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Crystal Thornebrooke: Polarization in America and the Path Forward

Polarization is destroying America and the two-party system is to blame. Why are we allowing a failing system that incentivizes corruption and incompetence to determine our fate?

There is another way.

The duopoly is preying on our tribalistic tendencies, manipulating us into believing that we are ideological enemies. I’m not taking the bait.

Everywhere I turn I hear stories about relationships being damaged due to political disagreements. Indeed, some of my own friends and family have cut ties because of political differences. Twenty-two percent of Americans used to cross party lines when it came to elections. That number is down to 7 percent today.

Polarization is stunting our individual and collective development. As individuals, our cognitive development depends on cultivating critical thinking skills. In order to cultivate such skills it is absolutely essential to engage with diverse views and perspectives.

When we limit ourselves to only engaging with ideas that confirm our beliefs, we hinder our own development. On a collective level, we need critical thinking skills in order to innovate and problem-solve. At work too, a healthy exchange of ideas is necessary for progress. How are we supposed to compete in the global marketplace without the best and the brightest? We need to open our hearts and our minds.

A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that polarization in America has been on the rise over the last four decades and is increasing at rates higher than other democratic nations. One of the differences between America and other nations measured is that the other nations have multi-party systems. Perhaps more options provide less incentive to pit people against each other.

To be candid, a democracy with only two options is not a democracy at all. In America, the system is designed to remain unchanged, allowing the status quo to go uninterrupted.

The evidence speaks for itself: Congress has a 28% approval rating yet a 92% re-election rating. Polarization will likely continue to accelerate unless we take swift action to correct our course.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is indeed another way. It involves working together to repair our broken system, united by our shared commitment to this country.

The Forward Party is a national movement that seeks to strengthen our democracy through practical solutions, such as ranked-choice voting, nonpartisan and open primaries, and easier ballot access for third parties. The overarching goal is to create a healthy, representational, multi-party system that reflects the will of the people.

The best part is, all are welcome. No matter what your voter affiliation, background, or beliefs, you can join in support. With enough support, we can have this done lickety-split.

What is it going to take for each of us to reach across the divide and collaborate constructively? To summon the courage, grace, and tolerance to save this great nation and uphold the American Dream?

We are all in this together. The fate of the country is in our hands. Don’t wait for the cavalry. Be the cavalry.

Crystal Thornebrooke of Wheeling is the state lead for the West Virginia branch of the Forward Party. She holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Columbia University.

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