Ishaan Nandwani, Contributing Writer
Among the many speeches, letters and declarations in American history, there’s one address that I find salient: George Washington’s farewell address of 1796.
In this infamous letter written toward the end of his public service career, Washington offered his political wisdom to the American people. He advocated for a policy of good faith toward all foreign nations, supported the use of religion and morality to promote political prosperity and warned against the formation of political parties — the latter of which he argued would lead to division and despotism, a result of parties seeking revenge and retribution against their opponents.
More than two centuries later, Washington’s fateful prediction has come true. America has become a nation of unprecedented division where party seems to matter more than policy and change.
The presence of political parties in U.S. politics has been devastating for our country. Parties have wrought divisiveness, encouraging citizens to pick a side in a horrifying “game” in which people’s lives are at stake.
There’s also the issue of straight-ticket voting, the practice of voting for candidates from only one party. In the most recent gubernatorial election, countless tweets from political figures read “elect Democrats up and down the ballot.” Many friends of mine voted by their party, without regard for each individual candidate’s views or policies.
This trend of voting by party and having to affiliate yourself solely as being a Democrat or Republican is extremely dangerous, and must come to an end.
As an American citizen, I’m deeply disappointed with our government. Political distrust among Americans is ubiquitous, and it’s not hard to see why. When it comes to our elected officials, we constantly see decisions made that are in the interest of the party, and not the people. For example, in the Senate, it’s rare to have a bipartisan vote — a vote in which members of both major parties vote the same way. When they do occur, it’s typically a few senators who make a stand, but not enough to make a tangible difference.
Voting with sole consideration of a candidate’s political party is thoroughly problematic because the issues that face our nation are multifaceted, and not black and white. Politics is fluid, with many intersections, and there are countless issues that both parties agree on.
Additionally, one might agree with a party on certain issues, but disagree on others. Hypothetically speaking, you can support a woman’s right to choose and believe strongly in the need for strict gun control, but also be pro-capitalist. In that case, you wouldn’t fall strictly under one party or the other — your views would intersect both.
If candidates were to run for elections on individual platforms, Americans would not be pigeonholed into supporting candidates from one party or the other; instead, our decisions would reflect our true values.
Personally, in this previous election, I would have loved to cast my ballot for Princess Blanding, a candidate whose advocacy efforts and pursuit of justice and equality I deeply admire. But in the end, I voted for McAuliffe — because of his affiliation with the Democratic Party, I knew he stood a much better chance of winning.
Therein lies another issue with the two-party system: candidates with unique and innovative ideas that run under a third party have almost no chance to win their election, an unfortunate yet very real truth. They can do a lot of good for our country, but aren’t given the chance. Indeed, as a third-party candidate, Blanding’s efforts during her campaign were not well supported; she was barred from presenting during the debates alongside McAuliffe and Youngkin, receiving significantly less media attention.
More than ever before, our nation is divided. We’ve survived a global pandemic, a reckoning on race like never before and an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the heart of American democracy. America has been torn asunder by the diverging ideologies of the Democrats and Republicans, and the citizens are the ones who suffer. Party has truly taken priority over the country.
It’s time for our country to put politics aside, and start valuing what really matters: the people. The only way for that to happen is to get rid of the two-party system, once and for all.