Is Party Loyalty Worth the Cost?

To many people, “liberalism” is associated with the Democratic party - the “liberal” party - and they will never cast a vote for or support a member of that political party as a result. Consider the following examples of negative terms and phrases used to describe Democrats and liberals, also known as the left-wingers:

The Republican party, on the other hand, is associated with “conservatism” and a large number of people vote for or against members of that party for just that reason. The following is a list of some of the negative terms and phrases used to describe Republicans and conservatives, also known as right-wingers:

Many of those terms are either included on lists of words used by both sides to refer to the other or have similar meanings. Many other such terms are those which have been used to refer to both sides, although they don’t happen to appear on both sides’ lists in this article. Most of the terms listed fall into those categories. In fact, all do, except for those terms listed in the paragraph that follows. Isn’t it interesting that Democrats/liberals think that of Republicans/conservatives and vice versa? If that’s the case, how helpful are such terms?

Some of the remaining terms on both lists seem to be polar oposites of each other. For example, communist v. fascist/authoritarian, and anti-Christian v. Christian. Others appear to describe perceived characteristics of members associated with either groups, such as Democrats/liberals being elitist and Republicans/conservatives being racist and white. The remaining terms seem to describe a perceived political position held by either side, such as Democats/liberals being femanazi and baby-killers and Republicans/conservatives being nativist.

Do the labels associated with Democrats/liberals accurately reflect the characteristics, views and emotional states of all Democrats/liberals? How about those associated with Republicans/conservatives?

For instance, between seventy-five and “eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians.” Furthermore, “nearly 91 percent of the 115th Congress is Christian.” Moreover, Congress is not made up of 91 percent Republican members. There are currently 240 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 52 in the Senate, 194 Democrats in the House of Representatives and 46 in the Senate, and 2 Independents in the Senate. In other words, approximately 55 percent of the total members of Congress are Republican. As such, how is it possible that Democrats are all anti-Christian and Republicans are all Christian? Is it that people who identify as Christian and who aren’t affiliated with the Republican party aren’t “true” or “real” Christians? If so, who’s making that determination because clearly they identify as Christian?

How about Democrats/liberals being labeled “baby-killers”, a phrase that clearly refers to a pro-choice position regarding abortion? According to the Pew Research Center, “today, 75% of Democrats say abortion should be legal in at least most cases.... Among Republicans, 54% of the party’s moderates and liberals say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with just 27% of conservative Republicans.” In fact, according to Pew, 29% of white evangelicals believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Are Democrats/liberals that believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases not “real” or “true” Democrats/liberals? What about Republicans/conservatives who believe it should be legal in all or most cases? Again, are the white evangelicals who believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases not “real” or “true” evangelicals? How about the fact that Pew breaks down the views on that issue held by conservative Republicans versus moderate/liberal Republicans and the same for Democrats and the statistics differ for each such category? Are moderate/liberal Republicans not “real” or “true” Republicans? How about conservative Democrats? How about if we were to break down “all or most cases”? In other words, those who believe it should be legal in “most cases” may not believe it should be legal in “all” cases. Furthermore, they likely don’t all agree on which cases qualify as “most cases.”

The Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Yet, the Republicans were unable to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Clearly, not all Republicans in Congress supported the repeal and replace as drafted.

The problem is that the terms Democrat, Republican, liberal and conservative are labels. As Gail Saltz, M.D. explains in her book The Power of Different, "Labeling is a source of significant pain and suffering.... Labels are, by definition, limiting.”

As can be seen, extreme conservativism and extreme liberalism are on opposite ends of a spectrum and few, if any people, fall on either side of that spectum with regard to their views on each and every issue. Different people have different views on different issues that fall somewhere on that spectrum. Depending upon the issue involved, the same person’s views will fall in different locations on the spectrum. No two people are going to have the exact same views on each and every aspect of each and every issue.

When elected officials vote party line, does that mean that all of their constituents registered as members of that party agree with each and every such party line vote? How about when the elected official fails to vote party line?

Many people are single issue voters or vote for and otherwise support politicians whose views on only a few issues are similar to theirs, or so they believe. How about the issues addressed in the approximately 5,000 remaining Bills and resolutions that go before those politicians in any given year? How much do you know about each and every one of those Bills and resolutions? Is the way that politician is voting on all or most of those other issues in accordance with your views or contrary to them? If they are voting contrary to all or most of your views on those other issues, is that impacting you in a positive or negative way, assuming you even know?

If you vote for politicians based upon their views on a single issue, such as abortion, do you understand how their views can impact that issue’s future, if at all? If the position they hold is such that their views on that issue won’t impact policy at all, is it more important to you that they hold a similar view to yours on that issue, regardless of whether or not they hold similar views to yours on issues over which they actually can and do impact policy that will directly impact you?

If the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade relating to abortion were overturned, do you believe that abortion would become illegal throughout the country? If the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made marriage equality the law of the land, do you believe that gay marriage in the entire United States would become a thing of the past? Remember, before that Supreme Court decision, same-sex marriage was legal in some states and not in others? Therefore, overturning that decision would not make same-sex marriage in the United States a thing of the past - just in certain states. The same is true with regard to abortion.

If you live in California, for example, and voted for and support politicians holding federal office because of their stance on abortion, what difference is that going to make on anyone’s life in the state in which you live? How about marriage equality? If it’s not going to make any difference at all, how might those elected officials’ views on all other issues impact you personally? Are their views on the issues over which they actually can have some impact on your life and the lives of those around you going to harm or help you?

Former Supreme Court Justice Souter is by no means alone when he talks about The Danger of America’s ‘Pervasive Civic Ignorance’ (lack of knowledge or information).

According to Sheila Kuehl, “The Legislature of the State of California and, indeed, every other Legislature and the Congress are mostly in the business of drawing lines. That’s what we do. We say, if you act a certain way, you are within the law. If you act another way, you are outside the law. That’s what we do. We draw lines.” Kuehl is a Los Angeles County Supervisor, District 3, and previously served in the California legislature, first as a member of the State Assembly and later as a Senator. She also taught at Loyola Law School while I was enrolled there.

If you were to replace one of your elected officials who happens to be a member of your same political party, would you have drawn each and every line the exact same way they did?

If you were that elected official and you had political aspirations beyond serving one term in one elected position, might you draw any of those lines differently depending upon the views of those holding the purse strings that could well foil those political aspirations? How might that impact whether or not that elected official is actually voting on issues in a manner which harms or helps you?

Party-line voters cast their votes based upon labels – labels that were self-selected by any given candidate and most certainly don’t define their views on each and every aspect of each and every issue. We only have two major political parties in the United States. Therefore most viable political candidates need to label themselves as either a Republican or a Democrat.

Not infrequently, people have the same political affiliation as their parents, even though that affiliation may not accurately reflect their own personal political views. In fact, it’s very possible that at least one of their parents had the same lack of alignment between party affiliation and their own stances and views.

For example, as many of you may know, Ronald Reagan was a registered Democrat until he switched party affiliation at approximately 51 years of age. As a freshman in college, he considered himself a “New Deal Democrat.”

When Ronald Reagan was asked why he left the Democratic Party, he simply stated, ‘I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic Party left me.’”

Without questioning Reagan’s political beliefs, is it factually accurate that the Democratic Party left him?

Considering that Reagan was a self-proclaimed Democrat in his youth, would you be surprised to learn that both of his parents were registered Democrats?

What about that “Reagan’s father, one of the few Democrats in town, was appointed to administer some of Franklin Roosevelt’s new federal relief programs in Dixon”, Illinois?

In Ronald Reagan’s Journey: Democrat to Republican, Edward M. Yager described the impact his brother’s change of party affiliation from Democrat to Republican had on the family as follows:

It undermined the special relationship that Neil [aka Moon] had with his father.
In her book Early Reagan, Anne Edwards recognizes the implications of Neil’s defection for the Reagan family, especially for Jack, when she notes that ‘[Jack and Ronald] were closer during the late thirties than at any other time in their lives. Moon’s defection to the Republican Party had hurt Jack and he made no secret of it.’ The difficulty and hardship of defecting from the party of the Reagan parents cannot be underestimated. Again Edwards captures the difficulty of defecting from the Reagan Democratic Party by recalling that after Jack had died, when Ronald Reagan and his mother were traveling across the country, ‘sitting across from Nelle during the long train ride was a constant reminder of Jack and his dedication to – and his mother’s belief in – the Democratic Party. Moon’s defection to the Republican Party in 1932 had hit Jack hard. Reagan feared his own might well disturb Nelle, who was unmovable in her faith that Mr. Roosevelt and the Democrats would see the country safely through its current crisis.’ If Moon’s defection adversely affected his father, the decision likely had a deleterious effect on Moon as well. His relationship with his preferred parent was damaged by the decision to defect.”

Whether it was that he erroneously “labeled” himself a Democrat because his parents were staunch Democrats or because he feared his parents’ reaction if he were to “defect” by affiliating with the Republican party, consider the following:

"When Ronald Reagan began his political career in the 1950s, he was the official spokesperson for the GE Company, preparing and giving speeches on GE’s behalf. He professed to be a liberal Democrat and was a member of the Democratic Party at that time, even though many of his stances and views were supportive of Republican ideals. Additionally, he openly supported the candidacies for presidential nominations for both Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.
He gave many speeches for the GE company, most of them being written from a non-partisan point of view, though they were often big-business friendly and conservative in nature….
By 1962 he had already recorded a spoken word album condemning socialized medicine, along with backing Republican candidates, and had decided to make the official change from liberal Democrat to Republican…
When Ronald Reagan was asked why he left the Democratic Party, he simply stated, ‘I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic Party left me.’”

It bears mentioning that Reagan’s mother died in 1962.

On May 10, 2017, I attended a presentation at UCLA by Sheila Kuehl on Too Many Governments: How Local, State and Federal Jurisdictions Can Clash or Collaborate. One of the things she said during that program was the following:

“A government itself has no character - it’s just a room full of empty chairs. As those chairs are filled, the government acquires character, based upon the character of the individuals filling those seats.”

Along those lines, even though Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said she has no reason to disbelieve women who have come forward to make allegations of sexual misconduct, pedophilia in particular, against U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, she plans on voting for him. Moore’s character and integrity is less important to her than maintaining GOP control of the Senate. In this regard, Gov. Ivey is not unlike a great many of us in terms of affiliation and loyalty to a particular political party.

Considering the limiting nature of labels, party affiliation aside, is loyalty to a particular political party worth the cost, in terms of our government’s character and otherwise?

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