There is little doubt that our political system has evolved into a deeply entrenched two party system. Our “representatives” position themselves to look good for their constituents who share similar views. The unfortunate citizens that happen to be in a district with a representative that does not share their views are left voiceless.
This form of representation comes in direct contact with our founding ideas. One of which is memorialized on the solemn Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. President Abraham Lincoln poignantly addressed the nation after the bloodiest battle in North America to date with 51,000 dead, citing, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” While there were distinct parties at the time, the Republican president was not trying to posture his party over the other party which happened to be Democrats. His ultimate goal was to keep the nation together.
The ideals of this first Republican striving to have a government for the people somehow have become lost in our contemporary political times. During the Sunday, May 4, 2014 Meet the Press on NBC, a panel of politicians and press sat at a long oblong desk to discuss the current events of the day. At the end of the show, Will.I.Am, a musician and group member of Black Eyed Peas, informed the panel of his work of helping at-risk youth. While his message was a bit clumsy, he identified peoples’ frustration of not understanding “the complex between Republican, Democrat, Congress.”
One of the panelists, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah attempting to agree, explained,” an opportunity for Republicans is on privacy, safety, and security.” Will.I.Am immediately corrected Chaffetz, interrupting, “it’s an opportunity for America to make sure companies like Apple are in Detroit and we’re educating young kids at an early age to learn to be technically, digitally literate.” Stressing America, Will.I.Am displayed the public’s continued frustration with how discussions of America fracture away from being about how to improve education for the country and is replaced by representatives splintering off from the issue and delineating it as an opportunity for Republicans and not the people.
Representative Chaffetz statement indicated that his purpose was to elevate the Republican party. His lack of acknowledgement for the American people displayed that he represented, “for the party” and not “for the people” like the Republican President Lincoln spoke of in his address over 150 years ago. The disconnect between the people and the representative was clear. Will.I.Am was striving to find ways to educate the youth. Representative Chaffetz sought to better the Republican party. It is quite ironic that the first Republican pushed for a government for the people and Republican Chaffetz’s ambition was to place one political party over another. The current Democratic party is just as guilty of strategically setting an agenda to make its party look better than the other.
The governed lose when representatives are only representing “for the party.” All of the issues important to the people like education, health, and jobs are manipulated by representatives to make their party look better than the other. There will be some people that will have their views represented. When only a few have representation, all Americans lose because views are not challenged and sculpted into a better idea that benefits all. Instead, we all cheer for our corner and ignore the problems that remain unanswered. When we take sides with no intent of listening to the other view, Americans become enemies with each other.
President Lincoln knew all too well how ugly America can become when we are enemies. As our country divides into sides, again, the current war of words have the potential of becoming an even more menacing predicament, an actual war. President Lincoln’s, and our, hope is for representatives to stop working for their political parties and honor their duty of serving all people, initiating a government that once again works “for the people”, uniting the splintered country.
For the Will.I.Am Meet the Press video, click here.