American politics today are mainly consumed with one thing: The fight between Democrats and Republicans. It was not always this way. In fact, when this country was formed there were no political parties. There were only concerned citizens of the new nation who were dedicated to protecting and bettering it for future generations. Party lines were never a consideration. In the Founders’ minds, if something would further the country they loved, it should be done.
The Democratic Party formed in the 1790s and at its formation, supported states’ rights and strict adherence to the Constitution, as well as opposed a national bank. It was originally named the Democratic-Republican Party and was founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. They reached power after the election of 1800. In 1812, their chief political rival, the Federalist Party, disbanded. It was at this point that the Democratic Party was formed, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin van Buren. These and the other members of the Democratic Party strongly believed in the old Jeffersonian principles. The Republican Party was not formed until 1854 and first reached power in 1861, through Abraham Lincoln.
While opposing political parties are common in a democracy, they were never meant to take over domestic politics. When a Congress cannot work together and begin to improve our economic situation here at home, something is wrong. Think about it: In 2011, twice we faced the threat of a government shutdown because Congress could not agree on a budget. Our credit rating was also downgraded for the first time, from AAA to AA+. It may not seem like much, but as the most exceptional nation on earth, more is expected of us.
When did the focus of those in power shift from bettering the country to bettering their own careers? We need people who are focused on why we elected them: Preserving and protecting this country and its principles. Our principles are what made us different from every other nation on earth; if we continue to go downhill in that area, what will happen to this country? We will be shoved into the jumble of nations that compete for higher status in the world hierarchy. The United States is currently at the top of that hierarchy; why, then, would we risk that position? Loving this country is what put us on top. Through love of country, hard-working people came here to pursue their dreams and have helped put their country further ahead because of it. Through patriotism, faith in God, and hard work, anything is possible in America. Our political parties are threatening to change all of that.
I have a challenge for all members of Congress. For one month, put aside your party affiliation. The letter beside your name should not determine whether you vote for something or not. What determines that should be the question of whether it is something that benefits America. When Congress puts aside the labels of Democrat and Republican for that month, all of them will replace it with a new label: American citizen. Each member of Congress is an American citizen, just like you and me. By wearing that label rather than that of Democrat and Republican for one month, unbelievable change could be brought about. The number of issues that have gone unsolved could have been greatly reduced if greedy politicians had not been so focused on that party affiliation.
I am a proud Conservative. I believe the conservative vision is the one America desperately needs right now. However, I also believe there are many in Congress who wear that label without realizing the responsibility it brings. We need to put aside all labels in Congress and focus on getting things done. Would this challenge work? I’m almost sure of it. Would it be accepted? We may never know. It is possible, but only if concerned citizens take it upon ourselves to make it happen. Call your elected officials and tell them your concerns. Encourage them to set aside their party affiliation and focus on what they were elected to do. If we hold our Congress accountable, they will have no choice but to work together or risk being kicked out of office. Those who fail to work with others were probably never concerned with the well-being of the United States in the first place.
My latest article in Smart Girl Nation highlights this issue as well (page 22). If we do not keep our Congress in check, they will become a burden to this country rather than a help. I would love to see this Congress take the challenge I specified above. It could make all the difference in the world. How far must this bickering on Capitol Hill continue before it is stopped? As American citizens, we can stop it through elections; but does it have to go on until November? Our elected officials need to “man up” and turn themselves around. If not, many of them will be ushered to the door come November. Maybe that really is what we need; but until then, our Congress needs to prove to this country that they care about America’s future and are willing to fight for it. This challenge would be the perfect way to start.
Originally written for Next Generation Voters.