This week's healthcare summit has clearly meant many different things to many different people. What I have seen of the summit and responses thereto has boldly illustrated a principle to me. I have held this principle for a long time; I've been a political independent since I first found an interest in public policy.I hope that the fact that the summit took place during the week of Washington's birthday was not just a happy accident, for George Washington also held this principle.
The principle is simply that political parties are simple, stupid, and harmful.
Most of the coverage I have seen of the healthcare summit has amounted to an all-or-nothing two-player game. Who won the summit: the Democrats or the Republicans? Will the government dictate each of our medical acts, no matter how minute, or will we be free to pay for whatever doctors' waiting rooms we please with our hard-earned reward money?
The issue at hand, healthcare reform, like many (if not most) issues, is complex, intricate, and dynamic. Having only two options is unhelpful. Having those options be polar and irreconcilable is harmful. Clearly, positive change can be made in the middle. Political parties, by nature, fight to keep their members away from the middle, for fear of a single party member finding common cause with a single idea from another (the other) party.
This assessment is not intended as an attack on either (any) political party individually. All parties are guilty of this nature; this assessment is an attack on the very existence and usage of political parties.
From this point forward, I will strive to disregard all mentions of political parties. I will attempt to avoid even acknowledging their existence. Political parties are dead to me.
Without political parties, campaign financing will need some serious reform.
Surprise! Even if I acknowledged political parties, I would still say that campaign financing needs serious reform.
Here is a patriotic call to action: renounce your party affiliation.
You know what you want and need much better than any national self-serving organization possibly could. Identify your ideals and principles; stand up for them. Work for, against, in, or with issues and candidates, both of which are substantial. Avoid parties, which by nature are hollow.
In the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, Bush and Gore both campaigned as candidates, not as representatives of their respective parties. These two frontrunners agreed on more issues than they differed on, and the election was close, and interesting. Gore won the popular vote while Bush won the electoral college and the presidency.
Partly as a result of a messy, ambiguous, nail-biting presidential election in 2000, the two major parties began to work out, so to speak. The parties villainized each other and emphasized their differences.
In 2004, Kerry and Bush ran as representatives of their parties. The election was still pretty close, and the election was still pretty messy, but this time, ideals and issues were not a large part of the equation.
In 2008, McCain ran as a representative of his party while Obama ran as a candidate. By a miracle, Obama-as-individual defeated McCain-as-party-member. Had Obama run as a representative of his party, or had McCain run as a candidate, the election probably would have been a lot closer, and McCain would likely have won.
Like Bush and Gore, McCain and Obama share more ideals and principles than than they disagree over.
Passionately and honestly, Obama has been fighting and fighting to move beyond the parties. Like Washington and Jefferson , who also stood against political parties, Obama fights for our leaders to be postpartisan. I am thankful that Obama has proved to be a great leader. A lesser person, like myself, would have given up hope in the face of what seems to be unshakable stubbornness from most of the United States Senators and Representatives. Like in his historically grassroots campaign, however, Obama shows grit, determination, and perseverance on a level that I certainly appreciate but cannot even begin to comprehend.
Many elected officials are retiring this midterm election year, and many incumbents face unprecedented challenges. The House and Senate seats that I will vote in this fall (Steve Buyer's and Evan Bayh's) will both be open. If I had a chance to vote against an incumbent though, I probably would.
I hope that the new class coming to Washington this fall has been watching and learning from their predecessors. Party politics help no one but the parties themselves. We need individuals in Congress. We need individuals in all of our leadership positions. We need Representatives who represent their constituents, not who represent their parties. We have a complex and effective governmental system. Democracy does not need, the United States does not need, and the American people do not need political parties.