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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Opinion

Voters deserve better than two-party politics


Supporters of President Donald Trump and then-candidate Hillary Clinton clashed back in 2016 as the election approached. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/user: Zach Rudisin

In 1796, President George Washington warned the nation in his farewell address that the formation of party lines would dissolve the framework on which America was built. Washington said it would enable unprincipled men to undermine the people by seizing power for themselves.

Having strayed from our first leader’s trepidation for more than 200 years, it is fitting that a former reality television star is now president.

We live in a country of polar opposite political ideologies, and each day the divide continues to grow. Not only does this impact the ability to engage in civil conversation across the aisle, it also alienates apolitical Americans who make up a portion of the 40 percent of eligible non-voters.

Lines were drawn after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, and each party adopted a “you’re either with us or against us” attitude. Rational discussion has been replaced with hysteria, which can be highlighted by Trump tweeting about beating up former Vice President Joe Biden and vice versa.

According to a Gallup poll taken shortly after the 2016 election, a record-high 77 percent of Americans believe the nation is divided on issues of great importance, which is almost 10 percent higher than the same survey conducted in 2012.

Rather than finding common ground, the two parties have dug themselves deeper into their ideologies by adopting extreme positions to offset the other. This subsequently burns the middle ground for Americans who don’t view either party as a plausible option.

Independent or third-party politicians rarely win elections against mammoth organizations like the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee — none have won the presidential nomination. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ran under the DNC in 2016 despite being the longest-serving Independent in congressional history. Trump ran as a Republican even though he was an avid Democrat years prior. This choosing of red or blue is a necessity in order to be taken seriously on Election Day.

A recent Gallup poll showed a majority of Americans identify as Independent, but this factor doesn’t translate on Election Day, as only two elected officials represent the Independent Party.

The average voter doesn’t fully align with any party. In fact, the younger generations are more likely to support third-party candidates than older generations. The issue lies in party loyalty, and trends show that older voters are more likely to vote and are more loyal to their respective party.

If third-party candidates had a platform to run on, they might be able to encourage the non-voting populace to get out on Election Day. It’s absurd to assume two individuals can accurately represent the values of the entire country. The addition of third-party candidates can help add talking points that usually go untouched among mainline democratic and republican debates.

Choosing sides on bipartisan issues such as healthcare or gun control doesn’t allow any room for debate. Organizations like the National Rifle Association dip their hands into the pockets of politicians and politicize issues of reform. In 2016, the NRA gave 99 percent of their total contributions to Republican candidates.  Pharmaceutical companies are less inclined to choose sides but still contribute millions of dollars each year to candidates.

Non-voters either didn’t care or weren’t sparked to support a candidate in the past election. Voter turnout for Americans is lower in contrast to other prominent countries. In fact, America trails most developed countries on Election Day. Many still watch from the sidelines even though most people deem voting as an important issue.

It didn’t help that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were among the least-liked candidates in United States’ political history. This is unusual due to how bipartisan the hatred for both candidates was. Notable Republicans like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Texas Senator Ted Cruz voiced their displeasure for the current president. The same displeasure was held for Clinton, and even more so.

Voters were asked to choose between the lesser of two evils during the 2016 election. Both candidates were horrid in their respective aspects. Trump was a racist bigot while Clinton had the catastrophe of Benghazi and thousands of emails tainting her.

Conversations are no longer taking place, and the idea of bipartisanship is becoming stuff of legend. Maybe one day we will catch Bigfoot or net the Loch Ness Monster, but until that day we will continue searching the swamps of Louisiana and the depths of Lake Erie for that mythical creature called sensibility.

Opinion columnist Anthony Cianciulli is a broadcast journalism senior and can be reached at [email protected]

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