Work Out The Knots
Fear is a major influence on how a person perceives the world. Feeling threatened by a certain entity will increase a person's demand that the entity is eliminated, and this influences how a person votes. An issue many American citizens hold is that they are single-issue voters; this opinion is often something extremely divisive such as abortion or private gun ownership.
The Democrat and Republican parties have drawn their lines in the sand on these subjects and have their own base support, while Independents tend to consistently vote for either Democrats or Republicans, despite not being a member of either party. Which way a person votes is going to be tied to what they consider the biggest threats to America are - so what is really the biggest threat to America?
Only the Democrat and Republican parties have legitimate influence in the political system of America, and it is this influence - more than ISIS, more than global warming, more than globalization - that is the biggest threat to America. Influence peddling is endemic and has been systematized in both parties, and the corporate control over both the Republican and Democrat parties is frustrating any meaningful attempts at political, fiscal, military and administrative reform.
What's worse is that our two parties are also at a complete political impasse - bipartisanship is at an all-time low, and factionalism is reaching levels of hysteria not seen since the truly dark times in our nation's history. Why is there so much discord and so little progress? And what can put an end to this crippling detriment?
The cause for this crisis has both a conscious cause and a systemic cause. The former is a consequence of the promotion of political entertainment in the guise of news by Roger Ailes, who helped push Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and other disingenuous shock jocks to the forefront of political talk. Also of consequence is Roger Stone, a deft political rogue who took all the wrong lessons from Richard Nixon and applied it to politics in the modern day.
The latter, systemic cause is that of our voting system. Having a first-past-the-post system encourages a two-party system because people generally vote against people more than they vote for them. The reason for this is equal parts psychological and practical - in the same way it is better to have half a meal than no food at all, it is better to vote for somebody who you agree with half the time than vote for somebody that you disagree with all the time.
And it isn't just the first-past-the-post system that contributes to only having two parties - voters get most of a presidential candidate's exposure through debates, but a candidate's party is allowed on the debate stage if it polls high enough before the debate - generally this threshold is 15%. But as people will only poll for someone they heard of, this is a cycle of futility that keeps only Republicans and Democrats on stage - by no coincidence, the Commission on Presidential Debates only includes Republicans and Democrats.
Furthermore, the percentage of votes a party receives in a presidential election also determines how much federal funding they receive for the next election cycle, which does not kick in until a party reaches 5%. To give some perspective, Gary Johnson won 3.27% of the vote in the 2016 election cycle, and he had three times the amount of votes as the next most successful third party candidate, Jill Stein.
The twisted abomination of gerrymandering also has a role in our crisis. Gerrymandering is the act of manipulating voting districts in such a way that favors an incumbent politician. There is always going to be some innate advantage with how a district is drawn, but the winding serpentine labyrinths created by gerrymandering imprison voters into a cycle of reelection. There is a reason why Congress has a 10% approval rating but congressmen get reelected about 90% of the time - gerrymandering is a lethal inhibitor to holding Congress accountable to citizens.
Further hampering necessary reform are several obstacles voters have to navigate during primary votes - twelve states, including New York, take part in closed primaries. Closed primaries mean that only voters registered to a political party can take part in a primary. This has the effect of squelching unaffiliated and third-party preference voters from determining the Republican and Democrat candidates, which due to the system we have are the only viable candidates if one hopes to vote for a winner. This also leads to less moderated, more extreme views to be magnified in the primary contests. In the short-term, it leads to a candidate feeding the partisan base during primaries and shifting to the center during the general election; in the long-term it leads to distrust and feelings of alienation as the partisan base repeatedly sees their candidates abandon their causes and promises.
The lack of election-day registration is also an obstacle - most states have a deadline to register to vote before an election. This is usually between two to four weeks prior to an election, but an increasing amount of states are allowing voters to register for a party's primary the day of the vote. This enables a broader voting base to vote at all levels of election, and has the side effect of bringing more moderate voices to what would otherwise be an echo chamber of inevitable disappointment. This is a program that should be enacted nationwide for as long as Republicans and Democrats have a de facto monopoly on political discussion.
And what will end that de facto monopoly? First, the debates must be opened up to allow more thorough and earnest political conversation- if a political party can get on the ballot in enough states to mathematically win the presidential election, they should be included on the debate stage. Second, the first-past-the-post system must be immediately discarded in favor of a instant runoff ranked voting system, so a voter doesn't have the fear of their least preferred candidate winning if they vote with their heart. Third, the election period should be shifted to a time when voters can more easily access a voting booth - having a presidential election on a Tuesday in November is an anachronism from when Americans had to travel hours on foot to the voting booth at a time of year when they wouldn't be planting or harvesting crops. Voters nowadays would be better off having an entire weekend to vote, both to give religious freedom to vote on a non-holy day and to enable the gainfully employed more time to get to the booth before it closes. Finally, gerrymandering must be eliminated - voting districts can be procedurally generated with census data, without need of direct human interference.
You may believe ISIS is a cancer that must be excised from this Earth, and you may think that global warming will set forth a cascade of chaos that we cannot hope to handle. But it is imperative to put greater priority on what is the greatest existential danger to the United States of America - a corrupt, deadlocked, intractable Gordian knot of political privilege in Washington D.C. Certainly the swamp must be drained, but it will not be drained by those that are there. Times of crisis can be a prelude to times of reform, but that reform will not come with complacency.
These problems make your voice less effective than it should be. It is up to you to make it stronger. Make sure you are registered to vote and make sure you vote as early, often, and loudly as possible.