers, is a far cry from the Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy that embraced laborers in smokestack industries.

And today’s Republican Party, which turns a cold shoulder to immigrants, is a far cry from the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln that welcomed the immigrants streaming into the country.

Where these two parties go next, and whether a third party arises to join them or displace one of them, remains to be seen.

Until then, however, it’s clear that a growing number of voters prefer not to be members of either of these two political parties. In fact, nationwide, a full 42% of voters now describe themselves as politically independent.

Most of these voters are quiet dissenters. But in recent years, we’ve seen growing signs of active dissatisfaction with the ruling elite.

It began (in my timeline) with the Tea Party, which was born out of frustration with the Republican Party’s drift toward the center.

And it intensified with the Occupy movements, which were born out of frustration with the Democratic Party’s drift toward the center.

In short, the two parties have become increasingly similar. At the same time, however, the representatives of the parties have become less and less able to work with each other!

Where they go next, I truly don’t know.

But I do believe in the long tradition of American progress through innovation, so I am confident that we will, as always, find a way forward.

In the meantime, while the political parties are working to get back in shape, I think Americans as a whole should examine the long, expensive, destructive electoral process we’ve just been through and ask themselves these questions:

Need it be so long?

Can we get the money of special interest groups out of the race so that the voices of the people will be better heard?

Can we deep-six those quaint but unrepresentative caucuses, ditch the Electoral College, and schedule primaries en masse so politicians stop pandering to voters in New Hampshire and Iowa?

Can we adopt ranked voting, so people no longer fear throwing away their votes?

And can we reconfigure the Presidential Debate Committee, which is controlled by insiders of both the Democratic and Republican parties, so that the voices of other parties can be heard on the national stage?

In the unlikely event that these two major parties do not come up with more palatable choices in four years (assuming Donald Trump lasts that long), Americans would be well served by knowing more about the alternatives.

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