As someone who has lived in several foreign countries and who has traveled the globe for more than three decades, I believe I have a broad perspective on many subjects. Having settled in the United States as my final watering hole, mainly because I believe this is one of the greatest countries on this planet, doesn’t mean I agree with everything this nation has to offer. One of the biggest benefits we have here is that we can openly criticize the method of government if we don’t agree with everything we see. So now I am going to exercise my right.
After living here for almost 15 years I have observed a troubling trend – partisan politics. What has prompted me to tap on my keyboard on this subject is the current debate about healthcare reform, where partisan politics has reached an extreme. In an environment where everyone knows how bad the healthcare system is for millions of Americans and where for-profit insurance companies are dictating our healthcare choices, you would think this would be an area where all political participants could find common ground. Not so!
In fact for someone who has lived in many civilized countries where universal healthcare solutions have been working fine for decades, it seems incredible that, in a country where citizens are normally so generous when others are in dire need, the population could be so divided on such an important, basic issue. Let me first say I personally believe access to good health is a basic human right and that it should in no way be a question of how much one can or cannot afford. Should someone have to die because they cannot afford to go to the doctor or hospital in this day and age? If you pose this question to a citizen of any other civilized economy they would assume you came from a country in Central Africa.
With almost 50 million Americans without access to health insurance you would think this would rally the political parties to get their heads together to solve the problem. After all, this debate has been going on for more than 50 years. So why does one party say yes to try and solve the problem and the other party try and block reform in every possible way? A recent Harvard Medical study shows that 45,000 Americans die very year as a result of lack of health insurance coverage. That’s almost one every 10 minutes. So in last 6 moths of the healthcare debate more than 20,000 have died. So why the partisan divide?
This divide has not been caused by the healthcare debate. It has just caused it to come to a head. In my view the problem is caused by the fact there is a two-party political system. This creates the likelihood that opinions are either black or white, or to the left or to the right. The system doesn’t encourage the desire to find any middle ground. This is exacerbated by the fact that government has very short terms. Four years for the President and only two years between mid-term elections for the government. This means that there is never any time for meaningful reform on the tough issues that have to be addressed.
Just one year into a debate and the parties start positioning themselves for the next election. You see this now happening with healthcare. Some politicians are even declaring they will dethrone their opponent over this issue. This just shows that their own self-indulgence is more important than the 45,000 that die every year. In the case of the GOP it would appear their total resistance to any of the changes the Democrats have put forward is part of a higher plan to disqualify President Obama from reelection. The GOP also blames the President for “lack of bi-partisan dialog”. Something I cannot quite understand is, why are there then more than 160 GOP amendments included in the final bill? That sounds more like bi-partisanship to me.
One of the problems is the stunning defeat the GOP suffered in the last Presidential election. In my lifetime I have never seen such a bitter and poisonous reaction to political change, which was also such an historic event. One can understand the disappointment but the negative rhetoric is getting worse. How can anyone be so publicly venomous towards his or her own leader, questioning whether he was even born in the United States and/or claiming him to be a terrorist? One can have differences of opinion but to put down your own leader so openly is shocking to most non-Americans I have talked to.
So the time has come to resolve the escalating hatred across political lines before it becomes totally destructive. The solution – a third political party. It has worked in every other country I have lived in, so why not here? The third party does not need to win big. It just needs to hold the balance of power. This immediately removes the extreme right and the extreme left views on important issues for the country. It forces the other parties to seek alliances and creates the need to find common ground. What would have happened in the healthcare debate if there had been 38 Republican seats in the Senate, 38 Democrats and 24 Third Party Senators? Or even 38 GOP, 56 Dems and 6 Third Party seats? The order of the day would have been compromise, not total conflict.
In my opinion it is high time for the country to put its differences aside and roll up its sleeves and get the country back on track both economically and morally. Blatantly blocking important changes for political gain and mocking our leader openly will result in all of us losing out and will create a potential backlash from the electorate. Making unfounded and false claims in a time of crisis for political gain is a sign of lack of character and the beginning of the end of democracy. A third party would create a check on the truth and could even evolve into a bigger political force if the extreme right and the extreme left don’t get their act together. Can you imagine a world where every politician would have to tell the truth?