Monday, January 21, 2008

Issues of independence

I read an interesting opinion today about why it's bad to be a political independent. Speaking as an independent, I obviously don't think it's such a bad thing, but the article is relatively well written. Essentially, the writer argues that humans are by nature factional, and that once you start trying to actually do anything rather than speak in meaningless generalities, you'll end up with disagreements about terms or priorities, and then you'll need to unite with line-minded people in order to accomplish something. Further, an independent as President would face more politics in trying to get something done than a member of one of the two major parties, as that President wouldn't be able to count on a large bloc of automatic support.

These arguments are valid as far as they go. What I feel the author has overlooked, though, is another reason why many people become independents: the fact that there is more than one political axis. If you align things are a purely left-right axis, I come out pretty much dead center. So does my friend David from freshman year. When you look at two axes, on the other hand, David and I come out as diamterically opposed, as he's essentially a populist and I'm essentially a libertarian. We come out in the middle on a single axis because when looking at the broad scale, the number of issues on which we greatly favor the Democrats balance the number of issues on which we greatly favor the Republicans--it's just that, for the two of us, many of those positions are opposite to each others'.

I'm sure there are some people who are independents because they gain satisfaction from not belonging to a major group, or who may feel superior to others for their lack of assumed allegiances. The author does, however, completely ignore that some people might be independents because on the, say, 4 issues that matter the most to that person, two positions are taken by the Republicans and 2 are taken by the Democrats, and the person thus doesn't have greater loyalty to one side or the other on policy as a whole, but must make decisions more on the basis of the particular Republican or Democrat offered as a choice. By not addressing that aspect, I see the argument as fatally flawed.

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