The state of American politics on this election day
November 8, 2022

I no longer write about politics a lot. After many years of
activism and community organizing, and having witnessed the sorry
state of U.S. politics, I sort of lost interest. As conservatives
used to say, not everything in society is politics, and not
everything in society should be addressed in the realm of politics.

Once again, today's midterm elections are called "the most
consequential" of our times. I've heard this two years ago, four
years ago, six years ago, and eight years ago. Most of my friends
these days are Democrats and left-leaning independents. They feel
that a Republican victory will bring an existential crisis to the
United States.

They routinely characterize Republican voters as racists, white
supremacists, greedy capitalists, monsters, mentally ill, cultists,
and worse. They seem to believe that every voter who chooses a
Republican candidate is a literal KKK and Nazi member, a
misogynist, and a homophobe, whose ONLY reason for casting a GOP
vote is pure hatred. "Voter suppression!" they float conspiracy
theories of billionaires and the Trump family systemically
destroying the country. Whether this is true or not, let's flip the
script for a few minutes.

Republican voters also believe that today's election is "the most
consequential" of all times. They characterize Democratic voters as
communists, "white-hating racists," anti-Christian bigots hellbent
on shutting down their churches, monsters, "libtards," cultists,
and worse. They seem to believe that every voter who chooses a
Democratic candidate is a literal "baby-killer," "groomer,"
"pedophile," and satanist, whose ONLY reason for casting a
Democratic vote is pure hatred. "Voter fraud!" they float
conspiracy theories of George Soros, the Chinese Communist Party,
and the Clinton family systemically destroying the country.

In reality, most American voters want the same thing: a better life
for themselves and their families, a good, safe community for them
to live in, good paying and rewarding jobs, and perhaps most
importantly, freedom.

Not so long ago, everyone understood this, and the opposition party
was nonetheless the "loyal opposition," loyal to the country and to
the people they represent. Nowadays, it feels like elected
officials of both parties feel obligated only to represent their
own party and not all constituents. Thanks to hyperpartisanship,
American politics became highly toxic. Loyalty to the party and the
mega-donor class is more important than loyalty to the
constitution, to the citizens, and to the constituency. But this
divide is not caused only by the GOP, the Tea Party, or the MAGA

Democrats accuse the "MAGA Republicans" of denying the legitimacy
of the 2020 presidential election. They conveniently forget that
the Democratic Party spent four years denying the legitimacy of the
2016 presidential election (although, to its credit, President
Barack Obama committed himself to a peaceful transition of power).
For a few weeks after the 2016 elections, the leftists took it to
the street every night and some of them rioted. They cannot accuse
the right-wingers of political violence when the left-wingers have
engaged in political violence in the fall of 2016 and in the spring
and summer of 2020.

Indeed, the "stolen elections" trope originated in the 2000
elections, when many Democrats aired grievances over the Supreme
Court's handling of the Gore v. Bush case and subsequent ruling
installing President George W. Bush. Eight years later, the GOP
reciprocated by peddling the Birther theory, accusing Barack Obama
of "illegally stealing" the presidency. This has become a vicious
cycle, further undermining the legitimacy and trust of this
republic every election cycle.

The sad truth is, the Republican voters sincerely fear the
Democrats, as much as the Democratic voters sincerely fear the

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary (, the
origin of the word "party" is the Old French word for "that which
is divided." Modern partisan politics began in the 18th century in
Great Britain, and later this practice was imported to the United
States. By its very nature, political parties are divisive. They
turn a legislature into an adversarial game between two teams (even
in a multiparty system, they are usually grouped into the governing
coalition and the opposition). Over 300 years later, it seems that
this failed experiment has become untenable.

Part of this toxicity comes from the sense of powerlessness. Why do
all these professional politicians, controlled by lobbyists and
powerful donors, make so many decisions that affect our daily
lives, hundreds or thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.? To
make the situation worse, not all congressional representatives are
equal: If your U.S. senator's name is Mitch McConnell, he has far
more power to shape the nation's laws and politics than, say, a
senator named Raphael Warnock. Seniority and committee chairmanship
give certain few members of Congress an extraordinary power that
others do not possess, even though you may not have elected them
and they may not represent you. Even though we have this biannual
civic ritual called elections, our voices are practically ignored
the rest of the time. Elected officials only seem to care about
their re-elections and winning political gamesmanship. They are
more than happy to ignore you and throw you under the bus if that's
convenient for them. Even though the Declaration of Independence
reads, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just
powers from the consent of the governed," when was the last time we
had an opportunity to explicitly give that consent to be governed?
Unless you're an immigrant from another country, you have never
given meaningful consent to be governed by the government of the
United States of America. You were just born into it and grew up
mindlessly reciting the pledge of allegiance every morning, and
indoctrinated into being "American." Democracy is a joke unless you
have a meaningful voice and participation in it. Practically,
beyond your county and your city, an average citizen has no way to
influence policies and make themself heard. Grievances occur when
some powerful politicians and bureaucrats try to shut down churches
because of a virus, force small businesses to pay an obscene amount
of fees for endless permits just to do a few small things, to force
your local libraries to remove books those politicians dislike, to
prevent you from making your own healthcare decisions, and to tax
and regulate your daily life to oblivion. It has become quite
obvious now that the key to solving this problem is
decentralization and devolution. Ideas such as subsidiarity,
distributism, localism, libertarian municipalism, and mutualism
should be explored while gradually reducing the scope of the
federal government and Congress to their constitutional confines,
and also redistributing the state government functions and
decision-making powers to counties and cities.

Having lived in a rural county in Oregon for almost four years,
nearly half of which under the state's COVID-19 policy, has helped
me gain a broader perspective on politics. The Democratic Party of
Oregon, whose support mainly comes from urban areas such as
Portland, has long imposed a restrictive forest and timber policy
that hurt the local economy in the county whose key industry is
timber. Even as forest fires keep engulfing large swaths of Oregon
each summer, the state does not allow responsible forest management
practices such as thinning and controlled burning. Timber Unity
began as a result of this long-standing frustration and the
Democratic governor's seeming neglect of rural Oregonians. Having
spent long enough time to know Columbia County, I have been quite
supportive of them.

This summer, I spent time visiting smaller cities and towns that
are run by Republican politicians (although in Oregon, most county
and city elected positions are nonpartisan, it is not hard to find
out their party registrations). Contrary to a stereotype of a "MAGA
dystopia," these cities are well-run and thriving. For example, the
mayor of the City of Sandy is Stan Pulliam, a "MAGA Republican" who
lost his bid for the governor during the 2022 primaries. Sandy has
well-maintained streets with good bike lanes and sidewalks. It also
has an impressive public transit system, Sandy Area Metro, which is
free within the city limits (or $1 per ride for a door-to-door
demand response service). It has city-owned broadband called
SandyNet, parks are beautiful and have good amenities, the public
library is one of the best in the county, and small businesses are
thriving (my impression from the very low storefront vacancy rate).
Indeed, Mayor Pulliam was one of few public figures who stood up to
Kate Brown to help keep small businesses open and their employees
employed. The same can be said of other cities such as Wilsonville,
Sherwood, Tualatin, Newberg, and McMinnville.

As long as we see those who are outside our political and
ideological bubble as less-than-humans, scary monsters, mentally
ill, and enemies, America will continue to be polarized and more

Perhaps one of the reasons why this keeps happening is the death of
civic society. We tend to hang out with like-minded people, which
is quite natural. But there was a time when we had other venues
where we get to know other people outside the political and
partisan environment: such as churches (before many denominations
became reflections of political partisanship), civic service clubs,
fraternal lodges, bowling or bridge clubs, and so on. There was a
time when Americans had an access to communities that were purely
apolitical and non-governmental (on this subject, read Robert
Nisbet's book, "The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of
Order and Freedom"). After all, it is harder to dehumanize and fear
people if they are someone we personally know and see every week.