Whenever the budget is brought up in a congressional session or in the news, it always becomes an issue of which party wants what.
Take the “fiscal cliff” debate that occurred throughout most of December. Taxes became the ongoing battle as Democrats wanted to raise taxes for the wealthy and Republicans opposed that movement. Then there was the matter of where spending would be cut. Republicans wanted to make drastic changes to programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The constant bickering and inability to form a decision rooted in bipartisan support caused us to come dangerously close to actually falling off of this cliff. So if political parties make it so difficult to get anything done in Congress, why do we have them?
My American Government professor constantly reminds my class that the founding fathers created Congress the way it is to purposely slow down the legislative process. Yes, in some ways this may be a good idea to ensure the welfare of the American people, but hasn’t our Congress in some ways turned this into exactly what the founding fathers feared? James Madison clearly warned in his "Federalist Paper No. 51" of the problem of majority factions and how they can overtake the government. Isn’t this what’s going on in Congress right now?
It’s not uncommon to find members of Congress trading votes for support on each other’s bills. If a congressman needs a vote on a bill, he may often go looking for someone who represents a district where the bill has no relation to the constituents. Then, they may ask for their support, and in return guarantee a vote on a bill that’s important to the other congressman. You can call this the political process if you want, but by no means do I believe that this is what our founders meant.
And what about George Washington’s farewell address? Didn’t he advise our country to be wary of political parties? If our Congress cannot listen to the word of our first and one of the greatest presidents, then haven’t we lost all meaning as to how the United States is defined?
But it’s not just Congress’ fault — as voters, we should take as much of the blame as they do.
When election time came around last year, I was bothered by the fact that people were going to vote for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney based on what political party they identified with. However, this usually meant they considered themselves Democrats, Republicans or independents, often basing this on their parents' and other families' political ideologies.
Now, I’m not saying that your family’s ideology shouldn’t affect what you believe and how you vote — because there’s nothing wrong with that — but I’m simply saying that if you’re going to believe something or vote a certain way, have your own reasons for doing so.
Be an informed citizen and know what it means to be a Democrat, Republican or a member of a third party. If you’re a Democrat, you don’t have to vote for a Democrat just because they are representing your party. By all means, if you know more about the Republican candidate and genuinely like their beliefs, then vote for them.
In a lot of ways, political parties have such negative connotations because we make them this way. We don’t do our research and throw around these terms simply as words with no meaning. So maybe you can’t do anything about how Congress is treating members of other parties when trying to pass legislation, but you can change the way we as a society treat political parties. When the next election comes up, be prepared to vote based on what you believe, not just by party. Our government is not just red and blue — you have a say in it and you can be that shade of purple if you want.
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