It is time to confront the systemic flaws of America’s political regime

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: If the country truly wants to heal, the United States must work for the collective

Illustration of a crowd of people raising their fists in front of the white house.
Jericho Tang/Staff

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The United States had a hectic Election Day, or rather, an Election Week. In one of his first speeches as president-elect, Joe Biden said it is America’s “time to heal.” He’s right; the political fatigue of the entire country is a testament to that fact. But how will this healing happen?

President Donald Trump, a misogynist who validated racist and xenophobic rhetoric, holding office is a problem; but he is not the problem. Our system of ingrained polarization did not start with Trump and it will not end with him. If the United States is truly going to heal, it must face its many systemic flaws — flaws that are part of an inequitable status quo that cannot be countered with complacency.

Part of the issue lies in the United States’ individualistic and independent culture. Even in California, the country’s most liberal state, the majority of propositions that would have served all members of society were shot down. They seemed to have failed because the debate over these propositions centered on how they would harm individuals, rather than how they would benefit society.

Proposition 15 is one such example. If passed, it would have taxed commercial and industrial properties valued at more than $3 million on their current market prices instead of their values when purchased, predominantly to fund schools. Despite the fact that this tax would have only impacted corporate properties, not residential properties and small businesses, just the mention of a tax was enough to put off many California voters. Because of decades of carefully weaved political rhetoric, taxes are unfailingly met with knee-jerk opposition.

But taxes are necessary to secure sufficient funding for essential social services, including education. Property taxes are the main source of funding for public schools, and as a result, individual schools’ access to monetary resources varies widely, with many marginalized groups suffering the brunt of decreased quality of education. And yet, when met with a proposition that could have advanced the learning of the rising generation by taxing the bodies most able to proffer funding, California’s supposedly collectively blue population said no. In eliminating a possible tax, viewed as harmful to individuals, California voted against progress for the collective.

Calls for Americans to organize, call their representatives and even vote on specific issues can divert attention from the fight against systemic shortcomings. These actions are undeniably crucial, but the fact that individual actions are inconsequential when they operate within inequitable political structures, such as the Electoral College, is inexcusable to everyone, Republican, Democrat or otherwise. We cannot work or vote for the collective if the system we vote in is flawed.

Regardless of what you believe, stay involved. Keep caring about and calling attention to specific issues, but remaining politically engaged also means confronting systemic flaws. No one is happy in our country’s current political regime. We can’t wait four years to heal.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.