America’s Problem This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Ask any American what they think is the biggest problem in the United States and the answers will be pretty predictable: that taxes are way too high; the health care situation is appalling; something about the war in Iraq; or the soaring cost of oil. One problem that goes unnoticed is the fierce division between political parties. The fact that alignment with one of the two major parties is what really matters in an election is hurting our society, our tolerance, and our individuality.

America has always had multiple political parties. The idea of party politics isn’t necessarily a bad one, but it becomes a problem when one or two parties dominate for a long time. Since Franklin Pierce was elected in 1853, all presidents have been either a Democrat or a Republican, which begs the question of what voters look for in a candidate: a certain party membership, or actual leadership qualities?

The two-party system seems to be dividing our country - we’re running on a “you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us” philosophy. One can’t be successful in politics unless you’ve chosen a side. The division between Americans really became obvious when pollsters started producing maps depicting “red” and “blue” states. The country seems no longer to be the United States of America but the “Democratic and Republican States of America,” which isn’t exactly united.

Not every president has favored the idea of party politics. In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington said, “They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party.” In short, he’s warning that political parties smother the opinions of the individual American, favoring instead the opinions of the party as a whole. He was accurate in predicting that this would happen; the only candidates who have won presidential elections are those who have been aligned with the most popular party. Instead of a contest of “may the best man win,” it’s a contest of “may the most popular party win.”

When most think of politics and parties, they think of the adults who run America, but many teens have strong opinions about what goes on in our country. Some have already aligned themselves with political parties; those who keep up with current events often come from families who do the same and hear their parents’ strong opinions. While the political guidance of parents can be beneficial, what is it doing to the mindsets of America’s youth? If a teen grows up in a household that is strongly for one party and radically against the other, it is completely realistic to think that that teen will grow up to be just like the parents, but is it really right to bring up teens this way?

The parties have increased intolerance toward others. It seems like one can’t gain favor with one party’s members unless one does something crazy, like make crude jokes about leaders of the other party or insult fellow Americans by calling them dirty traitors and Nazis for having their own opinions. Many politicians believe that their party is the best, that all people who think differently are wrong, that their morals and ideals are above others, and they need to be in control of the nation or it will crumble.

Ask any American which political party is best, and the answer will probably be either “Democrats are better, those Republicans are driving our country into the ground” or “Republicans, because all Democrats care about is ruining our morals.” How many would say, “Both parties have their pluses and minuses, so they’re equal?” What percentage of Americans believe that all people’s opinions matter and shouldn’t be constrained within the confines of political parties?

If Americans were to see clearly from both sides of the ballot instead of viewing the world as either solid red or solid blue, then maybe we’d have more respect for the opinions and views of others. After all, all men are created equal.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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