What, exactly, defines a Democrat? Is it a strong commitment to environmental policy? A desire for a comprehensive socialist welfare system? An interest in a powerful government actively pursuing social justice? Maybe it’s any of these things, but most of the sitting Democratic representatives actively and vehemently oppose at least one of those tenants, as do most Democrat voters. It’s a party that simultaneously contains Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris and (let’s be honest) Bernie Sanders. All you have to do is take a few looks at the presidential rallies of the current Democratic hopefuls to see that each and every one is running off completely different viewpoints and ideals that appeal to completely different audiences, with the only uniting thread a vague sense of being some abstract thing known as “left wing.”

That isn’t just a Democratic thing, either. Much like how the Democratic party is a dysfunctional and lopsided perma-alliance between socialists, social democrats and environmentalists, the Republican party exists as a dysfunctional and lopsided perma-alliance between libertarians, industrialists and nationalists, constantly tugging the party line in different and almost random directions that hardly ever produce a cohesive or satisfying ideology. The problems of such mega-parties are perhaps even more prevalent in the Republican camp; while the interests of environmentalists and socialists can often superficially align (Sanders supports some measures for environmental reform as part of his policy, for instance.), the interests of the three big players in the Republican party almost never do. In fact, the biggest independent party in the United States, the Libertarian party, has well over 500,000 registered members and continues to garner a few percentages of the vote in statewide and national elections. This party was founded completely out of dissatisfaction with the increasingly big-business aligned Republican party, which nominally continues to run with party lines about small government and protecting private interests. Despite representing over 500,000 American citizens, the Libertarian party does not hold a single representative seat in any branch of the U.S. government, and likely never will.

It isn’t just Libertarians who feel that the labels of “Republican” and “Democrat” are insufficient. Nearly anyone with a serious political opinion will, at best, align with a single tenet of either of the two major parties, while often completely and seriously disagreeing with the party line as a whole. I can say that as someone who frequently writes for the “Being Right” column of this newspaper, I aggressively disagree with most tenants of the so-called Republican party line. Most often, American elections are not a matter of electing politicians who you actually agree with or support—they are a matter of electing someone you dislike less than the other candidate.

Two-party systems are not the norm, nor are they an effective system of representation. In nearly every other developed republic on the face of the Earth, multi-party systems are used, where the percentage of votes a specific party receives determines how many seats they hold, as opposed to a winner-take-all system where only two mega-parties can exist. If you want to understand why “left-right” dichotomy has gotten so aggressive recently, look no further than the oversimplification of the two-party system. Are you interested in social justice? Congratulations, you are a left-wing Democrat, and thus opposed to the right. Are you interested in individual rights? Congratulations, you are a right-wing Republican, and thus opposed to the left. The only, and I repeat, only reasons we have this archaic, outdated and thoroughly divisive system are to preserve the interests of the political parties themselves who fear dissolution or difficult reform at the onset of serious competition, and, perhaps, the corporations who quietly donate simultaneously to both Democrats and Republicans alike for introducing favors in their bloated and incomprehensible policies.

Contact Max Goldenberg at mgoldenberg@colgate.edu.

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