I have ranted before about the over-partisanization of politics, but I thought I'd just like to take a short moment to whine about the difficulty of being a moderate in today's political climate. Not the difficulty of making up one's own mind about issues without the benefit of a party to tell me what to think-- no, the problem de jour is conformity. I t hought high school was bad, but man, that's nothing compared to politics.
It seems as if I cannot agree with one position of one party without having all the others imputed to me, regardless of my actual beliefs. "You believe in limited government? Then you must be anti-abortion, you unfeeling conservative SOB!" "You think the war in Iraq has been mismanaged from the start? You must believe in tax-and-spend big government!" It's as if we have collectively lost all ability to separate out various positions, and can only relate to politics in terms of "Republican" or "Democrat".
Not that I'm a fan of Balkanization of political parties either, though I do think a few healthy third parties (or fourth, or fifth or... you get the idea) would do us good. The situation we have in the US is not perfect, but neither are parliamentary systems such as Canada's, where a minority party can form a government after building a large enough coalition with other parties. The main difference is that in the US, we build our coalitions before the elections; in parliamentary systems, they build them afterwards. I fear that too many parties, on the other hand, would lead us into an increasingly fragmented society. Perhaps that was the framers' intent, when they defined powerful states and a relatively weak federal government, but it's not what we've lived with these past 6 or 7 decades, and I think the dissolution of our national identity is a shame.
I don't have a solution; all I can offer are platitudes such as, "Have lunch at least once a week with someone you disagree with politically" (which I highly recommend; it's easy to forget your opponents are human). I beg you, at least try to honestly consider the concept that the other side has real and valid reasons for what they believe; they're not just rapacious corporate barons/elitist intellectual Marxists.