Party loyalty restricts free flow of political dialogue
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 23:09
The political climate in the United States is very polarized between the two major parties. This leads to a situation where citizens view the opinions of their party’s leaders as infallible. This is compounded by politicians who refuse to criticize the leaders of their party. People, whether they are voters or politicians, need to view the decisions of their party with more scrutiny, rather than automatically taking the stance of their leaders.
When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, his platform included closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. A Marist Poll three months into Obama’s first term showed that 72 percent of Democrats agreed with their Party’s top politician and supported closing Gitmo. Only 21 percent wanted to keep it open, with the remainder undecided. Three years later, once the President had reversed his position, a survey by the Washington Post and ABC found that 62 percent of Democrats supported keeping the prison open. This represents a swing of 41 percentage points among Democrats, or almost half the Party. Those people consistently supported their party leader’s positions, even when those positions changed. They gave little if any thought to the merits of the issue, opting instead to support Obama’s position just because he was Obama. They gave little thought to whether these two stances contradicted each other, instead choosing to support whatever Obama happened to support at that particular moment.
This trend is seen across presidencies as well. Democrats, both regular citizens and members of Congress, criticized President Bush’s continued involvement in Iraq, saying our presence was completely unnecessary. On the other hand, Bush’s fellow Republicans strongly defended the President’s actions. Now, Barack Obama is preparing for military action in Syria, a country with very similar circumstances to Iraq. A corrupt dictator is attacking his own people using chemical weapons and may have weapons capable of use against the West. However, now it is the Democrats who want military action and the Republicans who oppose it. Barack Obama supports this war, so most Democrats automatically do so while most Republicans automatically oppose it because their party leaders oppose it.
There needs to be more independent thought in this country. When asked why they support one of President Obama’s policies, many Democrats will simply repeat whatever President Obama or prominent Democratic Senators said in their speeches, regardless of whether they understand it. Similarly, when asked why they oppose that policy, far too many Republicans will repeat back material from John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and other important Republicans, often without understanding what it even means. It is important for these people start to think for themselves, rather than let their Party’s leaders think for them. Sadly, the politicians themselves aren’t setting a very strong example, with many votes in the Senate and House being divided along Party lines.
Furthermore, there are only 100 Senators, 435 Representatives, plus President Obama himself. That’s 536 people out of 300 million Americans. If all 300 million citizens started thinking for themselves, many of them would be able to provide unique perspectives not offered by either Party’s prominent politicians. Sometimes, politicians deliberately refuse to introduce new perspectives which conflict with the views of their Party and its leaders. Other times, they do not realize these new perspectives at all. Regardless, they are not being publicized.
This is exactly why we need the people to determine their own perspectives rather than just listening to their party on everything. There are many ways for them to share those perspectives once they decide them, including social media and just talking to friends and family. Eventually, these opinions would get up to Congress. In the current political climate, members of Congress, like most Americans, are afraid to deviate from the party policy. However, this needs to change. Once this happens, the parties can craft policy that reflects Americans’ real opinions, rather than the policies of some elite members of the Democratic and Republican Parties.