Published in Issue #4 | Spring 2016
As I was thinking about the Presidential election recently, I heard a song that brought it into focus. “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.” The lyrics from the 1972 song by Stealers Wheels seems to sum up a large number of our growing electorate today. In the midst of what will likely be the most expensive and possibly the most contentious campaigns in U.S History, many Americans will once again exercise their constitutional right to hold their nose and vote. Often time’s politics forces us to choose. Choose one party over another, one person over another, one message over another.
The truth is, it’s just not that simple anymore. We are in a wired, tweet driven ecosystem where every soundbite is dissected and analyzed for its purpose and authenticity. I pay attention when I hear people say that what we need is a real third party option. It is a different look, a new perspective and an alternative voice away from the two party system that we are missing. We have not seen a legitimate third party candidate since 1992 when businessman, turned politician, Ross Perot and his Reform Party came roaring onto the stage. He was a quick talking, smart Texan who might have pulled it off had he not quit and then summarily returned late in the election process.
According to a Pew Research Center study more than half of all Millennials are Independent. Fiscally conservative but would be more likely to support same-sex marriage. Millennials are also the most racially diverse in U.S History and are not affiliated with any one particular religious group. This speaks to a widening gap amongst Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who are typically more socially conforming. What does this say about our burgeoning society? It says that Millennials think for themselves and are not tied down by the dogma of past generations. They want more choices. So few are these choices that news recently broke of a high school sophomore who submitted paperwork to the FCC filing an Independent run for the White House as “Deez Nuts.” In a recent PPP poll in North Carolina Mr. Nuts is actually receiving 9 percent of the vote!
Let’s face it, elections are one part circus, one part slip of the magic hand. Where did the King of Diamonds go? Where is the peanut under the cup? We are all hopeful when we hear the slogans, “Let’s Make America great again” or “I believe in America” or “Change we can believe in.” The difficulty in putting our faith behind politicians is that they invariably let us down. It is not entirely their fault. It is nearly impossible to govern for 320 Million people catering to their ideals and agendas. It is the equivalent of trying to shoot down a rhinoceros with a BB gun.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “The cornerstone of democracy rests in the foundation of an educated electorate.” Millennials are the most educated and technologically advanced generation in our history. They get it. What they, and many others, are searching for is an impassioned leader who speaks to their rational sensibilities, someone like say, Kanye West. Ok, had drop that in, only kidding.
In the last Presidential election in 2012 of 235 million registered voters, only 129 million voted in the election or 54 percent of eligible voters. This was not the lowest turnout percentage recorded but not far off. This either illustrates that the election was already in the bag or people simply didn’t care about either candidate enough to go to a voting booth. Simply put, voter apathy. They are stuck between two political parties that do not necessarily represent their views of the world.
We all see the problems in our limited two-party system but what is the solution? Make no mistake about it, it starts with you and me. No matter what our affiliations, political leanings or even our generational divide, we must never forget that it is ultimately in our hands. Abraham Lincoln put it bluntly, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” Our voices count. In order for the system to evolve there must be those who are willing to risk being heard, even the ironical Mr. Nuts. Our democracy, under the protection of our constitution, has demonstrated resiliency and resolve from the worst of scandals and crises. What our country needs now, more than ever, is a bipartisan trailblazer whose agenda is not focused on being right but getting it right.