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Politics needs reason

| Monday, September 21, 2015

As I sat in my room and watched the Republican debate this past Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think about the real people behind the personalities on my television screen. As a Political Science major and someone who may want to pursue politics in the future (I promise I’m not that bad of a person), the snapshots of the people that I saw were not one bit encouraging. Even though I really believed that deep down the candidates on that stage were all reasonable and well intentioned (with a few exceptions for Trump), the conversation on that stage didn’t do anything to persuade me of that. These debates and this entire campaign season has done nothing to make me feel better about politicians or politics in our country — a sentiment that much of our country holds.

To be clear, I don’t only lack faith in Republicans. It’s everyone in politics. We’ve seen so many examples of unwillingness to compromise, untrustworthiness and unproductivity. In the past few years, we’ve seen a government shutdown, an enormous change to healthcare in our country that was rammed through without any sort of bipartisan support and a lack of action on the issues that threaten the future of our nation. We have one front-running candidate who disregards rules and another who disregards the simple notion of respecting people. Nothing can get done in Congress, our president can’t (and doesn’t) dream of getting Republicans to support him on anything and people such as Donald Trump are front-runners because of our country’s dissatisfaction with politics. How did we get here?

There are so many problems within politics that there isn’t a certain action or inaction that has created this system. But so many things can be fixed. First of all, we need reform. Real reform in many different places. Our politicians are influenced by so many more things than the one factor that should influence them: their constituents. Today, politicians are influenced by their donors, lobbyists and their desire to get reelected. These aren’t the people whom they were elected to represent, and these influences need to be curbed. This isn’t necessarily because politicians are naturally greedy or people who are easily influenced, but rather because this is what our system today perpetuates, and it needs to change.

In order to successfully implement any change, our leaders need to recognize that the greatest things our country have accomplished haven’t been pushed through without compromise. From the founding of our governmental system to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, our country has been great because of our leaders’ ability to compromise for the good of all. In spite of this, no politician wants to be seen as a compromiser; rather, every one wants to be someone who “stands by their principles.” For example, every single Republican candidate on Wednesday wanted to highlight their similarity to Ronald Reagan’s conservatism, economic policies and foreign policy, yet none of them mentioned his/her ability to get so many things done with bipartisan support (such as the Tax Reform Act of 1986). Until we get back to celebrating and replicating those victories where Republicans and Democrats worked together, our politicians will continue to argue and posture but get nothing done.

Our political system is also in shambles because of everyone outside of politics. Too many citizens today fail to recognize that the majority of people in Washington are there because they want to do what is best for our nation. Furthermore, just as our politicians have become increasingly polarized, so have our own interactions — it seems to be what drives conversation. We saw this in the debate this past Wednesday, as CNN continually pitted one candidate against another, seeking argument and conflict instead of real solutions to the problems that face us. Once the media and citizens seek facts, answers and real ideas instead of rhetoric and entertainment, our politicians will be held accountable and driven to action.

Even though all of these changes seem to be good, they can understandably seem unrealistic. But as citizens in a democratic nation, nothing can happen without our voices. We cannot let our politicians continue to refuse to do what’s good for the best of our country out of self-preservation. Until we demand that our politicians seek reform, not reelection, we will not solve the issues that threaten our future. As we head into 2016 and beyond, we all must look past the rhetoric and start striving for real change that will keep pushing our nation down the path to greatness.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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