With the constant battle between the Left and the Right, it seems almost imperative to identify with one side of the political spectrum, to choose a label for your political beliefs and to attach yourself to a political party based off that label. But even within these parties, individuals do not always share the same political views.
This wedge between conservatives and liberals has grown significantly since the 2016 elections and the two groups have continued clashing throughout Trump’s presidency. Liberals and left-leaning media outlets express their combative attitude toward ‘conservatives’ and conservatives have done the same for ‘liberals.’ Media headlines typically fester this division and encourage antagonism between these groups by incorporating bias into their content and labels into their headlines. Since the conflict between the left and right has inevitably intensified, each group is nearing the extreme ends of the spectrum; meaning, liberals are becoming more liberal and conservatives are becoming more conservative.
We have divided ourselves into two groups, based on our general position on the political spectrum. This sucks everyone into the growing conflict between liberals and conservatives. In order to prevent this combative political climate, we must stop labeling ourselves and picking sides. The long-standing two-party system in American politics has embedded within us the assumption that we have to identify with one party over another, but there is a reason this system is uncommon in other countries (i.e. France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Ukraine, Spain and Sweden). This system is prone to division and conflict. With only two major parties competing in the legislature and for the presidency, elections become much more cutthroat and the two sides become more hateful of one another. This drives extremism and hateful, dangerous speech along with violent acts of hate we see in the news increasingly often.
In the absence of labels, elections would be more issue-based and less party-based. This means that individuals will vote for a candidate with correlating views on major issues instead of voting for the candidate that represents a party one identifies with. This allows voters to push for the change they want to see in the issues that matter most to them, not the party they voted for. By voting based on issues rather than parties, voters take the power to control what issues will be acted upon from political parties. This will influence the platform candidates run on as well. In order to appeal to voters in issue-based elections, candidates will run on popular issues that the public will be most incentivized to vote on rather than advocate their party’s position on issues.
When public officials operate in a party-based system, they feel pressured to comply with a political party as it is the only way to secure enough voters to win elections. In an issue-based system, however, this pressure is uplifted, because candidates will need to appeal to the biggest issues that concern the public. Presidents will appoint Supreme Court justices that have advocated for popular issues, and the media will no longer be able to fester the conflict between conservatives and liberals because those labels will not hold as much value in this issue-based system.
Culturally, an issue-based political climate encourages individuals to become more informed about current issues in order to form an opinion on them. It will become ‘cool’ to learn about issues instead of knowing what the Democratic and Republican parties are fighting about currently.
In today’s divided political landscape, there is no way to mend the conflict between liberals and conservatives in a party-based system. Parties benefit from this conflict because it allows them to easily influence today’s biased media outlets, voters and contemporary issues to be debated in elections. Instead of labeling our political ideologies to identify with one of the two clashing groups, we should be identifying our views in accordance with our stances on different issues. If we want to decide what changes occur, we have to vote based on the issues we want changed, instead of blindly trusting a political party to decide.
Keren Blaunstein is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.