Since the days of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, the politics of this country has been defined by distinct political parties. Usually there have been just two major parties with names such as Democrat or Republican or Whigs or Reform or Green and others not as well know. The interesting thing is that you do not see political party or even primary listed in the constitution of the United States.
We are entering the heated Presidential election season and to much amazement a lot of conversation is not centered on Jeb Bush and Hilary Clinton, but instead a focus on Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. These two individuals, whether you agree with them or not, have brought a very different campaign to the American forefront. They are not sticking to the party lines and are letting their views be known to the world. In some cases they are being applauded, while in others they are being jeered.
As long as I can remember the United States political structure has been polarized. Washington DC has appeared to be more about political parties than bringing action for the American people. It seems each party has to take the opposite opinion of the other on virtually every topic. It seems these fights just go on year in and year out no matter who is in office. Aren’t politicians supposed to fight for their constituents? Instead they would rather fight for their party. In my view this has also led to a similar divide among people. As I watch in social media, it often feels that you are expected to take a firm view for or against these individuals. But I for one am more complex than that. I am willing to bet that many of you are as well.
Over the years I have voted for each party, concentrating more on my view of the person than a laundry list of issues that usually align to their party’s beliefs. I will not say this has been ideal, because as many of these politicians reach office they seem to forget about their people and concentrate their success within their political party.
In September of 2014, Princeton Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Professor Benjamin Page published a report declaring the United States is an oligarchy. An oligarchy means that the political power within a country is held by the few over the masses. The study found the wealthy elite tend to control the power of the country. This occurs in many ways, often how our politicians are able to fund these expensive campaigns. I think it is time we return the power to the people!
The popularity of discussion involving Mr. Trump and Senator Sanders to me is more indicative of a broader view of the citizens. We are tired of politics as usual. We want to find someone who represents us and not a party. The key to finding this starts within each of us. We have to learn to respect others, even if they do not take our own political views. Otherwise we are no better than the political divide within the US House or Senate. We each have the power to define the future of our political leaders. We can do this in the way we discuss our own political needs and the politician we choose to support.
This is only the start of the political conversations, but if we want to drive the necessary changes we must first start by respecting each other, even when we may have differing political views. Second, we must demand more from our politicians to be supportive of their constituents and not the political party system. Third, let’s place less and less of an emphasis on political parties and more on the people. It all starts with respect.
I believe the world will be changing dramatically in the coming years and each of us has the opportunity to help lead this change and create something truly special. But if we cannot get it together at home, how can we create the right changes throughout the world? Together we will identify the right leadership for the future!
Frank Eliason is the Head of U.S. Digital and Customer Experience at Zeno Group, a global, integrated communications and PR agency in New York. His prior executive assignments include Global Director and Senior Vice President roles with Citi. Frank served for three years on the Board of Directors of the Council or Better Business Bureaus (US and Canada). He is a LinkedIn “Influencer”, and has contributed multiple articles to ExecutiveVine.com.