Like most Americans, I want to do what’s best for our country. Yet lately, I find myself with few appealing choices about how to do that. As a social liberal and fiscal conservative, it’s not clear that I have a place in this political environment.
Although I’m still a registered Republican, I no longer support or identify with the party. Its current leader has failed both his party and our country, as made clear, just to start, by the more than 222,000 deaths from COVID-19 — a disease that our top scientists agree didn’t have to cause so much human misery and economic pain.
Yet I’m certainly not a Democrat, as that party leans toward government overreach that puts individual liberties at risk.
Still, it’s the Democrats these days whose promises at least exhibit a commitment to humane values, social equality and individual liberty that mark this country’s greatest aspirations.
For some who share my values and hopes, the Libertarian Party is the answer. However, voting Libertarian in this election risks keeping the current administration in power, in no small part because this country’s two-party system denies other players a seat at the table. The Commission on Presidential Debates has created unreasonably narrow criteria to qualify for participation, requiring candidates to reach 15% support across five national polls to join. These arbitrary constraints just exacerbate partisan divisions, further limiting what’s possible for the American people.
The result is that the American people are dangerously locked in partisan corners. According to the Pew Research Center, 55% of Republicans say Democrats are “more immoral” when compared with other Americans; 47% of Democrats say the same about Republicans. The two major parties view one another in an even more unfavorable light now than in 2016, which already reflected unprecedented mutual disdain.
This untenable situation is partly the fault of the two-party system, which limits the choices Americans have and artificially shoehorns their anger — over a range of American failures — into targeting one party or the other. Now is the time to start thinking about how we can move beyond the two-party system’s major limitations, but focus first on removing the chasm from the White House.
I am far from alone in my political outlook, as some estimates put the number of Libertarians at 10-20% of the U.S. population (even if fewer are expected to vote third-party this year than in the past). These folks deserve a political home, and the country deserves a far more expansive, less constricted conversation about the policies and values that ought to shape our country’s future.
Clearly, my political predicament is widely shared. As a realist, assessing the two viable options we have, the best choice for this election is to help the Biden-Harris ticket win. As much as I would like to say, “a pox on both houses,” I cannot do so with so much at stake. For our country to survive, I need to make a choice based on what serves the longevity of our democracy, restores decency to our politics, and brings people together to solve our biggest problems, including the uncontrolled outbreak of COVID-19.
So I will be voting for the Democratic presidential ticket this fall and have donated significantly to the Biden campaign.
I also hope the Republicans start acting like the party I previously believed in — before we chose a leader bent on destroying the party and replacing it with a cult of personality. When our president suggested he may not leave office if he lost, he proved himself again to be disastrous to our democracy. I look forward to the day when the Republican Party once again focuses on genuine human freedom, including fiscal responsibility.
In a country of free choice, it’s ironic that we find ourselves, realistically, with only two, each on opposite sides of most issues. I can choose between 15 laundry detergents but my most important decision, and basic American right to contribute to choosing a leader, is limited to only two choices on opposite sides of the store.
Our nation’s founders wisely discouraged breaking into political parties, which they dismissed as “factions” that could only lead to individual and group interests trumping the good of the whole. Tyranny was likely to follow, against which the vigilance and virtue of ordinary citizens were the only defense.
All Americans are, in a sense, citizen-soldiers. We all have a role to play in defending this democracy, one in which party should never be put above country. We must come together now as partners across our many divides. We must make the right choice to ensure we all have more choices for generations to come.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jennifer Pritzker is president and chief executive of TAWANI Enterprises, which contains the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, the TAWANI Foundation and a real estate development and preservation company.
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