Last week, as I obtained my Nevada driver’s license, I registered to vote in Nevada. As I went to check the box for political party affiliation…I decided to switch parties.
Being an unaffiliated voter is not how I roll. While political parties and partisanship can be among the most frustrating and annoying aspects of politics, parties are an essential element of a healthy democracy. While our parties might have major problems, not having political parties is not the answer.
Before anyone gets too excited, I should be specific. Last Tuesday, I joined the Green Party.
That I am still not a Republican, will disappoint two groups of people. The first group are my former conservative students and friends from my youth who are hoping that I will see the light and return to my Republican roots. Yeah, y’all know that is not going to happen.
The second group is liberals in Wyoming and elsewhere who were convinced during my campaign that I was a Republican in sheep’s clothing. Yeah, you had no clue! If you think being a Democrat in a red state makes you a radical, you are overly impressed with yourself.
Our political and economic institutions are flawed at best. It is more accurate to call them unjust and immoral. Both major parties are the benefactors of both our political and economic systems. Why would they bite the hand that feeds them? Well, neither party has shown any interest in seriously doing so.
Wait! Isn’t the Democratic Party better than the Republican Party? Well, yes it is. But that is a pretty low threshold. I think much good can be done within the Democratic Party and by Democrats. I admire many of them. I admire President Obama. My political hero is the late Paul Wellstone who was a Democratic U.S. Senator. I am sure that I will still mostly vote for Dems because there are few alternatives on the ballot. Such is life.
However, the Democratic Party will never make the radical changes that our political system needs. Why would they? They are doing quite well under the current system. Without those needed changes to our political system, we will never see any serious changes to the crisis of economic inequality in our nation and world. Indeed, it will continue to grow.
What are the problems with our political system? There are many! They range from the Senate filibuster and money in politics to the Electoral College and the (un)representative structure of the Congress. I will take a look at them in further detail here at Approaching Justice in the future.
As a political scientist, I recognize that third parties like the Green Party face major obstacles in terms of having an impact on the political system. There are many reasons for this. One is that the rules are set by those who have thrived within the two-party system. Additionally, we really do live in a two-party system. In the past, I have largely just treated that as a political reality that cannot be changed. I can no longer do so.
The Green Party is not particularly strong here in Nevada from what I can tell. However, I have had particularly positive interactions over the years with Green Party activists from around the country. There is work to be done and I am excited about it!
As a political philosopher and moral theologian, I can no longer go along with either of the two major parties. I am not a utopian. Instead, I am refusing to pretend that the dystopia we live in is something that it is not. The American political system is not quaint. It is a cancer.