Although I’m just 15-years-old – a decade shy of my potential first campaign – I have dreams of holding public office one day.
But I am forced to accept the daunting reality that there is no place for me in the current American two-party political system. I don’t neatly fit in this simplistic binary equation.
When I was 12 years old, I fell hard for the television show “The West Wing” and decided then that I wanted to be president of the United States one day. When I told my mother about my lofty goal she asked me a seemingly simple question: Are you a Democrat or a Republican?
I hadn’t really considered that yet but her query got me thinking.
I couldn’t be a Republican because I support gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose. I also despise the Second Amendment, which has been used to perpetuate the pernicious proliferation of guns in our country. Unlike Donald Trump – and almost every other Republican in the land – I believe that this county needs comprehensive immigration reform.
So I must be a Democrat!
Not so fast. It’s not that simple.
I believe in strengthening our military, securing our borders, smaller government, less regulation and a flat tax.
So, I guess, it looks like I’m not a Democrat either.
I supposed I could be an independent. But unfortunately there are only two independent senators, none in the House.
And, most disappointingly, there has never been an independent president.
In fact, less than one half of one percent of our elected federal officials are independents. This is not because America hates independents; it’s because the system is rigged against them. Independents don’t have national committees to match their fundraising or run ads for them and they don’t have primaries or even debates (for “Saturday Night Live” to mock).
Independents are forced to spend even more money than other candidates just to get name recognition and yet they are only able to get less than half of the backing. Essentially, independents are unelectable.
Since my beliefs don’t clearly align with any party, I guess my only other option is to pick the party I disagree with the least. Then, I’ll need to register to run as a member of a party that I don’t agree with on many issues. Whichever party I choose, in order to even win a primary, I would need to lie to the country about half of my policy ideas.
If I followed this soul-crushing course, I would go from being an idealistic and innocent 12-year-old with a big dream, to advocating for things I don’t believe in, lying to everyone I spoke to, and helping to pass laws that I don’t feel are in America’s best interest.
This is what is wrong with our country. This is how the typical Washington politician is created. Nobody is born dreaming about going through this process. But after they tell themselves that the ends justify the means, all politicians are forced to lie or to lose.
Now imagine a different America. An America where instead of one half of one percent of our government being able to vote how they wanted and say what they wanted every member of the executive and legislative branches would be able to truly represent the people that elected them.
In fact, we are the only civilized nation on earth where this problem exists. In any other advanced nation, the system encourages dissent and debate, rather than a system that encourages lying and conformity to uphold the failing norms of our current politically gridlocked system.
I am clearly not the only person who recognizes this problem. There are many politically active people – and even some brave elected leaders – who support campaign finance reform, which would help cure at least one problem in our dysfunctional electoral system. While I wholeheartedly support these efforts, it’s merely a Band-Aid that doesn’t fix the underlying fissures in our political system.
Abolishing the unfair and harmful party system is the only way to reverse the dangerous course we are on. We are, first and foremost, a nation that believes in government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Let’s start acting like we truly believe in this bedrock of our political system. Eliminate the two-party system, and watch our leaders start telling the truth.
Who knows, maybe they will finally see their single-digit approval ratings soar.
Zeke Bronfman is a Manhattan high school student