A vibrant two-party system has always been the driving force behind Americas success.
By JEFF BOWLES
Special to The Star
If theres one thing certain about all of us, its that we, the people dont always agree. The result has been a political back-and-forth that led to finding compromises best for the most number of Americans.
This history of compromise has created an incredible standard of living, the worlds greatest superpower and a country universally viewed as a bastion of opportunity around the world.
However, over the last few decades, our two-party system has been degraded by fringe ideologies with deep pockets that hold sway over and require adherence to a narrow set of ideals that benefit only a few. As a political party caters to narrow interests, it loses touch with its founding purpose and ultimately the people it supposedly represents.
This corruption of our two-party system hasnt been even-handed, and it has laid waste to one party more than the other. In the wake of President Barack Obamas second inauguration earlier this week, you cant turn on the news or open the newspaper without hearing pundits from every political persuasion offer analysis about the future of the Republican Party and what it must do to stay relevant to more Americans.
Surely there is a problem. If not, then how could the Republican Party have failed to beat an incumbent president presiding over a sluggish economy with high unemployment whose singular achievement is a health care reform package that so bitterly divides Americans?
The explanations are varied and many. Republicans didnt do a good enough job wooing Latino voters. They let abortion politics alienate women voters. Maybe Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romneys comments about the 47 percent were just too easily exploited by Democrats.
But what these analyses miss is the central point that ties not just these few issues together but that underpins a significant portion of the current Republican Party platform: a lack of empathy and intolerance for Americans with life circumstances and viewpoints different than their own. This is what American voters picked up on and rejected in November.
And it is the result of a party platform built around the narrow views of an influential few instead of the broad views of the majority of the party.
Take, for example, the official Republican Party stance against abortion even in the case of rape or incest. While there is a vocal, well-funded and outspoken contingent of anti-abortion advocates within the Republican Party who wholeheartedly support this position, it is nonetheless far out of line with the values expressed by the average Republican voter.
This disconnect isnt limited to social issues. A regressive economic policy bent toward upper-income Americans and corporations was revealed when Romney, trying to curry favor with wealthy donors, made his infamous 47 percent comment.
Those comments told the average American that Republican tax policy was focused to benefit the influential few.
This country needs two representative parties to craft the compromises that will lead America forward over the next 100 years.
Which party you align with isnt important.
Whats important is that there continues to be at least two credible party options for you to choose from.
For that to happen, the Republican Party must change. Hopefully, that change will include a commitment to crafting a more inclusive party platform that focuses on the needs of average Americans, not just the influential and loud-spoken ones.
Jeff Bowles owns Proforma Promotionally Yours, a marketing and promotions company. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children. To reach him, send email to email@example.com or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.