Lately, I have heard a lot of chatter about the impact our two party system has on governance. The common accusation is that the political parties’ maneuvers and rhetoric has left the government incapacitated. In response, the majority of the American public has begun to identify themselves as independents. The words liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat have become dirty to the rest of the country. The Republican presidential debate and President Obama's speech last week are only further fueling the public's frustration. There is an emergence of centrist groups, No Labels and Americans Elect, seeking to challenge partisanship and our two party system.
Interestingly, this is not a new issue. When President George Washington retired from the presidency in 1796, His farewell address insightfully discusses the issues from political parties that are still applicable today.
“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.”
I can write a book about the pros and cons of the two party system and partisanship, if really interested read this article about possible reformers to help the system, but let’s discuss how you can overcome the challenges posed in our system and effectively advocate for your issue.
1. DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. The system is not perfect, but many nonpartisan citizens have successfully advocated for their issue.
2. Use the power of Constituency. Members have gone against party marching orders in the past. Most of the time it is because the majority of the people living in their district were in favor of the option that was against the greater party’s interests.
3. Persistence is key. During my time on the Hill and on the campaign trail, persistence was always the name of the game. The people who successfully got representatives to change their position were the most persistent in their emails, letters, and meetings.
4. Find like-minded individuals. There is power in numbers. Find people in your local community and state who also believe the issue you are advocating for. A persistent group will be more effective than a persistent individual
5. Lastly, gain support from larger groups to endorse your issue. These groups include trade associations, nonprofits, and local community organizations. You should target groups without official party affiliation and/or have groups from both sides of the aisle.
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