Obama vs Romney: Neither Candidate Offers Hope for Changing Broken Washington


Truth be told, I generally avoid politics and political discussions. A second truth be told, I am a millennial. Although I plan to vote for Obama, it's not because I'm a Democrat or because I particularly like Obama. I'm voting for Obama because I want to vote for Romney even less.

Stated more dramatically: America is Deepwater Horizon and my vote is fodder in Obama's garbage cannon ... which I guess makes Romney the guy with a sledgehammer, running toward the rig with promises of fixing it. I don't mean to use an extended metaphor, but I need to make sure I'm getting the most mileage I can out of my English degree.

Point being, it's the classic "lesser of two evils" conundrum, and it's really uninspiring. I don't see the root of this, however, as a matter of politicians being inherently corrupt, full of lies, or some other stereotypical characteristic. Rather, I see it as a result of our political system's addiction to unhealthy competition. We are the unfortunate proprietors of a system that has consistently failed to support collaborative, consensus-driven solutions. It is a system that encourages opposition and strife rather than collaboration. It is "you vs. me" rather than "you and me." And I think a brainstorming session is in order on how to fix this structural failure. 

To be fair, most politicians aren't caricatures of a willful, spoiled child who wants strawberry ice cream and refuses to consider Neapolitan. Collaboration obviously happens to some extent. And yes, any political decision is going to inherently require some amount of competition. However, a political system that supports cut-throat, winner-take-all races, that values dig-your-heels-in dogmatic consistency, is not the sort of system that's going to use its brain power to sharpen Congress' collective minds.

In the end, a system like ours ends up being about ego, a place where conceding a point is seen as weakness rather than strength. Each party is guilty of perpetuating this in its own way. If Romney, for instance, was campaigning as the level-headed moderate who successfully championed Massachusetts health care reforms and acknowledged the gray areas in women's choice issues, there would likely be fewer people automatically filling in a circle next to Obama's name. Instead, Romney fell into the party's center of gravity. Ultimately, he was more concerned with sustaining a prescribed image than he was in building upwards from common ground.

At the end of the day, both Republicans and Democrats will say they want compromise. The reality, though, is that no one likes compromise. How could we not want exactly what we want? Herein lies the problem but also the solution. Simply put: We have a lot to learn from each other, a lot to gain from stepping outside our narrow viewpoints. I don't generally have occasion to quote the bible but “as iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”

Ultimately, what we need is a functional government less burdened by toxic partisan politics, a government that actively values cohesion over vitriolic debate. Without a framework that more strongly encourages collaboration, that supports dialogue unfettered by tit-for-tat loyalty, it will be hard to move beyond the lesser of two evils.