The Divided States Of America: Has The Population Outgrown The Political System? [Opinion]

George Washington once referred to the American political ideal as “The Great Experiment.” Of course, when he made that statement, things were a bit simpler, and the population wasn’t quite as large. Diversity wasn’t exactly a factor either since voting rights were only granted to white male landowners.

Obviously, from the very beginning, there were problems in our political system that needed to be worked out. However, the concept of an experimental government was one that seems to have been lost throughout the years. Perhaps, it should again be embraced today.

For decades now, America has watched inequality grow at a rapid pace. Increasingly, the voice of the working class population has been drowned out by big banks, multinational corporations, lobbyists, superdelegates, and the consolidation of media outlets. In 2014, BBC News reported on a Princeton University study that confirmed what many had already suspected; that the U.S. is indeed an oligarchy.

“The US is dominated by a rich and powerful elite.”

Today, the division between various political factions of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents has never been more toxic. While neoliberal ideology battles progressive ideals, the alt-right attacks the religious right, and traditional conservatives wage war against moderate liberals. Truth be told, our entire political system has turned into one big noxious swamp, and every last one of us is stuck in it.

A government of the people, by the people, and for the people isn’t made up of a handful of billionaires. Our political system should not be assembled through political dynasties or inherited entitlement to power. Allowing our representatives to make six-figure salaries while those they purport to represent work multiple jobs and live paycheck-to-paycheck is nothing short of an appalling travesty.

Clearly, breaking up America into a collection of smaller countries would be a monumental task. Admittedly, it may not be a very realistic thing to suggest. However, anything is possible, if not probable, and breaking up the country would allow for much more experimental policies on a smaller scale, while also breaking up the political monopoly on power.

United States of America with state names
[Image by FoxysGraphic/Thinkstock]

On January 8, 1790, George Washington delivered the very first “State of the Union Address” to a population that included 3.9 million people in 13 different states. Today, that population has ballooned to nearly 319 million people, many with differing religious and political beliefs, as well as various needs, wants, and abilities. Is one person, with their own set of biases and personal beliefs, really qualified to represent us all, or is striving for unity in a country this large merely a Sisyphean task?

As the population grows, so does the need for more diverse voices to reflect the population they represent. Currently, diversity is seen as a concept that generally only applies to race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. However, what is typically lacking in the diversity conversation is the topic of income and economics. We are a nation of mostly low and middle-class people, yet increasingly, we have become exclusively represented by a very wealthy few, many of whom have benefited from family connections and inherited wealth.

Just this year, we saw the two most unpopular candidates in American history face off against each other in the presidential election. While the Republican party ran a billionaire businessman with no political experience other than playing the system, the Democrats ran a political insider who makes more in a single hour than most people make in several years. It’s ridiculous to believe that either of these candidates could be capable of representing the working class of America.

Our Democratic Republic is currently broken, faith in our electoral system is at an all-time low, Donald Trump will soon be the most powerful man in America, and half of all eligible voters are either too disengaged or too disgusted to even bother casting a ballot. For eight long years, Obama preached about the need for unity, and all we got was more war, for-profit healthcare, taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts, and more tax cuts for the wealthy.

Crumbling and cracked American flag
[Image by Delpixart/Thinkstock]

Currently, the few progressive political accomplishments of the past eight years are now openly under threat from the incoming Trump administration. Despite that fact, we are now hearing the same call for unity in America coming from the President-Elect.

But let’s not kid ourselves, this is America, and in this country, the Left is no more apt to unite behind someone they believe is a racist, sexist, climate-change skeptic than the Right was to unite behind Obama. If we want to engage in wishful thinking along the lines of unity, we might as well consider the alternative as well, and imagine a world where America is made up of a collection of self-governed countries that each elects their own president. This, of course, would be similar to electing a governor, however, it would allow the population to participate in a more direct form of government. Eliminating the middleman, if you will.

Like the collection of smaller countries that make up Europe, this localized political system would distribute power more evenly, and would likely increase government efficiency and accountability. Each president would be responsible for a far smaller constituency and would be far more capable of making decisions that would directly benefit his/her citizens.

America is a massive country with many different viewpoints, political beliefs, and perspectives. Is it realistic to rely on a political system that was established for a population that would make up only one percent of what it is today? Furthermore, as the population continues to grow, insisting on unity might prove to be an increasingly impossible task, and maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s time for America to embark on another Great Experiment.

[Featured Image by kwasny221/Thinkstock]