The threat of extremism: Part three

Charlie Gstalder is a first-year English major. He is a staff writer for the Newswire from Westchester, N.Y.

The purpose of this series has been to offer responses to the prevalence of extremism in American society. I have previously proposed criminalizing hate speech and limiting internet algorithms. While this third and final piece may be the most radical, I feel it is the most necessary. To counter extremism, we must abolish the two-party system.

While I am neither a constitutionalist nor a traditionalist, America was never supposed to work this way. Often when the two-party system is discussed, the words of our founding fathers are referenced. George Washington, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton all spoke out against political factions in the American democratic process. However, despite the historical argument for such, I do not believe that political parties themselves are inherently bad. Rather, I feel we do not have enough of them.

In its current construction, the United States political sphere is separated into two main parties, one more liberal and one more conservative. The issue is not the existence of the Democrats and Republicans but rather their dominance.

While other parties exist in the United States, the scope of influence of our two major factions means a vote outside the binary is effectively a wasted ballot. More troubling is the reality that in federal elections, a vote for a Green or Libertarian candidate normally works to hurt the major party candidate whose values align most closely with those voters (see Ralph Nader).

This is not how America is supposed to work. We are supposed to have equally powerful voices. We are supposed to be able to rally behind those we believe. Anyone is supposed to have a chance, regardless of whether they don red or blue. And yet every year, election or otherwise, we citizens are forced to confine ourselves to the old ass and pachyderm. It is in this confinement that extremism is born.

When only two groups are allowed notoriety, it becomes ever more difficult to make one’s voice heard. Thus, increasingly extreme tactics  are employed. It is no longer enough to run on a platform of simply limiting government. One must argue for the dismantlement of an existing, integral program to be noticed. Nor is it enough to run under the idea of large government. One must instead propose a radical solution to a problem that the public may not even care about.  Lower taxes become abolishing Obamacare. Regulating oil companies becomes the Green New Deal. Arguing for what is needed is no longer enough.

Hypotheticals aside, Democrats are being tugged in two ways, with traditional moderate views on one end and socialism on another. Republicans are facing their own tectonic shifts between the authoritarianism of the alt right and the small government policies of the GOP. Many Americans are in a predicament in which they feel forced to vote for a party that may no longer share their values; it’s not OK and should not be normalized. Ideally each party would return more to the stances that allowed each to rise to such prominence, but with each radical candidate this reality becomes ever more unlikely.

Therefore, it seems that we are at a point in which the only way to return to some semblance of balance and fairness would be to abolish our existing parties. This wouldn’t be as painful as you may think. We could simply split the Democratic and Republican parties in two, with each new faction being allowed to espouse their ideas without being forced to cater to the others within the party.

This would lead to new faces in politics, new ideas being presented and new voices being heard. Candidates would no longer have to pay dues to an existing hierarchy to be allowed to run for office — they could simply run. Citizens would be allowed to express themselves in politically unique ways. Votes would matter, even in states that are currently solidly red or blue. And maybe, just maybe, we could go back to some semblance of normality.