Political Parties aren’t Religions

One of the issues I have with the political debates in this country is the misguided notion that political parties’ philosophies are monolithic. They just aren’t. Political parties aren’t religions. They have shifting alliances and priorities and philosophies throughout time. No matter that the parties themselves will try to tell us otherwise. Parties are private entities whose aim is to get into power. They will use whatever means necessary to get that and if it means shifting their constituencies from time to time, they’ll do that too. If you are a Democrat now, does not mean you would have been a Democrat 200 years or ago or even 40 years ago. Same with Republican. Parties will compromise internally with the greater goal of getting into power.

I don’t care about down-the-line party politics much anymore. I have voted Democrat because I’m mostly a social liberal. Sortuv. But there was a time when the Republican party had liberals in its midst. There was a time when the Democratic Party had segregationists in its midst. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Jefferson Davis, a Democrat, was President of the Confederate States of America. The segregationist Dixiecrats moved from the Democratic party to the Republican party. Richard Nixon launched the Southern Strategy. I don’t care.

No Democrat can truly claim that Hillary Clinton is an across-the-board liberal. And no Republican can plausibly label Donald Trump as a died-in-the-wool conservative. I voted for Hillary despite her reprehensible neoconservative foreign policy views. And I know there are many who voted for Donald Trump but find his social rhetoric and thin-skinned demeanor to be less than.

political parties and libertariansShortly after the election, I met a friend out for drinks. He had voted for the Trumpening and talked about the President-Elect’s First 100 days plan. First on that plan will be an attempt to impose term limits on the Senate and House of Representatives, a partisan-neutral goal which I think almost anyone could support. In his second breath, he admitted to me that he didn’t really like Trump. But for a right-leaning/conservative libertarian who favors less government regulation in economic matters, voting for Hillary Clinton was pretty well out of the question.

No one, including your humble narrator, is perfectly internally consistent. We vote as we do in the hope that the issues we find most pressing will be addressed and those on which we disagree will be minimized. Even if the USA had more than two major political parties, there would likely be no party which accurately represents an individual’s preferences. A non-interventionist foreign policy or gun rights. Anti-choice on abortion or a stronger welfare state. Etc. Check out the (admittedly simplistic) chart of political philosophies. Do you stand squarely in the middle with libertarians? There is a tension here which neither party can ever resolve. And the purely libertarian perspective is one which has tensions of its own. So let’s cut the bull once and for all that one or the other party (or even the Libertarians or other minor satellite parties) are pure and good and consistent.



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