Throughout history, democracies have been touted as the form of government that’s not only the most efficient, but also the most satisfying. By allowing a high amount of input across the spectrum, democracy succeeds because it empowers a large amount of stakeholders. Also, in light of recent events on the world stage, it’s clear that democracies can help create a global sense of understanding. Unfortunately though, even the strongest of democracies can have periods in their history that test its resilience.
Ever since the Fairness Doctrine for media was lifted, Americans have been exposed to a high level of political bias. As a result, a narrow view of political news is often reported now. In the past, the Fairness Doctrine required both sides of a political topic be reported. Nowadays – unless one reads multiple news sources, we tend to miss out on the true variety of modern political thought. This is because media centers often cater to one political view.
For years, political theorists have advocated that a range of different ideas be presented to preserve democracy. For example, a candidate’s debate allows divergent views to give voters a true choice. Respect for debate of all types has been the lifeblood of a free, efficient, and civil society. By exploring a variety of opinions, democracies have been able to find practical and holistic solutions to complex issues.
Unfortunately, we now live in an era where political purity is valued. Echo chambers – where mostly like-minded views are held, are becoming more common in both traditional and social media. And instead of honest and earnest debate being used to judge political policy – political power brokers often rely on smear campaigns to overwhelm opposition.
Interestingly, mainstream Democrats and Republicans do share similar ideas on some policy issues. Historically, the reason for this is that the American respect for spirited and honest political debate has sometimes led to practical compromise. This ability to find hybrid solutions – and blend opposite ideas together, is one of the reasons the democracy revolution of the past 230 years has been successful.
For the last 50 years, political debate in the United States has often revolved around finding a balance between capitalism and socialism. Likewise, debate regarding cultural issues often deals with finding a balance between respect for tradition, versus cultural change. Ironically, mainstream Democrats and Republicans have sometimes done a good job of balancing out these opposite ideas. This is shown by the fact that America today has aspects of the Social Democracy style of government that’s a norm for advanced democracies. Social Democracy relies on a regulated free-market to provide a large portion of goods and services, in conjunction with government services for a social safety net.
Hopefully…the United States can reinvigorate the notion that the political process is mostly a tool that exists to find the best solutions for our country. Although party politics and ideology are extremely important, the winner-takes-all mindset that’s recently evolved can have negative consequences. At the end of the day, most people make practical decisions – based on their own perceptions, on who to vote for. This doesn’t mean that there is no room for deal-making with political opponents. What it means is that America’s democratic-republic form of government actually relies upon political compromise to run well. After all, the strength and beauty of democracies lie in how they combine different ideas from across the spectrum for practical solutions.