Unite Blue, tcot, OWS, Tea Party, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Conservatives, Progressives, Americans Elect, Independents, and so on and so on. By the way, if you join the “No Labels” organization, isn’t that in itself a label? The growing dissatisfaction with political parties has led to an increase in loosely affiliated grass roots organizations, AstroTurf created special interests groups, and the ubiquitous ‘unaffiliated’ Independent voter. Between 2008 -2012, 2.5 million voters left political parties to become independents raising the number of independents to 40% of all registered voters, larger than both primary political parties. Of course, assuming Independents are a monolithic bloc is naïve and all too convenient.
So why the political diaspora? Have people connected with an inner Groucho Marx: “I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” The recent debate on drones has created some interested bedfellows as progressive politicians and commentators have sided with libertarians in their concern and distrust of a government serving as judge, jury, and executioner. Meanwhile, there have been indications that folks across the political spectrum hoped the sequester would kick in, albeit for different reasons.
Political parties are dubious, even more so with the influence of special interests and it doesn’t help when the Democrats send a memo to new freshmen Congressmen recommending they spend four hours/day on the phone with campaign donors. Many liberals feel the Democratic Party has moved to the center, some conservatives think the GOP has lost its way; DINOs, RINOs, EMOProgs oh my. Are we becoming more diverse society while becoming very narrow individuals? Do we become obsessed with singular issues that cannot be sacrificed? Should the Keystone pipeline be so divisive that it inhibits compromise? By the way the Keystone debate is a curious one in that labor supports it and environmentalists oppose it leaving the Democrats in a political base tug of war. Do we become entangled in multiple issues; all of which are non-negotiable? Can we not compromise on anything?
So I find myself debating folks on the left as well as the right. I also find myself arguing both sides of an issue because complex issues merit debate. We can have tax reform that increases receipts while not stifling investment, we can establish a tax code that is neither overly progressive nor excessively regressive, we can promote renewable energy sources while cutting coal in favor of natural gas, and so on. As soon as one side realizes that the environment is not in grave danger and the other side realizes we cannot drill our way to energy independence we may come up with a solution to energy problems. Yes we can still embrace a pro-growth strategy in the short term and consider longer term austerity. And yes social security may not have contributed to the deficit, but to ignore the burden of mandatory spending in the future is foolish. I can be pro teacher but oppose some teachers’ union stances. I can believe in charter schools without realizing they are the sole solution. Oh, and there’s that drone thing too.
So are we an amalgam or are we silos? As we splinter from political parties into neo social media political activist entities do we become less inclined to debate? While it is it easier to unfollow, defriend, or block someone you disagree with, it does not advance developing a solution. We drop a political party affiliation in favor of a political social network. For better or for worse? You decide. But from where I sit, the noise is obliterating the signal and we are not getting through to one another.
In the meantime I stay unaffiliated but unencumbered. Take a side, take both sides, and seek knowledge and debate the issue, don’t attack the person.