Competition is rooted deeply into American values and pastimes.
We compete in sports, we compete in business, we compete in the military. In all arenas, we unflinchingly want to be the best. No guts no glory. Second place is for losers. Haven’t you heard: winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Teamwork? Eh, not so much. Sure business consultants and HR departments promote it, but we lionize the individual who outperforms: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk. Who do you remember, the person who hit the most home runs, or the person who was nicest to their teammates in the dugout? We praise individuals for their individual success.
Competition among individual Americans and American companies has unquestionably made America great. But competition in one particular area is not producing great results: national politics.
Let’s first acknowledge that we feel rightly competitive about the American democratic system itself: our democracy is far better than socialism, far better than communism, far better than archaic monarchies. And the reason is that our capitalist system creates opportunity for the individual to wildly succeed. In the individual success of many, the country prospers as a whole.
But in our day-to-day politics, we have elevated partisanship into a new national sport. No law proposed by our political opponent contains a shred of goodness. Not only is the law immoral, but our opponent is personally reprehensible as well: Republicans want you to die alone and cold while a corporation steals the pennies from your eyes. Democrats want sexual perverts to populate girls’ bathrooms while they give away our country’s hard-won fortune to illegal immigrants.
It is not that compromise is difficult; it is unthinkable. Bi-partisanship is a dirty word, muttered quietly to avoid questions of one’s loyalty. And so we lurch wildly from one extreme to the other, with each new administration competing to see how quickly they can undo the legacy of the last.
Is it any wonder that our nation slides daily into further decay? That despite our enormous capacity to do good, we bumble about ineffectually decade after decade? If this is deeply depressing, and to me it is, we cannot honestly say that it is unexpected. See Congress Gets A Grade and Congress is Performing as Expected.
But that does not mean we have to continue to accept underperformance. Here are ten ideas to improve politics: Ways To Make Politics Better.
Send me your ideas and we’ll expand the list.