A Politics Worth Watching
How citizens, the news media, and philanthropists could develop political discourse worthy of sustained public attention.
Americans broadly dislike both leading candidates for president in 2024 and would prefer to see other nominees. Congressional leadership and the two parties are viewed unfavorably by large proportions of voters. Nearly half of Americans now identify as political independents with partisan identification at record lows. The news media covering the show is roundly disliked and distrusted by people across the spectrum.
The evidence is crystal clear: America’s storied democracy is failing to engage its citizens in any meaningful and sustained manner. Lots of Americans simply don’t care about politics or respect the people who run it. Unfortunately, this opens the door for extremists of all types who want to shift the entire system in one direction or the other to fill the void.
We need to create a political system worthy of normal Americans’ attention—and interest. What would this look like?
No party tribalism. The crux of the problem lies in the distorted politics created by a dying two-party system. Where ideological diversity once roamed the land among both Republicans and Democrats—allowing for liberal Republicans, conservative Democrats, and moderates of all kinds to forge agreements on core national problems—ideologically aligned parties of today promote and reward rigid political conformity, with a few renegades allowed here and there. Little gets accomplished outside of crisis moments and short periods of unified party control. Campaigns and supporting media coverage in turn are unending parades of partisan negativity (“Who do you hate more—us or them?”) masquerading as high-minded debate about an “existential” crisis that requires voting one way or the other.
A future politics worthy of public attention must be developed both outside and inside of the confines of the two parties. We can’t easily replace or transcend the two-party system given current electoral laws (although ideas like fusion voting at least offer additional choices within the two-party system). But we can as citizens demand and fund increased ideological diversity among candidates and institutions within the respective parties, and reward news media organizations that cover political debates fairly and impartially as opposed to being on one side or the other.
Substance-first news media. The drawbacks of party tribalism get amplified by legacy commercial media—and now social media platforms forced on people by tech companies. Turn on any cable news or radio show, and you’ll hear nonstop yammering about the evils of the other party and its supporters. Scroll through social media or video platforms, and you’ll get uninformed partisan invective, false or inflammatory information, and increasingly entirely fabricated propaganda from combatants in the partisan culture wars.
Paying attention to politics as practiced today often makes you dumber and less informed than if you just ignored politics altogether.
A future politics worthy of public attention must create and support its own media and information network—entirely separate from the current most popular platforms—dedicated to “substance-first” news and reporting on major issues of national importance: What happened? Why does it matter? What solutions are being proposed? How should we evaluate these ideas?
Funding mechanisms dedicated to the common good. Billions of dollars get burned every year developing, promoting, and elevating tribal political conflicts in elections and in the media. America’s insane campaign finance system—and its companion philanthropic infrastructure focused on obscure partisan demands and culture war politics—allows virtually unchecked money to fuel ideologically distorted politics with few standards, boundaries, or accountability measures.
A future politics worthy of public attention must develop its own funding mechanisms—from small donors to big charitable arms—committed to nation-first public policy, fair and impartial news gathering and reporting, and robust political debate across the ideological spectrum that focuses on practical and innovative ideas for fixing America’s problems.
Rather than embark on quixotic third-party runs, or get distracted by social media vanity projects by rich eccentrics, patriotic Americans should commit themselves this presidential cycle to developing a parallel political universe—a political universe actually tethered to reality and good governance that is separate from the tumult of daily partisan combat; one that is focused on supporting multiple voices and platforms that feature accurate reporting and measured debate about major national issues.
TLP is planning to do its small part in this venture (starting this June) by tracking public attitudes about how the two parties are doing across 10 separate aspects of domestic and international policy, in what we’re calling the “Patriot Index”. The index will explore which party is better addressing a range of national concerns—or if neither one is up to the task according to Americans. The components include:
Building up America's manufacturing capacity
Ensuring American energy independence
Protecting American interests around the world
Maintaining a strong military and defense
Being culturally moderate and not extreme
Fighting crime and ensuring public safety
Taking on China in a smart manner
Protecting people's individual rights
Standing up for free speech and freedom of religion
People with a different perspective than TLP’s liberal nationalism should likewise set-up their own political networks to examine our nation’s core challenges and propose ideas to ensure that everyone in America is able to live well and succeed. Together, perhaps these new cross-ideological ventures can start to develop an alternative civic model aimed at engaging the millions of Americans who care little for contemporary politics.
The 2024 election need not be an expensive drag that everyone tunes out. We can create a politics that is genuinely worthy of public attention—if we put our minds to the project and dedicate more substantial resources to help it succeed.