We are all familiar with the issues — high unemployment, soaring gas prices and people struggling to make ends meet. This election we hope to choose the right presidential candidate who will solve all these problems. Unfortunately, looking at the ballot, the correct choice is likely none of those above.
I say “likely” because it is possible for the next elected president to have the necessary impact, but it would require him to do something that is completely unprecedented. That something, I believe, would be upon entering office, immediately relinquishing all of his party affiliations.
The reason for this is simple: Our nation is divided, and we need someone who can bring it back together. Many scholars agree that our democracy is more polarized now than it has been at anytime in our history since the Civil War. A president who is willing to reach across the aisle is not enough anymore. We need a president who will wheel his chair into Congress and sit in the aisle.
On last Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley visited the town of Asheboro, North Carolina — a town that has been severely shaken by the turbulent economic times. The message from the residents was clear: They have lost faith in the government. When asked what he thought about the presidential candidates, one of the residents responded, “I’ve lost confidence in all of them. ... I don’t even know if I’ll vote.”
And why should he? If you don’t feel that any particular candidate is going to do anything about the issues you care about, then voting is a waste of time.
The main reason for this distrust comes from the fact that all political campaigns are governed by money. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case has enabled countless undisclosed donors to give unlimited money to candidates through the use of super PACs. Thus, when candidates are elected, their allegiance is to the people who are funding their political careers, not to the American public.
We need a president who will leave special interests along with party loyalty behind. Of course, doing so would be political suicide, and that is why it’s so unlikely that we will see anyone take such a bold step. But the need persists.
We have seen echoes of progress through the recent rise of third parties. However, what we need are individuals to lead, not someone from another party. That is why the only way for American politics to be put back on the right track is to have one of these individuals emerge from a mainstream party and publicly dismantle the current system from the inside out.
Any president with the guts to stand in front of the American people and formally renounce all ties to the corruptive elements that are plaguing our nation would instantly become the greatest hero of modern democracy. I would think that this kind of legacy would be the dream of any politician. Considering that anyone running for president is well off financially and at or near the end of their political career anyway, why not go out with a bang?
Thinking of it in this way almost gives me hope that our democracy is on the verge of a revolution. But then reality sets in, which reminds me that money and influence have such strong ties with our political parties that it would be almost inconceivable to have a president commit such a large scale betrayal.
There is still hope for change, but it will likely have to come from us. As long as we continue to squabble along party lines formed by money, we will continue to have a polarized and unproductive government. On the other hand, if we make it overwhelmingly clear that we are fed up with division and demand leadership that governs with a collaborative and universal ideology, then perhaps the leader we need will answer the call.
Andrew is a sophomore in Engineering. He can be reached at email@example.com.