Opinion | Paul Olson: Join the new All American Party
There is much lamenting over the political polarization in America. A few suggestions:
Repeat after me, “I am an independent.” Even if you cannot quite wrap your head around the idea of not being affiliated with one of our two wonderful political parties, just get in the habit of making a declaration of independence. It will feel good to believe your positions on issues are based on careful research and reasoning and not due to the dictates of distant leaders who know nothing about you. You should want the complacent political parties to have to work harder to win your allegiance and be compelled to come up with reasonable policies that benefit the average taxpayer. Your independence signifies that your loyalty is to the Constitution and not political parties who think of you as a vote and not as a valued individual.
When reading the news I would never know there is life outside of the two-party system. However, Gallup surveys in 2021 found that 42% of Americans identified as Independents versus 29 % as Democrats and 27% as Republicans. Independents form a powerful voting block that can sway any election. As an Independent you won’t ever be accused of being a RINO or DINO for not walking the straight and narrow party path. The independent nonparty is the big tent party. All views are welcome. Both conservatives and liberals are free to join. Politics should be about improving government so it works for the people. The more ideas the better.
When a discussion turns to politics, say proudly that you are an independent voter and that you try to carefully weigh the issues. This will hopefully leave the others at the table speechless and possibly having slight doubts about their own beliefs. Independence fever may slowly catch on in Summit County, then Colorado, and across the nation. America has had many influential parties during its history besides the two current dominant ones. Independent voters may rally behind a new party in five or 10 years that could become a significant factor in keeping the two major parties honest and improving our government.
Members of our town councils are not labeled with a political party. They just meet to discuss public concerns and try to do what is best for the community. There are no party-line votes or committee assignments based on a certain proportion from each party. And everything runs fine. Consider the thousands of corporations in America. Their management and boards of directors have no political parties or factions based on their conservative or liberal philosophy. They all know they are there to help the business run smoothly and be profitable.
If we could all try to be a little more humble there would be much more listening and cooperation in the political realm. You know how there is always some guy in a bar who has all the answers despite never having read a book. He will say, “Here’s how you fix the immigration problem,” or “Solving the conflict in the Middle East is a piece of cake.” For more personal happiness and a better America you should often say, “I don’t know.” We have become the Know-It-All Nation, so sure we and our political party have all the answers and brushing aside the ideas of outsiders. British philosopher Bertrand Russell said it well, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.”
Political violence and lawlessness such as the Jan. 6, 2021 coup attempt in Washington, D.C. are the result of arrogant people believing their opinions are all that matter. There will always be people holding opinions that are different from our own. Sometimes we find them living in the same household. We can each help to reduce the division in the nation by keeping our cool and respecting everyone’s right to their opinion. The civility and respect we show to others goes hand in hand with the Constitution’s respect for each person’s rights and liberties.
Identity politics seems to be a source of division. Consider having “Tolerant American” as the primary way you see yourself. In his book “The Rise of Illiberalism” Thomas Main calls for “positive identity politics” as a way to bring conservatives and liberals together in upholding the classical liberal values of individual rights, free markets and limited, constitutional government. It will require electing more moderate leaders who embrace all sectors and people of the nation as being important parts of the American team, whether urban or rural, rich or poor, the coast or the heartland.
Giving up on nostalgia will do much to lessen polarization. We need to stop believing in the fairy tale that America was greater and there was less social and political conflict 10 or 50 or 100 years ago. Fantasizing about a utopia that has never existed is just a distraction that keeps us from making the small improvements to our economy and government that will make life better tomorrow. The news focuses on the shortcomings of people and our nation. Seek out positive news about the people who are working to make our community and nation better.
Do you think the people of Ukraine are bickering over petty political differences? Americans shouldn’t need a war or crisis to unify us and feel a common purpose. We all want the same things: fulfilling employment, the love of family and friends, and a comfortable living. Think of how political differences disappear when we come together in Summit County to operate successful businesses, enjoy recreational opportunities, and support nonprofits and schools for the good of our community.
Paul Olson’s column “A Friendly Conservative” publishes biweekly on Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Olson has lived in Breckenridge since 1995. Semiretired, he works at REI in Dillon and enjoys snowboarding, Nordic skiing and hiking. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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