CNN political analyst, Democratic campaign manager, and NAACP activist Donna Brazile conversed with the USF community last Thursday. I was lucky enough to attend the event.
In the middle of the conversation, Brazile turned to the audience defiantly and said, “You think Obama is a liberal? Oh no, I am a liberal.” After a student criticized her for not towing the line with the Democratic Party, Brazile replied that she identifies as a Democrat, but certainly doesn’t agree with everything the Democrats represent. Brazile emphasized her own political beliefs, never conforming to what may be considered “normal” for a person of her gender or ethnicity. The individuality Brazile advocated for throughout the night resonated with me greatly and reflected my own beliefs about the failure of the American two-party political system.
In the 2008 presidential election, only two political ideologies were represented. Each ideology embraced an “all or nothing” agenda: Barack Obama encompassed all things liberal, and John McCain advocated for all things conservative. In voting for Obama, democrats were assumed to be voting for health care reform, reproductive rights and affirmative action. In voting for McCain, Republicans were assumed to be voting for the War in Iraq, tax cuts, and free market policies. There was no middle ground. No voter was encouraged, for example, to support both reproductive rights AND free market policies. Americans seemed to think catastrophe would occur if a fellow citizen crossed party lines and ceased identifying with partisanship.
The animosity between Republicans and Democrats in the United States exemplifies the political failure of our nation. Donna Brazile encouraged USF students to remain independent from main stream political dogma, but unfortunately she is part of a severely repressed minority. Most Americans are compelled to identify with one political ideology, regardless of individual issues. This skewed perception of reality has been blatantly displayed by elected officials in the past decade. Last Thursday, before attending Brazile’s event, I watched portions of the healthcare summit on CSPAN. President Barack Obama made concessions to Republicans in the hope of finding compromise about healthcare reform. Republicans refused to accept all compromises, remaining rigidly conservative in all aspects of their proposal. Individually, many of the Republicans probably would have made adjustments to the bill in the name of compromise, but would not speak up because it would defy the demands of their party. The bureaucracy that dominates the American legislature has nearly obliterated freedom of speech and thought. Party politics are now more important than individual issues or voter representation. The demands for Republican candidates to display evangelical values, Democratic candidates to create market regulation, and both parties to hate each other equally are just a few other examples of how partisanship runs rampant in the American political arena.
Fortunately, Americans still have an opportunity to salvage political integrity. There is no requirement for citizens to exclusively support one party or the other. The creation of additional political parties that defy preconceived notions about liberal or conservative values could only strengthen political discourse. Donna Brazile’s ability to speak openly about her controversial political beliefs should encourage students to seek legislative inspiration outside of main stream American government.