It seems to me that in political parties, there are seven key issues represented; small government, social welfare and reform, fiscal responsibility, the middle class, the working class, religious conservatism and social liberalism.
In the US, small government, religious conservatism and appeal to the working class seem to coalesce around the Republican Party, while liberalism, social welfare and the middle class seem to coalesce around the Democrats. The issue of fiscal responsibility one would assume would be associated with smaller government, though this does not necessarily seem to be the case. In Australia, however, the issues align differently. The middle class, fiscal responsibility and religious conservatism (especially the Anglican church) line up under the Liberal Party (do *not* confuse the name with liberalism - the LP in Australia is definitely the conservative party), while social reform, social welfare, unionism and the working classes line up as issues centered around the Australian Labor Party. The Labor Party is more pro-environment (like the Dems in the US), while the LP is more about strengthening Australia's global economic position and using whatever methods possible to boost the balance of trade. The point is that the parties don't align with the same core issues from country to country.
So it makes one wonder how your average rampant Republican or zealot Democrat would cope when transplanted from one country to another, or indeed, if the issues which they hold as being indelibly linked were, in fact, split between different parties. From there, it's a short step to questioning how these issues were ever joined together so inseparably and from there it's an even shorter step to wondering whether it is indeed the issues we hold dear, or our membership of the party merely. Are we truly committed to the issues, or are we blindly holding to a party?
I have been interested to see, here in the US, people committed to a political party in ways which they simply aren't in Australia (where the chief religion is sport, and its subsets 'the weekend', 'my mates', and 'having a good time'). Watching the political process in this 2008 election year has shown a degree of partisan fanaticism and blind-eyed passion that is simply baffling to your average Australian. So I was fascinated to read *this* report;
Blind passion and commitment are excellent motivators but they do little to enhance objective reasoning. The concept of registering for a party - a system not employed in Australia - seems to have lead to a partisanship which has caused more harm that good in the US. Once people see themselves as Democrat or Republican, an attack on the party has become an attack on oneself. Could anything be more specifically tailored to preclude objective reasoning when assessing the candidates put forward by a party?
I am more than skeptical when I speak to someone who says they have always been a Republican/Democrat and have always voted for that party. Are all men equal? Is every candidate interchangeable just because they belong to that party? Are we so naive as to think all moral men belong to only one of these parties? That the alternative party is incapable of putting forward a candidate of advanced capability? And are we really trying to imply that all the issues important to 'me' are covered by one of only two parties? People are not so simple and the issues important to me would be unlikely to be adequately covered by a hundred different political parties.
The issues that I value are: adequate welfare, international responsibility and commitment to peace, international aid, environmental maturity and commitment, alternative fuel development, the mandated reduction of pollution, conservation of the UN and its powers, the Supreme Court, stem cell research, abortion, gun control, preservation of the free market, freedom of religion but the recognition of the US as a Christian country and the respect of its citizens to exercise their religious choice, prayer in schools, an overhaul of the ACLU, wildlife preservation, adequate health care, support for minority groups, and about a thousand other issues covered by neither party. My combined positions on these individual issues would put me squarely in...a political party which doesn't exist!
The passionate and unyielding support of one party indicates a degree of emotional investment that precludes logical detachment. If indeed that 3am call ever does come, I'll be looking for a leader who can step back from his or her own fears and prejudices - as they relate both to this country and to him or herself - and make the truly globally responsible decision. As people who vote, I would encourage you to get to know your candidates...but also your own prejudices and fears. Work out what's important to *you*, and accept that it will change as history and the world change, and vote with your head, not your heart. Gut feeling, intuition and instinct, when it comes to elections, are generally poor substitutes for knowing the issues and finding the candidate who best represents them.
Think, America. Think.