Editorial: Radicalization of political parties hurts everyone

Editorial Board

The modern political paradigm dictates that candidates rush to the party peripheries as quickly as possible. Our current system dictates that actors compete for the vote of the tea party and the support of unions β€” forcing candidates to prove who is the most Republican or Democratic at the expense of finding who is the best candidate.

Newt Gingrich noticed this trend, and during the New Hampshire debate Sunday, he pointed it out on the stage. His idea, that we need the most radical contrast to President Barack Obama, seems common in the current Republican Party. Other candidates have expressed the same opinion in statements such as, “Now is the time for a true conservative,” and the need to “rally the tea party.”

However, as politics radicalizes, who benefits? It appears that the candidates are too busy attacking one another to consider the presidency. Jon Huntsman can’t run because he served a Democratic president, Mitt Romney is eliminated because he has stood for gay rights, and Ron Paul can’t gain support because he is out of party line on foreign policy. What should matter most isn’t necessarily who is the greatest contrast from Obama, but who would be the best president and why.

Part of the problem is reflected by the narcissistic trap of the “horse race” media. Reports on who can gain the most support, what are the numbers in the polls and who has the most enthused supporters contribute nothing to practical debate.

As a public, we lose. We never see the true qualities that could make a good president. Or, if we do, their opposition quickly distracts us toward their lack of conservative value. It’s become more important to be Republican or Democrat than it is to be a good president.

Political parties lose because they build a structure in which they must continually get more radical. Where will the Republican Party go from the tea party and how can candidates be even more conservative?

The country loses as the president refuses compromise. Instead, a game of brinkmanship is played against the nation. Parties lose the necessary abilities to see perception and depth to solve the political problems. We lose any merits of our opponent’s position and fail to unify for strength.

Instead of focusing on party, ideology or electability, the public and the media need to focus on qualifications and ideas. Rather than rushing to the ends of the political spectrum, candidates would serve the people better meeting in the center and debating the issues.

Doing so would determine who is the best candidate for president and not who is the most electable. Having engaged, substantive debates would better inform the public on political problems and solutions.