Posted by: Jeff | February 24, 2010

I’m An Independent, You’re An Independent…

In his post on the upcoming Republican primary for Texas governor, Joe wrote that “We at The Regimen aren’t really all about endorsements. We consider ourselves independent of either party.” After posting that, he asked me (at poker, one of our usual forums for discussing the blog/podcast) what I thought of his description of what we’re about. In one sense, what Joe said is technically accurate. We certainly don’t consider The Regimen to be an organ for either the Democratic or Republican party, and would never advertise it as such. I think Joe and I have made good faith efforts to set our own politics aside at times to offer an objective take on particular questions or issues, such as our podcast on the 2012 GOP hopefuls. And we’re certainly not going to be putting “Vote Obama 2012” or “Vote Palin 2012” pics up in our posts or anything like that.

On the other hand, I think we’ve made it perfectly clear that we think Obama is a good if not great president, that Palin is a walking disaster, and that we consider it highly unlikely the Republicans will put up a candidate preferable to Obama in 2012. That’s not an “official” endorsement, but it’s a pretty clear indication of preference. Saying you’re not about endorsements is not the same thing as saying you’re nonpartisan, but the two are easily confused, so I think it’s worth taking a moment to draw the distinction. I’d say I’ve been very clear about who I think concerned and responsible Americans should be supporting come 2012, for example. (Barring some massive unforeseen upheaval.) Which strikes me as an obviously partisan stance. But no, we’re not going to be putting up any posts, a la your local newspaper editorial page, saying “The Regimen endorses candidates X, Y and Z.”

Now, are we independent of either party? It’s actually a complex question. I remember a few years ago, after going on one of my usual tirades about the mendacity of the Bush administration and the Republicans in general, a friend commented that he didn’t understand why anyone would ever vote based on party. Shouldn’t a person vote based on issues? It’s always struck me as a weird and confused question, because the answer is of course yes, and that’s precisely what everybody does. Voting on the issues is what people are doing when they vote party-line.

A question like that implies that people who vote party-line do so out of the political equivalent of sports team loyalty or some such. And it assumes that people who vote based on issues will be easy to spot because they will be constantly switching back and forth between the two parties. But that’s not necessarily true at all. I’m happy to refer to myself as a Democrat because I pretty much always vote Democrat. But that’s not because I consider myself a Democrat in some absolute metaphysical sense. It’s because I have particular stances on a range of issues facing the country, and I find the Democrats agree with my stances upwards of 90 percent of the time. Or, to be more accurate, they come closer to agreeing with my stances than the Republicans do. And I have every intention of being very vocal about that on the blog/podcast, whether it’s the Democrats (or Republicans) legislating how I’d like them to or royally botching something up.

But does this make me a Democratic partisan? I wouldn’t object to being labeled as such, because I can see how it would be true from a functional/practical standpoint, but I don’t think it’s accurate. For one thing, there is also a range of issues on which I have very particular stances, but which neither of the major parties is willing to touch. (This is one of the primary reasons why I think we need a viable third party in this country.) These include legalizing drugs, legalizing prostitution, instituting a VAT, reforming Medicare, the Wyden-Bennett health insurance reform bill, and cutting military spending. Conceivably, a Republican could win my support by taking those issues on. But I think it’s obvious the Republican party establishment, as currently constituted, has no intention of going to those places, for reasons that are much more political than principled.

I’d also add that the parties change over time. The Democratic and Republican parties of today have very different ideological and demographic make-ups than they did fifty years ago. In the middle of the 20th century, the divide between liberals and conservatives cut across the divide between the parties, rather than alongside it as it does today. And that has a significant impact on the stances the parties take and the agendas they advocate. So I wouldn’t be surprised at all if, a few decades from now, I find myself voting for Republicans with some regularity. But it won’t be because I’ve changed. It will be because the parties have changed. I don’t consider myself an “independent” voter, but I do consider myself independent of either party.

Anyway, I hope all that helps to unpack the question a bit more.


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