Opinion: Being overly loyal to any political party is harmful
Political parties are constantly changing. The 2016 election was a textbook example of how quickly an American political platform can change. After all, if the incentive of the party is to get officials elected, it needs to change as people change.
While that is fairly straightforward, it also shows how remaining politically loyal to one party is harmful and can lead to you voting for a candidate not in line with your preferences. The best example might be the classic switch of the “Dixiecrats” to the current iteration of the Democrats.
The Democratic Party has had an awful, violent agenda against Black and brown people for over a century. They were the predominant party supporting slavery in the mid-19th century. They also had many members who opposed civil rights and gay rights and supported failed policies like the war on drugs.
Almost any time this editorial board (or any opinion outlet for that matter) writes on partisanship, we receive criticism for “shamelessly shilling for the Democrats and their entire history.” Which essentially is a straw man argument to make — the Democrat party is not the same party as Jackson’s, and the Republican party is not the same party as Lincoln’s.
To say you support the Republican party because they opposed slavery in 1865 ignores their shared role in opposition to civil rights, support for regressive economic policies and the current attempt to strip citizens of their right to vote.
You can appreciate a party’s historical victory without endorsing its entire policy history. By now, both parties are well over 100 years old. It is entirely unreasonable to say you are the same type of party member as a person who died 60 years ago.
Even the modern Democrat party has serious policy flaws that should make a party member question their loyalty. The continued support of tough-on-crime policies, drone programs and family-dividing deportation programs makes it hard for many liberals to wholeheatedly support the party.
Many moderate, long-time Republicans feel like they no longer have a party given the election of a far-right candidate. Over the course of two years, their party changed so much that it is no longer in line with their views.
What are the alternatives?
If you dislike both parties, you’re kind of in a bad situation.
While a third party vote may certainly help keep your conscience clean, it isn’t as effective of a voting measure.
Even then, having parties, no matter the quantity, lends itself to outdated expectations about the party given current preferences.
Although certainly imperfect, maybe the way to change our perception of American politics is to think of politics as the left-to-right spectrum rather than two superficially rigidly defined parties. Note that this should be seen as a spectrum where people fall in between the words right and left.
While the definitions of liberal and conservative may not be easily defined either, at least it gets us thinking of politics as a spectrum rather than categorical parties.
Public opinion is fluid, and our views of politics should reflect that.