Today, petty political polarization renders the legislative arm of our government incapable of finding solutions to acute policy issues facing our nation.
All too often: politicians resort to talking points that veil the big picture and oversimply inherently complex problems. Take the issue of immigration reform, for example, Democrats argue that we are a nation of immigrants, while Republicans counter that we are, first and foremost, a nation of laws. While both arguments have merit, placing the entire immigration debate within these artificial walls has no merit. These two notions, which claim to exclusively define the true essence of our nation, are, in fact, not mutually exclusive.
Let’s face it: there is no public policy issue that is easy to solve. If they tell you it’s going to be easy they might as well bend you over.
Note: Or they’re doing it already.
While the dangers of such an intensely polarized political climate are very real, it’s important to note that our government is divided government by design.
The U.S. Constitution is generally understood as a piece of parchment that limits Governmental influence on the day-to-day lives of individuals. Certainly, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, is a manifestation of the liberal humanism on which America is founded.
At the same time, however, the Constitution is a document that limits the influence of citizens on government. In other words, The United States is country founded on a distrust of government as much as it is on a distrust of the people.
U.S. Senators weren’t elected by popular vote until the 17th amendment in 1913.
The President isn’t popularly elected till this day, bro.
Remember Bush v Gore?
But that is only American democracy’s most obvious paradox. Human rights – the civil and property rights that come with it – and limited government are perhaps the most fundamental of American values; they are shared by Democrats and Republicans alike, and are foundational pillars of our nation.
But aren’t these values at odds?
Can a limited government enforce the property rights of individuals?
Can a limited government effectively protect the civil liberties of individuals?
The key principles of equality, as laid out in the Declaration of Independence, and our capitalist economic system, founded on the free market principles of Adam Smith, are also at odds. How can equality exist in an economic system that inherently creates winners and losers?
The dissonance created by the clash of such fundamental national values is acute, probably too acute for the Human psyche to bear. We may value some more than others but can we wholly reject any without damaging what it means to be an American?
In many ways, the Democratic and Republican parties are the mechanisms by which we reconcile the contradicting values on which America is founded.
As it turns out, American political parties enable citizens to hold paradoxical views without necessarily recognizing it; they give us a means of biologically inexpensive reconciliation. Political parties attenuate cognitive load by offering pre-packaged rationalization, freeing the individual from cognitively sorting through contradictions, or even knowing they exist.
Thought: See Cognitive Dissonance
This all sounds highly adaptive, and it is. But political partisans, like all ideologues, gain protection from dissonance at the expense of even relative objective analysis.
The answers to our country’s biggest problems do not lie within the margins of red and blue talking points.
Besides, reds vs blues wasn’t exactly what our founding fathers had in mind. To be damn certain, politics has always been a nasty business. But we are in danger of normalizing confronting others we don’t agree with not as fellow citizens, but as enemies.
As Kingdon says:
“We could benefit from less ideology and more pragmatism.”
Or as I would put it : Be quick to solve, not devolve.