Conversations this summer have motivated me to write about why I do not belong to any one political party (in the last election, I voted for candidates from three parties).
I can imagine a few reasons to belong to a particular party:
You agree with the majority of a party’s principles and actions (at least the ones that are important to you personally, but this will lead to #3 below).
You greatly disagree with other parties and feel compelled to organize to defeat them.
Maybe you can describe other reasons to join. If so, I’m listening. For now, neither of these conditions describes me. I agree with certain principles propounded by Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Libertarians.
Let’s also consider why a person would not belong to a particular party:
You do not agree with the majority of a party’s principles.
You do not feel that one party deserves your allegiance over another one either because you value them more-or-less equally or because you have equal disagreements with both/all.
You are not able to sufficiently defend the elements of a party that you disagree with. (For reasons of logic, I purposefully did not include this question in the first section.)
You have a desire to stay neutral in order to (a) form personal opinions on every major issue regardless of a party’s views, and/or (b) hold either party accountable to these values.
On religious grounds you do not feel you can give allegiance to any party (or even one country or one form of governance or one economic system) because your allegiance is with the Kingdom of God, and you cannot serve two masters.
Number three is enough to make me not align with any party. For instance, if I were to consider becoming a Republican, I would have to defend my allegiance to a party that has been closely tied to the Project for a New American Century. I’m surprised when Republicans have not even heard of PNAC (website, principles, Wiki). How well do you know your party if you don’t know about this group and what they stand for? Similarly, I would have to be able to defend the Iraq war and the money spent on it, as well as torture policies and practices, and the suspension of habeas corpus for many detainees since the inception of the War on Terror began. Also important would be the bailout of the financial industry with few strings attached ($700 billion), environmental foot-dragging, policies toward undocumented immigrants, the party’s lack of desire to deal with health care issues over the past eight years, and a categorical faith in market solutions.
Conversely, in order to become a Democrat, I would have to defend the party’s sweeping support of the original Patriot Act and the vote to give power to the President to begin war in 2003 (yes, pushed by Republicans, but overwhelmingly supported by Democrats), the surge in Afghanistan, the auto industry bailout ($100 billion), the economic stimulus plan ($787 billion), and a categorical faith in government solutions.
Furthermore, I do not believe either party has been the least bit fiscally responsible. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) basically agreed to this on a radio show I heard while driving through the state earlier this summer. He called for a law or constitutional amendment (?) mandating a balanced budget since leaders in both parties have failed at fiscal restraint. (I can’t find the interview now that was recorded during a conference/convention)
These problems are complex and I have much to learn on all fronts, yet I am familiar with common pros and cons of each. I certainly don’t assert that I’ve worked out solutions for each of the topics listed above. I’m just saying I’m not prepared to defend these decisions or principles, so I could not sign up for either major U.S. political party.
Reason 4(b) above is also significant for me. I believe the Christian faith is very political because it is all about justice; however, I do not believe this should be expressed in partisan politics. I want to be free to call both parties to justice, and not be beholden unto either/any.
In summary, 3 and 4(b) are primarily why I do not belong to any political party at this point. I will answer for no one’s sins, and I will call both/all parties to justice. While I don’t believe that government reform is the first and greatest key to a sustainably better world, I do favor an expanded conversation.
For more reading:
- Jesus for President (Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw, 2008)
- Red Letter Christians (Tony Campolo, 2008)
- The Scandal of Evangelical Politics (Ron Sider, 2008)
- The Great Awakening (Jim Wallis, 2008)
- God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (Jim Wallis, 2005)
- The Soul of Politics: Beyond “Religious Right” and “Secular Left” (Jim Wallis, 1995)
“Enough donkies and elephants… Long live the lamb!” –Shane Claiborne (How he signed my copy of Jesus for President)
“That stuff Jesus warned us to beware of, the yeast of the Pharisees, is so infectious today in the camps of both liberals and conservatives. Conservatives stand up and thank God that they are not like the homosexuals, the Muslims, the liberals. Liberals stand up and thank God that they are not like the war makers, the yuppies, the conservatives. It is a similar self-righteousness, just with different definitions of evildoing. It can paralyze us in judgment and guilt and rob us of life. Rather than separating ourselves from everyone we consider impure, maybe we are better off just beating our chests and praying that God would be merciful enough to save us from this present ugliness and to make our lives so beautiful that people cannot resist that mercy. ” –Shane Claiborne (The Irresistible Revolution, p. 251-252)
Also see a summary of pros and cons of political conservatives and liberals in the U.S. in Faith Works by Jim Wallis (p. 143-145).
NOTE: For those confused by the title, visit Independent here.