The Two-Party System is Crap

The two-party system we operate under in the United States of America is complete and utter crap.

The two-party system has lead to stagnation of actual change in America. When one party takes power, they must reign back the changes the other party has made in order to advance their own party ideals, often at the expense of the other party’s progress which may have taken years of fighting. This leads to a drastic back and forth over policies and an overall slowing of change, if any change really happens at all. Republicans want no new taxes; Democrats want a strong social safety net. The two bicker back and forth to try to find middle ground (often they don’t), and we the American people suffer because of it as we are forced into deadlock.

We could take a lesson from other countries in how we operate our political parties though and such rigid standstill may not be an issue holding us back. In many countries, they operate with three or more political parties. Some will form a majority coalition with other parties to win an election and work together based on shared interests. This allows individual parties to stand for their own ideals as best they can while still working for shared common goals in their majority coalition.

In America we do not see coalitions form between the two parties. With two parties, it wouldn’t be possible. Instead, we see large divisions within each party which make it hard to even define what each party believes. In fact there aren’t even just two parties, it’s just that no party except the Republicans and Democrats receive any airtime which exacerbates the problem and deadlock. The only time you’ll ever see a candidate from either of the residual parties get attention is when you get to the presidential cycle and voters are not happy with the Republicans or Democrats; they are forced to look elsewhere (i.e. Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Ralph Nader, Ross Perot).

Deadlock is dangerous for our democracy as we have seen over the last eight years. Republicans vowed to oppose Obama based simply on the fact he is a Democrat, and Democrats have been stopped in the House and Senate from passing many pieces of legislation by endless different tactics in that time-frame. Examples of this can be seen in the systematic blocking of Obama appointees to various positions, including the recently opened Supreme Court vacancy Merrick Garland awaits a confirmation hearing for. When Republicans try to advance their ideas Democrats stand in the way as best they can as well, and it would be unfair to insinuate otherwise. Both parties are guilty for the deadlock.

If we break up the two main parties however, this type of gridlock and political bickering would not be as effective because we would have other parties to keep us in check, rather than both parties throwing temper tantrums and still garnering the largest amounts of voters. The Republican party has tried to throw an eight-year temper tantrum and they have seen their party weaken. With more diversity in our political system and the realization that members of parties could jettison to a similarly positioned faction, the American people and political environment would benefit from a three-party or four-party system which is more representative of the nation’s views.

Three parties would not be enough to truly represent the American people though. If Progressives and Democrats split and formed a coalition, it would leave a broken Republican party with what seems to be a civil war brewing inside the “Grand Old Party”. A split of the Republican party could see interesting areas of overlapping policy ideas between the anti-establishment voters that have flocked to Sanders and Trump, while the moderate wing of the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton would have overlapping interests in certain economic and foreign affairs with the Republican party. The views of the people would be represented more accurately with more political parties and diversity of opinions.

If we were to see a Republican, Tea Party, Democrat, and Progressive faction each working for their own policy positions we would get more accomplished. The division in the main parties exists because neither truly represents all of those within their ranks. Instead of spending so much time infighting over the vast differences in ideals under each of the two parties, we would release the tension and allow each of the parties to bring their ideas to the table for discussion. If smaller parties seek out each of their own agendas, policy discussions wouldn’t be based simply on toeing the party line and capitulation to the majority. The individual parties could come to the table to negotiate with their own perspectives to help find a compromise and independent voters wouldn’t have to blindly accept proposals of only Democrats and Republicans.

According to Reuters, the independent voting block in this country sits at around 42% of the country while Democrats and Republicans hover around 29% and 26%, respectively. Independent voters will only flock to the Democratic or Republican agenda until they recognize the power of  the independent voting block on their own.

Bernie Sanders as an Independent within the Democratic party has the majority of voters under 45, and as the voters get younger the support is even higher. If the Democratic party truly wishes to advance their agenda and increase the party’s size they should actually attempt to win over the generation of voters that will give birth to the next generation of voters: young voters. They are not winning these voters currently as evidenced by Bernie Sanders’ rise in the Democratic party and his supporters’ unwillingness to vote for Hillary and the establishment. Working on a coalition of liberalism and progressivism could lead to a majority that would defeat the Republican party and any subdivisions within as their party fractures.

I could stand behind a coalition of the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren progressive faction of the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton’s center-based faction. That coalition would not be defeated in our current political climate and could siphon conservative voters who disagree with the Republicans as well as many independent voters who agree with the social agenda of the Democratic party.

That being said, I could not stand behind a solely moderate and center-focused Democratic party. I am an independent voter. I shouldn’t have to vote for Democrats just because we as a nation don’t have the balls to be willing to change the gridlock provided by a two-party system. I am not a Democrat. I look at the issues and select the candidate I believe agrees with my views. Just because Democrats agree with me on social issues does not mean I have to vote for Democrats who I disagree with on foreign and economic issues.

There are many reasons why this system will not work in the U.S. including our electoral college rules and the general worry of breaking up the parties, but we do not need to accept this antiquated political system. We can do better as a country and we should demand better. We should not accept the status quo as fate. We as Americans need parties which better represent the people, and the two-party system does not offer that.

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Bernie Sanders for Write-In Candidate 2016

If Bernie Sanders doesn’t win the Democratic primary I cannot conscionably vote for Hillary Clinton, and no way in hell would I ever support Trump. I have yet to cast my primary vote in California and am hoping for a miracle that Bernie wins the Democratic nomination, but if he does not, I will be writing his name in on my ballot in November and supporting my local candidates who I agree with.

I didn’t vote for Hillary in 2008 and I chose to vote for Obama because I didn’t agree with her foreign policy record then. Her foreign policy record now seems to be even worse. She has a history of supporting regime change and policies that have a history of backfiring on our country. She may backtrack and say she made a mistake back when she made her decisions, but Sanders has a better track record on not supporting hawkish policies from the git-go.

I realize when I critique her foreign policy that she was part of Obama’s administration and I am critiquing him as well. The fact is, I don’t think Obama was the best president, especially in his first term with Clinton as Secretary of State. He capitulated too much to Republicans. We could have passed single-payer healthcare which could have saved Americans money and brought us on par with most first-world countries, but we didn’t because we didn’t want to hurt the GOP’s feelings. I actually agree with Bernie Sanders that Obama needed a challenger in 2012 to bring him to the left because he had compromised too much with Republicans and we the people have only been screwed policy-wise because of it. Hillary uses Sanders’ statements to claim he doesn’t stand with Obama while she will continue his legacy. Eight years ago she only talked of Obama’s inexperience and lack of political clout, but now she praises him. She obviously got something wrong in her judgement of Obama and unsurprisingly has changed her opinion on him now that she wants to be President again.

One of Hillary’s campaign mantras seems to be that it is her turn. But this isn’t a line for Space Mountain. You don’t just wait in line until it is your turn to be President, even though Hillary has been given a FastPass to the front of the Democratic ticket. It is hard to even consider the Democratic primary an election rather than a coronation.

The Democratic nomination process is a joke. Superdelegates favor Clinton to Sanders 520 to 39 according to Google at the time I am writing this, and the pledged delegates are at 1682 and 1361 respectively. This gives Sanders 44.7% of the peoples’ votes and only 7% of the party insiders’ votes (though these votes have not been cast definitively yet). Sanders is polling evenly nationwide as of late and has won by “yooge” margins in the Western US and held it close nationwide, so it makes you wonder how he doesn’t have even 25% of the superdelegates. Does that seem Democratic to you?

The Democratic party presidential nomination is rigged and if the party insiders won’t take independent candidates seriously like the DNC is doing with Bernie, we wont be supporting your party for much longer. The likelihood Republicans take over after a Hillary Clinton first term following the shenanigans in the Democratic party is also a pretty glaring outcome if Republicans can regroup by 2020 with an unpopular incumbent. She is one of the most disliked presidential candidates in American history, and if the DNC doesn’t open their primaries by 2020 then a Tea Party-esque fracture of the Democratic party is a real possibility.

We who registered to vote as Democrats despite being independents to partake in the elections want our voices heard. If our voices won’t be heard by the DNC, it may be time to form a truly progressive party. We have sided with and voted for Democrats for years because they have similar views to us, but we will not have any faith that our voice will ever truly be heard in the closed primaries held by your party. And that’s what it is: your party, not the citizens’ you represent.

I’m more afraid of a Clinton presidency than a Trump presidency, because the GOP is already fractured and giving way to more Democratic friendly environments for legislation but we can put it all down the toilet if she makes Democrats regret they elected her. I will not be coerced into voting for a candidate I vehemently disagree with because I am afraid of Trump. I do not believe Trump has any chance of winning the presidency, especially now with Ted Cruz out of the race and Republicans supporting the true conservative candidate in this election: Hillary Clinton. She is a Republican in Democratic clothing on everything but social issues. If she loses the election I will feel no blame as the DNC ignored the candidate that had the best chance to win the election.

Hillary Clinton is the only candidate that can destroy the progress the Democratic party has made since 2008, and with her voting record it is not hard to see it becoming reality. You might say a vote for Bernie in November is a vote for Trump, but you’d also be a bit daft if you said that. A vote for Hillary is a vote for neo-conservatism and I will be casting my vote for progressivism in November.

Changing Places

Everyone’s specific experiences in life are influenced immensely on the particular surroundings they are living in. To an extent, we are able to change our surroundings based on the decisions we make as we age, and in doing so, the experiences we make available to ourselves. Decisions such as: where we choose to live; what we do for work; how we interact with others; how we let our relationships with family, friends, love interests, and random people take their course. Without opening your world to new experiences and perspectives you will only limit the growth you are able to achieve in your lifetime. Your world is what you make of it, and I believe life is about opening yourself to new experiences by changing the environment you are in.

When I was a freshman at the University of Oregon I struggled with being fairly introverted other than with those I knew prior to college. One of the best friends I made was actually someone I had hung out with occasionally in high school. Had it not been for reconnecting with him while taking Geology 102 in Willamette Hall, greater than half of my best memories would not have existed. Another of my good college friends I met in Accounting 101. I was looking for a seat in class on the first day and spotted an open seat next to a guy who looked a little Persian to me. I simply walked up to him and asked if he was Persian, and we’ve been friends ever since. He introduced himself, shook my hand and ended up being my roommate a couple years later until he graduated. I am sure I would have met other great people and had an amazing college experience without these two friends, but by opening myself just to the experience of studying these two subjects I was interested in I built lifelong friendships and memories.

College is a great opportunity to meet people from different walks of life, and you begin to realize how much people have to teach outside of the classes you’re taking just to get your degree. I put my introverted nature behind me to learn lessons from my fellow students in life. In some respects, I learned more about life outside the classroom during college than I ever really did in it. Big loud parties weren’t my cup of tea. I tried going to them but as a fairly shy person around new people, they just weren’t my thing. I preferred hanging out and talking about life over a few beers, playing some video games, or going for longboard rides down by the paths next to Autzen stadium and hanging out next to the Willamette river. Some of the best nights I had in college were nights spent with friends just playing Wii Sports for hours followed by a late night quest for delicious food at Burrito Boy or Dough Co.

Sophomore year, I lived in the Walton dorms on campus, which was a nice change from living slightly off campus in the Barnhart dorm building. When you go to school in Oregon, you tend to want the least distance to travel in the rain, and being on campus definitely offered that (my attendance rates were much better than freshman year at least…). Our specific dorm wing was a mix of international students and transfer students and was really close to everything. I made friends from Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China, Malaysia, South Korea, as well as students from all over the US. The only thing that kind of sucks about meeting so many great friends who are from around the globe though is that when they graduate, most of them move back home. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to meet these friends and share time together however, and look forward to the days I can see them again.

The next few years, I reconnected with a friend I played Little League baseball with and met a great group of people through him, had classes with three different Super Bowl winners and other NFL players (LeGarrette Blount, Spencer Paysinger, Jeremiah Johnson, Walter Thurmond, Jairus Byrd), and just enjoyed life until graduation.

After graduation I had to figure out what how to be an adult. The obvious first step as a “millenial” was moving back home with my parents and being unemployed. I applied at a bunch of jobs in the field I studied only to be told that I lacked the experience for an entry-level job. It wasn’t a great time for jobs as our country still lingered in recovery from the recession, so I gave up looking for work with my degree and did odd-jobs. Worked on the family orchard for while, sold cherries in a stand with fruit from our trees, took care of my grandma for a while as her chef and company, and just lived life day to day. Things got boring though. I didn’t feel like I was growing as a person and felt stuck in the midst of prolonged stagnation without any motivation. Out of nowhere, an opportunity arose to pack up all my things and move to Los Angeles for a job. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Today I am living on the edge of Los Angeles county. I packed up my bags and left all of my friends in Oregon two years ago. I live in a small town at the edge of the Angeles National Forest, where mountains tower in the horizon and the amount of green foliage defies the ominous drought we are experiencing. It hardly feels like I live near LA (besides the smog), but I am still fairly close to the big city and within fifteen minutes of Glendale, Pasadena, and Burbank. It’s all a very big change from the lush green forests of Oregon I came to know growing up. I barely know anyone and am starting out even more on my own than when I went to college, but I didn’t leave everything I knew back home because I would be comfortable; I left to change my surroundings, experience new views on life, and grow as a person.

Don’t be afraid to change your your environment. Don’t be afraid to experience new things, meet new people, or go new places. Even within the seemingly monotonous routine of daily life, every new person you meet in that routine can offer a multitude of lessons you had never even considered and change your world view. Study things that interest you, try new foods that you are afraid to mispronounce, genuinely ask someone you don’t know how their day is going, hold the door for someone instead of rushing through and on with your day, ask someone who looks like they are struggling if they need help. Every experience you come across is a learning opportunity, and every single person you meet is a teacher. If you don’t change how you interact with your environment and who surrounds you in it, it will be harder to grow as a person and you won’t learn as much during your shared time on this planet with the rest of us.