At times in my life, I too have been the victim of partisan politics.
I have been an office holding member of a political party at the local, district and state levels, and have held fast — fingers in ears and eyes closed — at times in my policy beliefs. Anyone who cares is guilty of this, I’m sure.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize the answers to life’s problems often lie somewhere closer to the so called “middle,” and the Devil is always in the details.
Political parties serve a purpose and a lot of people do a lot of hard work grounded in the belief that they are doing what’s best for their community, state and nation. What often happens, however, is loyalty to a party clouds the vision of foundational principles parties were built on.
Often it becomes more about fighting for a party to collectively hold power than for individuals to stick to principles and serve rather than lead. And this destructive precedence always comes at a cost. It costs credibility and on a personal level, it costs respectability and honor.
I personally know a whole lot of good people in politics who do the right thing, even when nobody is looking. I personally know a lot of people of different political persuasions who work hard and serve their constituents above their own interests. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case, and too often the worst apples are the most prominent and vocal.
Over the last decade or so, I’ve chosen for myself a life that usually causes me to get hate from both extremes of the political aisle. I have a hobby. It’s calling people and groups out when they lack consistency. And it either makes people love or hate me, but I get called everything from a communist to a Nazi, which means I’m probably doing it right.
We’ve all seen it, and probably all done it ourselves at times. Somehow, when elected officials we like do something we’d normally be against, we ignore it and even explain it away.
A Republican Congress passing a tax hike or massive spending bill so often equals silent Republicans. A Democratic president bombing Middle Eastern countries without a declaration of war so often equals a silent Democratic base. Those are just two examples, but it happens over and over and over again until independent voters are tired of even listening and lose faith.
As for myself, I’ve been politically obsessed from an early age, so I’ll always go to the polls and vote, learn who my elected officials are at every level and sometimes even donate time or money to a campaign. But for the average independent voter, a bad candidate offers no reason to turn out to the polls.
And bad candidates have been a plenty lately, especially at the federal level. Regardless what we learn in our social media echo chambers or our fish bowl of friends and family, American brains operate somewhere in the middle. It’s human nature.
Every election, including this one, independent voters are blamed or praised for “costing” this candidate or that candidate one election or another. In reality, what costs candidates election is their inability to earn those votes.
Instead of being seen as an asset, independent voters are chastised, argued with and talked down to. Free agent voters aren’t uninformed or stupid, they are actually very informed and intelligent in most cases. While seen as people with no political foundation, the ones I know — myself included — actually have such strong political convictions, they don’t let party propaganda sway them into the “lesser of two evils” fear based anti-vote.
When political parties (namely Republicans and Democrats) learn to be more principled and consistent rather than simply playing a numbers game, the votes will come. They always do. Instead, parties and candidates are often nasty and condescending for years and then all of a sudden wonder where everyone went on election day. They stayed home, or showed up and left your race blank, or voted for a less powerful party’s candidate. Independent minded people don’t treat elections like a horse race, betting on who they think will win. They offer a vote for who they would like to win, and they pay attention to the fact that there are usually more choices than just the red and blue teams. Crazy concept, right?
So often people can’t fathom someone voting for a person other than the one they support, or having a belief different from theirs. That’s because they haven’t been listening, learning and building relationships with people who are different from them.
I happen to be a Christian, and this is also so often the case with evangelism, which is a dying art. Just like dying churches, how can political parties gain significant active members if fear of the impending end times is all they offer, especially when there is so often some very good news to present instead?
So friends ... I encourage you to be open minded, though steadfast in your convictions. I encourage you to listen more than you speak and engage in conversation to hear rather than to simply respond. See people as humans rather than the enemy, regardless of their beliefs. When you do that, you’ll realize people who have different beliefs usually care just as much as you do about your country, they just don’t always share your same opinion on how to best show their love.
Be kind, pay more attention to local politics than national and help others. Be the change you want to see in your community, because no president or member of congress is going to save or destroy America. We, as citizens, will ultimately be responsible for either of those outcomes.