The hostility in the political world is appalling. If there is one thing about the United States that I haven’t been able to understand, it is its political parties. Coming from India, where political diversity defines the course of any election, the number of political parties that actually win seats at the Center increases every four years, and anti-incumbent votes do not necessarily lead to a clear majority, it is strange to step into a country that convinces itself to remain polarized between political absolutes.
It becomes even more strange when one realizes that this absolution exists at two levels: Firstly, where only two parties occupy all the seats in the Senate, the House, the State Houses and the Governorships; secondly, where both of these two parties identify their policies as either solely left-winged or solely right-winged. Not only do people only get two parties to choose from, but they also get the two most opposing identities of the political system to do their policy-making for them. Maybe the problems with such a system are not that immediately obvious, yet there seem to exist some severe contradictions which cannot be left unanswered.
The first set of contradictions arises from owing a strict allegiance to an extreme political ideology—the left wing or the right wing. The crux of the matter is that both liberalism and conservatism favor the interests of two completely different socioeconomic demographics, and having two parties that strictly adhere to one of these camps essentially creates a biased decision. It is no surprise that when a citizen goes to vote, much of his decision is already based on this division: whether he identifies himself as a member of the working class or not.
The problem with classification itself is rooted in the fact that you cannot disagree with your party, a principle explaining much of the political clash that happens in U.S. politics. A Republican is a Republican is a Republican, and a Democrat is a Democrat is a Democrat. Nothing more, nothing less. Therefore, when either side comes up with a policy, the opposition has to oppose, irrespective of the merits or demerits of the policy. Essentially, due to such polarized classification, not only is there no room for accepting criticism, but also there is no room for reconciliation between the sides.
Where does the person go who neither agrees with all the policies of the Democrats or Republicans? The future prospects of a moderate in the United States are bleak, to say the least. The vote of a moderate has to go either to a Republican or a Democrat or to candidates of any other party. If he does the latter then his vote is of no consequence, primarily because he cannot find other satisfactory alternatives and due to the already polarized verdict of the country, his vote will not likely be impactful enough to make a major difference.
However, what is even more surprising is how successful political campaigns have been at making voters buy into such absolutes as their political representatives: that they will be better off by solely supporting policies that are either completely conservative or completely liberal. To think about it, isn’t it more pragmatic to have policies that find a middle-ground between both these camps? Moreover, what are the political parties achieving by prescribing to a wing, anyway? It imposes them to agree with everything to which that wing prescribes and removes any prospect of agreement with their opposition. Shouldn’t their policies work for the benefit of the people first, rather than maintaining allegiance to the policies that their camp follows?
As I go back to answering the question on whether I am a Democrat or a Republican—I say I am both. I have agreements and disagreements with both the sides, and currently, I do not see a way to resolve this dispute. Whom will I support? I do not know, because I do not care about whether a party is completely left-winged or completely right-winged. I want a party that has respectable policies.
—Udbhav Agarwal ’18 is undeclared.