Friday, September 29, 2006

Question regarding my political party affiliation

I had a question to me regarding whether I've ever joined any political party. With election day fast approaching us, perhaps now is the time to address that issue. First, although I have for most of my adult life tended to favor the Democrats and their political views, I have never joined the party. Never stuffed an envelope for them or anything.

I supported them largely because of tradition, the tradition that if you're Catholic or Hispanic (and I happen to be both), then you supported the Democratic party. However, as I got into my late 20's, something happened in my family life: my grandmother died. At the time of her death, I had stopped going to church. There was no social or political reason that I stopped going - I am ashamed to say that I just got lazy. However, her death was a wake-up call, and I started going back after being away for years.

It was also the very first time that I really, truly studied Catholicism and what it believes, and why. Odd thing is, I went to a Catholic school for the first 8 years of my school life, but I learned more on my own in the months after my grandmother's death than I did in the previous years of my life. I also learned a lot about myself by critically examining my views as I had them at the time. You are probably wondering what all this has to do with the topic of my political affiliations. Well, for the first time in my life, I also examined the views of the Democratic party. And I found their views not only wanting, but actually in conflict with what I believed.

Most of the time when people tell such stories, they often follow up with "Then I saw the errors of my ways, and joined the other party." But that was not the case with me; I did not become a Republican. While the GOP shares some views with Catholicism, it also holds views that are inconsistent with Catholicism. So after my epiphany of wisdom, I began to realize not only how problematic the Democratic party is, I also realized how problematic the entire political party system is in general in our representative democracy.

What's problematic about it? The majority of the time, political parties put the interests of the party ahead of the interests of the nation and of the constituents that they are alleged to be serving. Also, I have found that the more someone is dedicated to a political party, the more likely they will see the world through the narrow lens of their parties' political views - which leads to adopting beliefs that "if you're not with us, you're against us." I see a lot of these people lose their sense of objectivity when they get to that point.

As someone who wants to write opinion columns for a living, having that objectivity is absolutely critical to the credibility of my views when it comes to expressing them. That's why I can no longer blindly accept the Democrats' views. It's also why I don't blindly accept the GOP's views. In fact, the problematic nature of political parties is such that I do not ever plan to join any political party, because my objectivity is that important to me.

I will not join any political party, because I want the freedom and independence of criticizing political parties should they ever go nutzo. If I belong to a certain party, then I'll have to bite my tongue when it comes to mistakes that my party may make. Also, if I deliver criticisms of the opposite party, it's easy to dismiss my comments as "expected responses coming from a political hack." All this is inconsistent with my belief of the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Political parties basically boil down to this: They view the world from only the party's perspective; anything outside it is anathema. That wouldn't be problematic so much, except that political parties often have a very narrow view of the world, which often makes them the secular version of sects in the world of religion. Religious sects are usually bound together by a strong disagreement that they had with the main religious body that they broke away from, and their views of the world are often very narrow and limited, and all members of the sect are made to tow the line, or they're out. Kind of like political parties, right?

However, I also realize that political parties serve a purpose. They help provide a candidate for office an already established "election machine" that helps him or her with all the fund-raising, scheduling of appearances, and other necessities to run for office. In other words, political parties spare a candidate from having to do all that himself. Very few people are independently wealthy enough to try to run on their own, so political parties step in to fill that need. Also, if you're running as a Democrat, then the voters have an idea on how your political views are likely to be - thus providing another shortcut for the candidate of having to be too public with his views (a concern mainly with touchy issues such as illegal immigration).

More and more, though, I am wondering if it is worth is to keep political parties in existence. However, what is the alternative? Would outlawing political parties help the way our country is run? Most likely, the parties will simply go underground, and we'd still have the same problems, they'd just be harder to deal with, because all the party shenanigans will be out of sight and out of reach. At least this way, we are more able to deal with the shortcomings of political parties because most of their activities are mostly out in public for all to see. I suppose that it's best that they stay open and public so that we can keep an eye on them.

But I still believe that there has to be a better way of doing things. I just don't know what that is right now. Give me time, though. It's not like this blog has an expiration date or anything. ;-)

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