Image by Cornell University Library via Flickr
I just read a very interesting article on why Congress is polarized to the point of dysfunction these days. Basically, a lot of small changes, including polarized primaries (due to gerrymandering, usually), procedural changes to favor the majority, more use of the filibuster, money, and other small things that might not make a difference on their own. Really, the article is fascinating, and you should read the whole thing.
The thing that struck me is that all these changes favor the party with the majority, both in the House and in the Senate. No longer do legislators reach across the aisle. I think a lot of these changes have come about as the parties (on both sides) have become dominated by extremists. As the extremists become more and more vocal, they elect people who agree with them, and any others who are elected think they are agreeing with their constituents if they go along with the extremists.
However, I do not believe that most Americans hold these extreme views. I believe most Americans are in the middle, but don’t speak up. They either don’t vote, especially not in the primaries, or they just pick someone and forget about it later. They don’t contact their elected officials, saying they don’t agree with the extremists. I know I have been guilty of this.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the extremists get listened to. What should the silent moderates do? First, speak up. My first step in speaking up is writing this post. Second, if you know of any moderate political groups in your area, join them. Be sure they’re not the extremists, though! Third, don’t vote for extremists. At this point, I would rather leave my ballot blank than vote for an incumbent.
(Note: I did not say I would stay home from the polls. In the United States, we have the right to vote, and we have the privilege to do so without risking our lives. It is incumbent upon us to continue to exercise that right — those who do not exercise their right to vote risk losing it. And if people in emerging democracies are willing to risk life and limb to go to the polls, then I certainly am going, even if I am not going to vote for any of the candidates from the main parties.)
Actually, what I would like to do is vote for a third party. However, my area is quite dominated by one major political party, and I’m not sure there are any third parties or their candidates I find acceptable. (And before you ask, I have quite enough on my plate without planning to start a branch of a third party here. There’s a difference between speaking up and taking on a monumental task.)
How will you speak up?