Stuck in the Middle: Finding our Common Ground
What is it about today’s political landscape that keeps people from finding common ground? Any analysis must begin with a mapping out of today’s political landscape that positions each party’s overall ideologies. Once we understand and acknowledge all viewpoints, we begin to seek areas and levels of compromise.
Most often, people use the simple, one-dimensional continuum to map out and pinpoint people’s political views.
However, given the varied issues facing us today, this model really is not sufficient to produce an accurate picture. For example, many people that identify themselves as fiscal conservatives profess to have liberal social leanings. This philosophy could be summarized as, “Keep out of my pocket, but keep out of my bedroom too.” Mapping them out by only one of these positions or simply placing them at the center of this range does not accurately represent them; so we need to expand the scope of our model.
Realizing this, the Transpartisan Center (http://www.transpartisancenter.org) added a second axis, creating a two dimensional model in which party philosophies can be more accurately mapped to describe a multitude of positions, even within a specific party, such as Progressive Democrats or Tea Party Republicans. Atop this vertical axis is “Order”, which represents strong government control. In contrast, the bottom is labeled “Freedom”, or the desire for severely limited government. Combined with the aforementioned Liberal-Conservative X-axis, this creates four distinct political quadrants displayed below.
Democrats – Liberal values achieved through the rule of bigger government.
Progressive Democrats desire expanded social welfare programs through forced
governmental mandates funded by a progressive tax system in which the burden
increases as wealth does.
Republicans – Conservative values achieved through the strict rule of smaller
government funded with minimum taxation. Tea Party republicans seek to
further codify conservative morals/values in law.
Libertarians – Minimal federal government in which individuals are sovereign over their
own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others. Local
organizations establish community rules agreed to by the whole.
Green Party – Democratic Socialism favoring the welfare of the individual and the
environment and localized economic rule. Once local, government-run projects are
agreed to and budgeted for, anyone can show up, work, and be paid by the government.
Constitution Party – Limited federal government based on fundamentalist Christian
beliefs and strong local rule.
The upper two quadrants are colored with the typical representation of the Democratic and Republican parties; each seeking to achieve their means by legislating both economic and social mandates through strong centralized government. However, within this new model, the parties themselves are mapped out in large, two-dimensional areas containing various sub-groups within each. This clearly represents the smaller, consolidated movements that exist within and often fragment both the Democrats and Republicans.
The lower quadrants typify the views of Libertarians, wishing for government, especially the Federal Government to basically leave them and the rest of the world alone. However, in wishing to be free, the Libertarian Party embraces both liberal and conservative values. For example, they are both pro-choice and pro-gun ownership, feeling that the government should not dictate either. As such, they map to the lower middle. This is also where you will find those parties desiring a small federal government with limited powers and the remaining powers imparted to local governments, allowing the local populace much more control over the way that resources are distributed and used. For example, The Green Party’s approach, often referred to as Democratic Socialism, envisions grass-roots democracy where the economy is run by local governments and is heavily invested in green technologies. As such, a local government could budget and conduct an urban renewal project at which people could just show up, be put to work, and go home that day with a paycheck.
In the final analysis, we have two main parties dominating the current political landscape, neither of which has produced satisfactory results in the past 50 years. Their failure is a direct result of ultra-partisan thinking that produces nothing but the desire to obstruct any agenda other than their own. This is in stark contrast to the intended aim of our representative democracy — compromise for the good of all. Of course, these two intractable sides have had a good deal of help in getting to this point.
Undue influence of corporations, unions, special interests, and the mega-wealthy have not only changed the conversation, but changed actual votes through Super PACs, lobbyists, and junkets. Add to that the fact that those in power have used their abilities to rig the game so they can easily stay in and/or regain power, and profit by it while serving in either the minority or the majority. Then, upon retirement, they field offers for patronage jobs, offering their Washington connections and influence to the highest bidder, many of whom they helped get a leg up while in office.
Frustrated by the stagnation of partisan politics, some have rebelled and formed new parties – a step in the right direction for sure. The only problem is that each of these new parties has splintered farther toward the extremes, creating an even larger chasm of ideals that threatens any hope of a viable third choice. What is needed is a choice in the middle; one where people can find enough common ground to get things moving again. Party Recon is our best hope for affecting real change in our nation, and restoring the seat of democratic power to its proper place – with the people.