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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

No Party Affiliation

I submitted this as an opinion column to Mercer's student paper during the elections- it still seems appropriate today. 

My Democratic friends find me to be conservative, and my Republican friends think I’m liberal. I like to call myself moderate, and so when it came time for me to register to vote, the box I chose was “No Party Affiliation”. It’s a common misconception that people with “moderate” views don’t have strong opinions on political issues, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am very opinionated and extremely firm in my beliefs, as anyone unfortunate enough to be in hearing distance during one of my rants about the public school system can vouch. What I don’t believe in, however, is voting along party lines. On some issues, I take a very conservative view; on others my opinions are quite liberal. And on some of the biggest issues, I hold neither party’s view, but take an extreme middle-line stand.

It frightens me when I hear people define their political views as those of either the Democratic or Republican party. I have to wonder if such people are truly aware of the issues at stake, or if they blindly fill out their ballots the way their chosen party told them to. The truth of the matter is, America’s bi-party system allows an easy way for voters to be lazy by allowing people to believe they are performing their civic duty of voting, without first performing a much more important action – thinking. And as America becomes more and more divided between parties, the problem is just going to get worse.

Perhaps one of the saddest signs of the growing blindness of American voters is the invasion of religion not just into political issues, but into political parties. It is one thing for an individual’s religion to influence where he stands on various issues, but quite another problem when one is told that she must support such-and-such a party by a religious leader. With religion determining party lines, Americans just have one more excuse not to think before they vote.

At the root of the problem, I believe, is the fact that we only have two strong political parties. The natural result of this division is that in order to better challenge their opposition, each party is forced to take only extreme views on the issues that face this country. Either war is right, or war is wrong. Abortion should be legal, or it should be illegal.  The Democrats must present the opposite opinion of the Republicans and vice-versa. Consequently, when it comes time for Election Day, voters only have a choice between two extremes or, as the saying goes, the lesser of two evils.

What I and, I imagine, other moderates would like to see is the emergence of a strong third party, one that reconciles many of the ideals and extremes of the Republicans and Democrats. There are, admittedly, many so-called “third-parties” already, but none of them have the political clout to challenge the two established groups. And so, for this presidential election at least, most American will be choosing to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Will I be voting in the upcoming election? Of course. Will I be voting for a moderate third-party? Sadly, no, because I know that such a vote will ultimately count for very little. But I’m still hoping that eventually a strong third-party will emerge. After all, who doesn’t like more parties? 

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