If you surf the web, watch television, or are of the rare breed that reads newspapers, you are painfully aware that we recently held a presidential election. And if you have heard any chatter on the candidates and their campaigns, I’m sure you can agree that 2012 was very different from 2008.
In 2008, America saw a beacon of hope, excited by the prospect of the Bush years coming to a close. Young people worked tirelessly to make sure that our generation’s apparent John F. Kennedy sat in the Oval Office. The invigorating mantra, “Yes we can” rang through dormitory halls, and exploded through the social media sphere.
This election was different. In the past four years, the Obama Administration showed us that it condones drone attacks on civilians, military detention without charge or trial, and undeclared wars — all antithetical to the patriotic platform on which President Obama ran.
We have re-elected the very same administration, and so we are implicitly agreeing that these attacks on our essential liberties, and the liberties of other peoples, are fine.
But why? Why would America call for more of the same, instead of ushering in real change?
The answer is simple. The alternative would have been a Romney Administration. Who knows what sort of principles Romney would espouse? I’m sure Romney doesn’t even know yet. And in all honesty, Romney wasn’t terribly different from Obama anyway.
This same sentiment was shared by The Economist magazine in its endorsement of President Obama for a second term: “This newspaper would stick with the devil it knows.”
Why, I ask, must we elect a devil for president? What fundamental aspect of our political system requires us to have to choose the lesser of two evils, as opposed to the Titan among men (and women)?
Again, the answer is simple. It is our accursed two-party system.
If you’ve been alive as long as I have, you’ve always known that there is a Republican party and a Democratic party. There are no viable alternatives. However, this is not what the Founding Fathers had envisioned.
John Adams imparted a sentiment, shared by George Washington: “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
The Massachusetts congressman and second president of the United States predicted our current state of affairs with accuracy. The reason for his concern cannot be put into better words than those that Washington himself shared.
The first president believed the two-party system would fracture our nation and “render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.”
Our nation was perfectly divided this past election. Many polls labeled the race a virtual tie. A handful of battleground states determined the winner. Basically, elections are won today by being on the right side of the 51-49 split. We have no more landslide winners.
America deserves better. We deserve a candidate that we can all rally behind and put our faith in. If you look at elections of the past century, the majority of America usually sided with one candidate or the other, because one was clearly better. The nation made a faithful choice. Today, elections are remarkably close. The candidate America really needs would have won by a landslide.
Perhaps this better candidate will come from the two parties, but it is also possible that candidate is of a third party. Many of us didn’t even know the third party candidates until Election Day. For record’s sake, they included Jill Stein of the Green Party, and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, among others.
Our political system must change if we are to vote for real progress. If we actually want to correct our fiscal policy, our foreign policy and our social issues, we need a system in which the disenfranchised can make it to the debates, and remain in the public’s attention. Third party candidates must have a chance for a basic reason.
There is a fundamental lack of duality in everything we know. There is day, there is night, but there is also dawn and dusk. There are protons and there are electrons, but there are also neutrons. There’s the right brain and the left brain, but there is also the corpus callosum.
Similarly, people do not hold one of just two basic philosophies. Such an approach is grossly reductive of human creativity and intellect. There are many ideologies that can function within a democracy, and they can often be better for the health of our nation.
If Obama or Romney could not deliver, we shouldn’t have had to settle for good enough. In future elections, I urge you to not compromise your principles, whatever they may be. Discover for yourself any alternatives there are to the status quo. Next time, vote with your brain and your heart. Don’t settle for less.
Abdul is a student in the Graduate Program in Science Writing.