Political Parties for Everyone’s Interests



Christopher Ebbe, Ph.D.    11-18


ABSTRACT:  A government involving mainly political parties that advocate for only part of the population is not necessarily the best way to govern.  The advantages of parties that advocate for all citizens are suggested.


KEY WORDS:  government, politics, political parties


Political parties, as currently constituted, seek to advantage some citizens but not others.  In their current incarnations, the Democrat(ic) and Republican Parties in the U.S. have different memberships and each tries to find advantage for its own members.  Parties seek to advantage their adherents by passing legislation that gives them a special status or a special break (like tax breaks for the rich, higher minimum wage, and making crimes against members of certain groups “hate crimes”).


The efforts of all parties to advantage some over others create instant and perpetual conflicts and an atmosphere of “fighting” between groups each seeking advantages for its members (or trying at least to keep their members from being downgraded in status).  The parties all seek power so as to be better able to institute changes and policies that will advantage their supporters.  The parties represent themselves as crusaders for “the right” and as fighting against evil and wrong-headedness.  No party admits that its policies are to the advantage of some citizens and the disadvantage of others.  This is a key dishonesty that makes hypocrites of almost all politicians and is the psychological basis of the view of many citizens that politicians are all sleazy and liars.  (As an aside, political “debate” would be more useful if everyone who asserted a position would also acknowledge the ways in which that position is to the disadvantage of some citizens.)


The number of citizens is growing who abhor the constant fighting in Washington (and in state capitols), and the divisiveness that results.  This disgust is reflected in the growing numbers of voters who register as Independents rather than as Republicans, Democrats, Greens, or whatever else.


One might think that a way to improve the workings of government, given these conflicts, is for the people involved to talk to each other more, and a few are trying to do this, but since most citizens are ill-prepared to discuss sensitive issues effectively, they shy away from even making the effort, expecting all such interactions to turn into heated arguments rather than discussions.  Congresspersons are hardly more prepared than ordinary citizens for such conversations.  As a result, everyone uses political parties as proxy battlers, whose efforts and antics are avidly followed through the various news channels, as everyone hopes their parties will “win” just as much as they hope that their football teams will win.


There have been many public calls recently for more civility in politics, and one possibility for accomplishing this would be to discipline ourselves to have only polite political interactions, but the efforts of news media to make money by exaggerating conflicts works against the restraint needed for civil discourse, as does the fact that having civil discourse about emotional issues takes considerable maturity.  An additional issue is that most elected persons are deathly afraid of publicly compromising for the sake of the country as a whole, since they think it looks better to many voters if they are “fighting” for something.


One way to reduce this perpetual conflict would be to have several parties each of which attends to the needs of all citizens—the ultimate in “inclusion”!  The positive vision of this possibility would be like having all types and strata of people as part of each party’s convention (probably every year) at which the needs of all classes and groups of citizens are presented and a plan for meeting all of these needs as well as possible at that point in time in an acceptably equitable way are formulated.  So, the “Republican” convention and all other party conventions would formulate explicit plans to benefit all of the various groups of citizens (by race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.) rather than just those who currently “belong” to the party.  These explicit plans could then be published and compared.  In this vision, having separate parties would be useful only to encourage the maximum in sensitivity and creativity regarding how to enhance the welfare of all citizens.  Each of these parties would compete in regard to how well they could meet the needs of all citizens, not just the needs of some subset of citizens.  In this system, citizens would quickly come to view any party that advocated for only one group as destructive to the overall social order (unless that group was for some reason not included adequately by any existing party).


We do not naturally have parties that attend to the needs of all citizens mainly because people naturally group with those who are like themselves, which leads naturally to shared concerns about the lives of only those people that we “group” with (in other words, self-centeredness).  Existing parties would probably claim that they are attending to the needs of all citizens, but their own platforms and public relations make this clearly untrue.  The best that we can say of them is that some members may sincerely believe that if they could make the laws and structure society the way they wanted, then everyone would be better off and that they therefore are attending to the needs of all, but their statements and actions show indisputably that they favor some groups and ignore others.  It is possible to argue that a society formed by one party’s views and intentions is the best that human beings can do, but this means that some subgroups will have better lives than others, and the disadvantaged would probably not agree that this is good enough!


A party that attended to the needs of all would, for example take a position on immigration that set a limit on annual immigration (for purposes of assimilation), proposed a fair, legal, and timely way to become a citizen, and established an appropriate (and not favored) status for immigrants.  It would put forth a position on tax levels that both encouraged investment and economic growth and limited spending to a balanced budget each year, without government borrowing.


The acute reader will realize that Congress should be doing this same compromise process all the time. I am suggesting that people (political parties and Congress) should do this with an attitude that accepts that working together for the good of all is their fundamental purpose and not an inconvenience.  Working together to address the needs of all groups of citizens could lead to more of a sense of equality and to more concern about our fellow citizens.


The attitudes in Congress encourage fighting and denigration of others.  Having this compromise work done within each party in a sense transfers some of the hard work from Congress to the parties (who would then present their proposals in the general Congress for consideration, competing for which had done the best job of grand compromising), but this would work better than the present situation because within each party there would be voices for all groups in the country (not true in Congress), and since they are all in one organization (the party), they would experience more “pull” to come up with outcomes that are acceptable to all, whereas in Congress the parties are by definition in opposition to each other (and sit in opposite places in the room), which does not encourage jointly acceptable outcomes.  More importantly, no current party even claims to be representing all groups (i.e., the Republican party does not try to represent Muslims and trans-gender persons who are Republicans).  Instead each group wants to get as much as it can for its most powerful members, even if it is to the disadvantage of other members and other groups.  One cannot be a member of both the Republican party in Congress and the Democrat(ic) party in Congress, but perhaps we should question if it must be this way.


The United States holds as a fundamental value that the needs of every citizen are equally important.  This is not stated in such language in the Constitution, but the thrust of the Bill of Rights is clearly in this direction, and our judicial philosophy strives to make conflict resolution and behavior management as fair as possible.  “Fair” is taken to mean that the rights of all are equal.  (The recent Supreme Court decision to allow corporations the same political speech rights as persons clearly works in the opposite direction, making some people more equal than others, since the rich (at the top of corporations) will have more say about society than the poor.)


To carry out this vision, parties would have to be developed or reformed to take the responsibility of representing all types of persons  The attitude would need to be different—i.e., the parties would acknowledge their impact on all citizens and be accountable for that (whereas now they just ignore those they don’t want to represent).  This attitude would result in more fair consideration of the needs and desires of all.  Being forced to attend to the needs of all would ultimately promote a more positive attitude toward all other citizens.


This balancing/compromising activity is very complex, of course.  How do you compare the needs of one area for a superhighway and the needs of an agricultural area for more research into crops that can stand the higher temperatures that seem to be on their way?  All delegates would have to be both caring and flexible.




In order to consider fairly the needs of all groups of citizens, the party conventions would have to be structured to include all groups.  This could be done by ensuring representation by gender, cultural background, religion, age groups, sexual orientation, gender identity, geographical location, living environment (urban, rural, etc.), disability status, income, and job type.  It would be important that all representatives be persons with an inclination to value others’ needs and not just their own.  Some delegates might be able to fairly represent more than one of these groups.  A facilitating committee would be needed to daily gather, summarize, and feed back to the convention the important points in each discussion, and these persons would be chosen for their empathy and fairness.  (Perhaps a philanthropic foundation would fund a model convention of this type to try it out.)




Basic selfishness is a significant barrier to having political parties that have platforms taking into account the issues and needs of all citizens.  It is certainly natural for people to want to make their own lives as good as possible, but we have a choice of whether to do that through competition (fighting other citizens to gain advantage over them) or to do that through a cooperative process that wants all citizens to have good lives and accepts that significant inequality is basically destructive to society (and is certainly harmful to those with less desirable lives).  The reader should hold this debate within himself or herself right now.  Do you want to have the best life possible through “winning” over others or taking advantage of them (which is what most people are doing now, whether they realize it or not), or do you want to have the best life possible through discussions and planning that take care of your desires and those of everyone else at the same time?  Don’t fool yourself that you can have it another way.  If you get a tax break for yourself and people like you, then other citizens have to pay more to make up the difference.  Those currently better off might lose a little if the needs and desires of everyone (lower down in the status hierarchy) were taken into account, but we are rich enough now that that decrement would not really be significant for the lives of those who have more.


This “cooperative” position does not require prohibiting all competition.  It is possible to do your best individually within the existing rules with no motive to “win” over others, but when you try to rearrange the rules to your advantage, you will be rearranging the rules to someone else’s disadvantage.  Is that “fair”?


It will be difficult for many people to believe that one can have a better life from attending to the needs and desires of others as well as to one’s own instead of always trying to get more than others, but we can identify the psychological issues involved—the motive for control and the wish to be better than and be better off than other citizens (which is the opposite of equality).




All human beings would like to be in control of their lives, as much as possible, and the freedoms that our society espouses give each of us some degree of control.  Since for survival and for having what we now consider to be a good life we need the cooperation of others (for growing our food, making our TV’s, etc.), we would like to control them (make them think and feel as we do, make them act in ways that we like) so that they will always cooperate with us to get us what we want.  This desire for control is a key motivating factor for both elected officials and for voters.  So, one key to meeting the needs of all in society equally, whether that is within parties or in Congress, is for us to give up trying to make others be in certain ways so that we can get what we want, and accept that each person has his/her view of a desired life and that those views are all equally valuable and acceptable within society.  If we accept that others’ desires are just as important in the bigger picture as ours are, then we are not competing with each other to get more but rather accepting that each person deserves the same “shake” that everyone else gets.  If we believed this, then we could accept not getting everything we ourselves want.  We would still strive to get whatever we can or want but without disadvantaging others.  We would then be more open to negotiation and compromise, since we would not be driven by the need to “win” or to do better than others.


I suggest that all efforts to get something for oneself to the detriment of others should be considered to be immoral, whether that is one child taking something that belongs to another child on the playground or getting elected by urging voters to be angry with certain groups in society or to view them as subhuman.  Getting something for oneself to the detriment of others is immoral because one is consciously harming others, and harming others is immoral.  Right now, many people in our country would not agree with this but think that it is perfectly OK to put others down or take things from others if that will help them get what they want.  Many of these efforts are not currently unlawful but are still immoral.  (One basic test of acceptable equality is that all groups in our imagined convention would feel at the end that they had gotten something for themselves and that what they got was not too out of line with what other groups got.)


Making this attitude of taking everyone’s needs into account workable requires a shared sense of what is “fair,” since human beings are “built” to accept a surprising amount of inequality based on social hierarchies.  Is it “fair” for some persons in society to have no healthcare while others are able to buy healthcare?  This has been thought to be acceptable for centuries, but now it is starting to seem unfair.  Societies tolerate some unfairnesses based on these social attitudes and because they don’t see how to do anything about them (widely varying wage levels, limited availability of certain resources), but slowly over time, it appears that significant inequalities come to be addressed (gender, sexual orientation, a “living wage”), one by one, and healthcare is one of these that happens to be salient right now.  The point is that what is acceptable changes over time.


Unfortunately, most people who rise to the top in political parties have strong control and power motives, which means that they believe that people are best managed by the power of authority and that the freedom of others can be legitimately infringed based on what they themselves believe is best for society.  They also want to hold more power than others in general.


People with strong power and control motives are prone to fight with others over power and control, rather than to seek understanding and compromise, and this is a key source of the tendency of politicians to promote silos in which their adherents view others who are different as threats.  We would have a more orderly government and one that can attend equally to the needs of all citizens if more political leaders were of the “understand and compromise” type.  Citizens could make this happen if they wanted a more orderly and equal society, by voting for candidates who were of the “understand and compromise” type rather than for candidates who promise to “fight for them.”


An example of giving up some control for the sake of greater cooperation would be having an expectation that everyone who asserts a political position would also acknowledge (in the same speech) how that position is to the disadvantage of certain citizens.  Those who assert a position are loathe to do this (loathe to work against their own wish to control and to be powerful) because it undercuts their argument and weakens the persuasive power of that argument.  Giving up a little of that power would be a strong signal to the “other side” that compromise might be possible.




To have the value of “one man—one vote” in a democracy implies that the rights of all citizens are equal and that the needs of all citizens are of equal value.  This implies that the needs and desires of all citizens should be given equal concern by government (the basis for my suggestion that each political party come up with a comprehensive plan to benefit all citizens equally, or at least acceptably).


Equally important for a happy society is the fact that people who are viewed as lower in the social hierarchy (and therefore of lesser value than those higher up) suffer damage to their self-esteem and therefore to their happiness and energy to succeed in life.  This is blatant inequality, created as a by-product of the human tendency (perhaps even imperative) to form social hierarchies and to thereby control the violence that results from inevitable inequalities.  If we really believed in equality, then we would strive not to value those higher in status more than we value those of lower status.  This, of course, would require going against our instincts, which are supported by our experience as children of being of lower status and of needing to fight to gain status.  We would have a much happier society if we acted in ways that convey that we value all equally.  (This does not mean forced income equality, for example, but basic valuing of all simply for being human and alive.)  Forming status hierarchies is probably “in our genes” now, so valuing all persons basically equally would require each of us to consciously reform why we value others.


The key implication for government of this desirable equality in need/value is that no individual will get special privileges from government but will get instead the same treatment and privileges that every other citizen gets.  The desire for special treatment always stems from wishing to be better than others (higher status) and wishing to be better off than others.  If one  wishes to get special treatment from government (a tax break, a zoning relaxation), it usually reveals that he does not value equality for all citizens and prefers striving to get what he wants regardless of the impact of that on other citizens.  If one wishes to change something about taxes or zoning, they should be changes that apply to all citizens, not only to oneself or one’s social class.  (There should be the same limit, for example, on the money each individual or corporation can spend on political advertising or advocacy.  Having more wealth should not result in some citizens having more political clout than others.)  We can make society more democratic and happier by treating others as basic equals and not striving to be “better” than them.  This, of course, requires us to give up our desires to be better than others and to best others, motives that are developed in childhood and are never questioned by most people, even in adulthood.


Imagine a world in which everyone took into account the welfare of others who would be affected by his behavior and in which we viewed the welfare of others as almost as important as our own.  It would mean the end of pretty much all interpersonal conflict and war.  We could largely trust others not to take advantage of us.  Owners of businesses that create air, water, or ground pollutants as part of their processes would find ways to keep those pollutants from affecting others negatively, without being forced to do so, because they valued the welfare of all who would be impacted by those pollutants (which would, of course, result in less profit).   Are you willing to do what is necessary to have this kind of world?  You would need to (1) treat others as basic equals and view their welfare as almost as important as your own, (2) stop trying to be better than others or special, (3) learn to have healthy self-esteem yourself (which is based on seeing ourselves realistically and treating ourselves well, rather than on finding reasons to think that we are better than others), and (4) accept the economic consequences of this greater equality.  This will be difficult but doable, and if you (and others) don’t strive to live like this, we will simply continue to have all of the conflicts that we now have with others, since as long as people try to be better than and be better off than others, others will resist and fight back to be special and better than others, too.  It’s your choice.  To support this greater equality, you must come to believe that you can have a better life overall by attending to the needs and desires of others as well as to your own, rather than by trying always to do better than others and be better than others.  If you choose the “fighting for what you can get” option, then you should stop complaining about others who are doing the same, since you are  just like them.


You may think that this far-fetched scheme of political parties valuing the needs of all will never happen, but the point of the essay is to make clear that without (1) restricting our political interactions to polite and civil ones simply in order to have more effective politics or (2) a change of attitude toward all of our other citizens and their needs, we will continue to have the same kind of fractious, uncivil, unpleasant political interactions that we have had for the past several years.  There have been numerous public calls for more civility in politics, and this essay adds the more satisfying possibility of viewing our fellow citizens differently—as equals and as fellow citizens about whom we care.  Human beings typically care about only a couple of hundred people (apparently because of evolution), but we are capable, through empathy regarding the things that we all share simply as human beings, of appreciating the life experience and life quality of all other human beings across the globe, if we choose to, and this empathic appreciation for the situation and needs of others is well within our grasp if we would only develop it and encourage each other to develop it (i.e., turn it into a public value).

You may object that for you as an individual to change operational modes (from self-centered to all-centered) would make no difference in the world, and it is true that for society to feel different, a majority of persons would probably have to make this change as well as you, but if you don’t do it, then you give others an excuse not to do it, since they will have the same objection (why should they risk losing out by not being as self-centered if no one else is doing it?).  This is the same concern that many have about recycling—why should a few people go to the trouble to recycle if no one else does?  Decide how you want society to be, and then be a model for others of positive change!  At least you will be more relaxed and successful in making a quality life for yourself than those who choose to continue to try to “win” over others.  (For a more in-depth consideration of what a good life is, see the essay on What Is “Good,” What Is “The Good,” and What Is “A Good Life?” at www.livewiselydeeply.com under Philosophical Issues, or see my model political platform at that same site.)