“No government can be free if it does not allow all of its citizens to participate in the formation and enforcement of its laws.”
– Thaddée Stevens, 1867
Partisan politics has reached a tipping point. We are so polarized that we regard our neighbors who disagree with us as enemies. Friendships are lost; families do not talk to each other; isolation and violence are increasing.
Each of us has had our own journey to come to terms with the disintegration and degradation of the Republican Party, the party that we have once served with joy and enthusiasm. Many former Democrats feel the same way. Independent recordings have grown steadily for a decade, and each of us has added to those numbers.
Increased partisan polarization has led to increased animosity and isolation from meaningful public discourse. A Pew Research Center study found that over 60% of Republicans view Democrats as “closed-minded,” while 75% of Democrats say the same of Republicans. And 55% of Republicans and 47% of Democrats view opposing party members as more immoral than other Americans.
People are now much more concerned with national news and politics than with the local issues that affect them every day. Everyone has an opinion on the current or past president, but few can name their elected municipal officials.
We are living the reverse of Tip O’Neill’s old adage that “all politics is local”. All policies are now national. Even local politics are shaped by extreme voices.
Two salient examples of right-wing extremism are the politicization of all things COVID-19 – particularly vaccination and mask-wearing – as well as the persistent lies about the 2020 election.
There is also a lot of extremism on the left. Although we do not agree with its political priorities, the Democratic Party is the only major party to stand up against authoritarianism and the January 6 insurgency. We join them in this effort, but we are not simply looking to move from one ideological group to another.
The culture warriors of prime-time cable news shows believe their daily mission is to keep the electorate in a constant state of outrage or exhaustion, so that the major parties adjust to this extremism. partitioned.
And then there is the problem of leadership, or really the lack of it.
The American founders anticipated political ambition with their brilliant system of checks and balances, but not cowardice. Parties have rotted from within because too few leaders have chosen to care more about their country than their own careers and power.
The two big parties have the same incentive to subvert democracy by making it more difficult for independent candidates to vote. They agree to keep in place higher voter signature thresholds and more paperwork requirements. It is in their best interests both to keep the Pennsylvania primaries closed and to continue to fund them through taxpayers.
Consider ranked choice voting in the open primaries. This kind of system would work for everyone and lead to general electoral choices that are broadly acceptable to as many voters as possible.
Additionally, politicians should care about all of their constituents, not just the narrow party base. In Lancaster County, this problem is acute because the primaries are the only elections that count for the county and state elections. The GOP has a great registration advantage and applies endorsements to drive out competition. The same is true in the deep blue parts of Pennsylvania.
Thaddeus Stevens was a prominent Radical Republican in the 1800s who led Radical Republicans. Radicals were described in an 1867 pamphlet as follows: “The word radical applied to political parties and politicians… means one who is in favor of getting to the root of things.
In Pennsylvania, Stevens was a leading advocate for universal public education, and in Congress he led efforts to end slavery and remove blatant voting restrictions.
Although all the efforts of the radicals were not successful, they made progress. We can thank them for the 13th Amendment, banning slavery, and the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to those formerly enslaved and providing all citizens with “equal protection of the laws”.
We are now at an inflection point. The time has come for a new coalition of radicals to put the country above the party and work to make our Commonwealth and our nation stronger.
It is time for reforms such as term limits, transparency, redistribution reform, open primaries and electoral innovation. It’s time to reject factions and fight for a return to James Madison-style pluralism.
The independence of political parties is of no use in the long term. It’s not that the holidays are bad, it’s that we have bad holidays. For these purposes, we founded the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Serve America Movement (SAM), a party founded by former members of the George W. Bush administration and led by Executive Chairman David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida.
Our platform is principled and reform driven rather than rigid ideology or positions. We prioritize collaborative problem solving, transparency, open primaries, term limits, removing barriers to legal voter registration, and voting and constituency reform.
Think of SAM not so much about wearing a team jersey on the sidelines, but rather maintaining the playing field: for fairness, access, open debate, and the fulfillment of American ideals of self-government. . We have three goals: to help more people run for office; support candidates from major parties who align with our principles; and to manage our own SAM candidates.
Together, we can fix a corrupt system and restore William Penn’s vision for a republic that can govern itself without persecution or dissent. Join us in mending the broken politics of Pennsylvania and America (joinsam.org/sam-pennsylvania).
Ann Womble is a former chair of the Lancaster County Republican Committee. Ethan Demme is a former Chairman of the Lancaster County Republican Committee and a Supervisor of the Township of East Lampeter. Phil Lapp is a Lancaster County entrepreneur and community volunteer. A version of this column was first published in LNP / Lancaster online.