By: Barry Switay
Few among us are unfamiliar with the major political parties fighting for office.
While it may seem a logical thing to do, casting one’s ballot solely out of loyalty to a party is a wonderful way to waste a vote, second only to not voting.
According to the U.S. Senate, a political party is a group of “individuals who organize to win elections, operate government, and influence public policy.” Some benefits of parties include making complex issues digestible to the public and giving people a sense of unity around shared interests. Problems arise when a political party becomes part of our identity. When this happens our capacity to think independently is watered down.
If we consider ourselves “yellow dog” party loyalists, we are likely to follow the ideas of the group of which we are a part. As party loyalists, we may also be likely to reduce social and economic problems to “the other party’s fault.”
A June 2014 Pew Research Center study, Political Polarization in the American Public, found that “the ideological overlap between [Democrats and Republicans] has diminished.”
The country is more polarized today than at any time in the last 20 years, according to the study.
This great divide between the two dominant parties makes it easy for us to determine that there are just a few perspectives or commit the fallacy of the excluded middle: if one party is “wrong,” the opposing party must be “right,” it’s either this way or that way.
I think if we work to leave the parties behind and distance ourselves from being “team players,” we can be a little more con- fident that our political views and voting tendencies are grounded in principle, not groupthink.
Instead of taking the shortcut to thinking that political parties offer, we should look beyond them and to the candidates themselves. We would be wise to pay particular atten- tion to whether a candidate’s past lines up with what they claim they want to do in the future.
In doing this, we should not be satisfied by the fluffy and cosmetic rhetoric found on candidates campaign pages. The list of helpful websites below will greatly reduce aimless Internet wandering.
With all this in mind, let’s be careful we do not vote against a party just to be rebels. The rebel in this case is defined as much by his/her opposition to a party as the member is defined by their support of it. And if we go with a party, let’s not just follow someone else’s ideas.
I think the key here is to make political decisions based on our own well thought out principles. We should reach our own conclu- sions first, then if we choose to, look for a party that shares our perspective. The incorrect approach is to become a card-carrying member of someone else’s point of view.
- votesmart.org- Use this non-governmental, non-partisan, non-profit organization to dig up loads of facts about candidates big and small.
- ballotpedia.org- Use this site for detailed info about any and all elections and ballot measures. Note: while this site uses a wiki platform (meaning anyone can add info), everything is fact checked before it is published on the website.
- http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/VoteList.aspx?Chamber=1- Use this site to learn how your Georgia state Senate and House members have voted.