Tag Archives: democrat

I Don’t Wanna Be Anyone’s Wrapping Paper

This piece from Quillette Magazine hit home with me in so many ways, but more than anything it articulated why I’ve never registered with any political party: I simply don’t want to identified by the labels attached to the parties. Here are some excerpts that will, hopefully, outline what I mean:

Labels suck.

Conservative, liberal, progressive, libertarian, green. These words have come to mean nothing about the folk that embody them. In our era of career politicians, it would be like saying a quarterback drafted by the Oakland Raiders is irresistibly  —  unequivocally  —  a “Raider” in his style of play. He’s not; he’s just a guy throwing a ball whilst wearing their black jersey…

As a corollary, political labels seem not just irrelevant but also treacherous. The wrapping paper of your Christmas gift may delight you… it still doesn’t tell you what’s inside the box. And that, matter-of-factly, is the gift with which you’re bequeathed; the wrapping paper soon squeezed and discarded. To think, and vote, using labels grants us a false sense of security and prohibits the unmasking of (most) politicians for what they are: virtue-signalers to their base, peddling false and reductive narratives  —  often devoid of context and policy. It’s a cunning sleight of hand, abetted by the mainstream media, that leaves a great number of us agreeing with people with whom we would otherwise disagree. And the principal reason why this occurs is because of labels.

It’s not only the politicians  —  as a system  —  that are to blame for this upside-down world. It’s us all, callous bearers of that almost archaic duty: citizenship. Too often we favour the collective over the individual, group think over free thought, headlines over trends. We reflexively embrace our fellow [insert your label] without examining how we ever wound up ascribing to their “ideology” or “party.” In the practice of political faith, no matter the denomination, we are either fundamentalists or atheists. We subscribe to all the commandments or none at all. When is the last time you met a Democrat in favor of the Second Amendment or a Republican supporting abortion? Religion was once described by Christopher Hitchens as “a surrender of the mind.” Increasingly, so is political partisanship. Truth and sense, historical perspective and systemic thinking, matter less than jersey colour. We relish the chance to define and affirm our sense of self in proclaiming, say, our liberal credentials or conservative pedigree. Politics shifts from a practice (“what”) to an identity (“who”).

You don’t have to work hard to test this theory. Simply post a hot-button political story on your Facebook timeline and watch your friends react exactly as you’d expect them to based on their labels, i.e. their party affiliations. It’s truly remarkable.


Picture linked from Piximus.net. Attributed to Brendan Smailowski/AFP

A silly non-consequential example that appeared on Facebook this week was related to the picture of Kellyanne Conway sitting on a couch in the Oval Office (see above) in what some people thought was an inappropriate way. Of course many “liberal” friends jumped all over it and then many “conservative” friends accused them of overreacting, and in the midst of that came this comment from a “conservative” that to me defined irony: “Why? Because liberals believe every photo/meme that they see on facebook is the gospel truth. That’s why.” This from a member of a group of people that spent eight years gleefully sharing every idiotic anti-Obama (including Michelle) meme you can imagine.

Here’s the thing: I have no idea if that particular “conservative” friend ever shared one of those anti-Obama memes, but she has identified herself as a member of that tribe so by default I’m assuming she did. That’s what happens when you identify yourself closely with a political party – you give people permission to assume that you believe whatever line that party is spouting. You can claim you’re an independent thinker all day long, but by raising your hand and saying “I’m a Republican” or “I’m a Democrat” you’re giving the world permission to assume that you believe everything that party espouses until you can prove otherwise. That’s why you’ll never see me join a party; I’m certain I’ll disagree with at least 25-50% of the policy positions that any party takes so I’m just not going to have my name associated with it.

As for the argument that people turn off their brains and just toe the party line, I’m pretty sure that if you asked anyone whether that’s true they would say, “Absolutely it’s true, especially with members of <insert opposite party name here>. Of course some members of <insert good guy party name here> do that too, but mostly the hard core nutjobs. Me and my friends aren’t like that.” Then they’ll fire up Facebook and start sharing idiotic memes as soon as your conversation is over.


I've never belonged to a political party and although I understand why belonging to political parties is attractive to some folks I just can't see affiliating myself with a group that I know I'm going to disagree with on a healthy percentage of issues.  Let's just say that in my lifetime I've been profoundly disappointed by both of the major political parties in America and amused/frightened by all of the fringe parties I've come across.

On the other hand I'm scared crapless of a no-party system.  Can you imagine how hard it would be to get anything done without the parties?  They do provide a structure for negotiations; people who are philosophically aligned on a majority of issues agreeing to negotiate through a representative with another group that is likewise made up of people who are generally in agreement on most issues.  So yes, I guess I'm a bit of a hypocrite because I do appreciate what the party structure provides but I'll be damned if I'm going to be a member of a party.

Today's news brings two stories that I think highlight the pros and cons of our party systems.  Here in North Carolina the General Assembly just voted to override the Governor's veto of a controversial abortion bill.  One member of the Senate Republican caucus originally voted against the bill before it was vetoed by the Governor, but when the override vote came along he abstained, which in effect enabled the override.  Here's what Doug Clark wrote in the Greensboro News & Record:

"He said the Senate Republican caucus made this abortion vote a 'caucus issue,' a vote where members would face sanctions if they voted out of line with other Republicans. Such sanctions could range from everything from being tossed out of the caucus or losing committee chairmanship to facing party-sponsored opposition in a primary."

Bingham yielded. He didn't vote yes or no, but simply took a walk. Without his opposition, the Republicans captured the necessary number of votes of "those present" to override the veto…

This kind of bullying — and it goes on in both parties — clearly is effective, but it wouldn't be if enough legislators would stand up for what they truly think is right. If the rank-and-file break ranks, the power of the leaders erodes.

Good legislators have backbone, and good legislation is not likely to be achieved by the threat of discipline.

I agree that legislators should always vote their conscience, but I also think that when you commit to a party you're committing to upholding the party's position and it would be difficult to turn the party for support on a bill you're sponsoring if you don't support the party's position on other bills. I'm not saying it's right, but I think that's one of the problems inherent to political party membership.

The other news item is the increasingly frantic debate in Congress about raising the debt ceiling.  The news du jour is that the Republican Speaker of the House can't get his party unified behind a Republican proposal in the House.  It seems that members of the conservative Tea Party segment of the Republican party, a group that swept into the House in last year's mid-term election, are refusing to budge from their own philosophical ground and are refusing to play ball with the Republican party leadership.  In other words they want to vote their conscience and they're being beaten up by the party bosses for it:

A frustrated House Speaker John Boehner had a blunt message Wednesday for his cavalier Tea Party colleagues: "Get your ass in line" behind the GOP's debt ceiling plan…

Boehner believes Senate Democrats will cave if Republicans in the House can rally behind his nearly $1 trillion proposal to raise the nation's debt limit ahead of an Aug. 2 deadline, when the Treasury will run out of money to pay all its bills.

So "get your ass in line," Boehner demanded.

His spanking of rank-and-file Republicans came after it looked like an all-out war was erupting within the House GOP, which has nearly 100 Tea Party fiscal hawks.

Many Tea Party-backed conservatives insist Boehner's debt plan is too soft.

The infighting has forced Boehner to postpone a vote on his proposal until Thursday.

When you think about it from the individual legislators' perspective they're damned if they do and damned if they don't.  Defy the party bosses and vote their conscience?  Well you're gonna be skewered by the party and risk losing their backing when you need it.  Toe the party line even if you don't agree with it on a particular issue? You risk being seen as a party hack who's more loyal to the party than the country (or state or county) and you could lose favor back home.  That, in a nutshell, is why I could never see myself belonging to a party.  Heck, even as a rank and file member I'd spend all my time defending why I was not with the party on particular issues and, even worse from my perspective, the minute people see that "D" or "R" next to my name they're going to assume I agree with the party's position on any given issue. I can't stand the thought of being labeled like that.