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Jason Holliston
Wednesday, February 04, 2004  
Are Independents Just Plain Silly?

Jonah Goldberg seems to sure think so. A friend of mine pointed out a column about independents by Lee Harris on Tech Central Station. A good read, at least for the historical aspect of the whole liberal versus conservative thing that's pervaded Anglo-Saxon political culture for a long time. He was provoked to write this -- a quasi-defense of independents -- because of a column written by Jonah Goldberg on National Review Online. So, here we are, and after some thought, I'd like to take issue with a part of Jonah's piece.

He said that there are two kinds of independents, and I'll paraphrase here (you can read the whole thing if you'd like -- it's not all that bad, and does contain some real insight into our process:

1. People that think they know more than anyone else about politics, and consider it insulting to be categorized as a party member, and,
2. The "undecided", or people that wait until the last moment, nit-picking every little policy detail.

Well, what's missing? Me, for starters. I can honestly say that there isn't one party in America that I feel that I can belong to. See, the problem for me isn't a small thing here and there, but there are huge parts of each ideology that I just can't sign on to. On the other hand, both the major parties and the Libertarian Party all have aspects I like, as well. Here's some examples:

I'm a fiscally conservative person -- not quite so extreme as the libertarians, but more so than the Republicans running the show right now. I liked the tax cuts quite a bit, but can't deal with the fact that a fifth of our budget is borrowed because of massive increases to discretionary spending and bloated, ineffective social programs.

I'm generally socially liberal, but can't sign on with the Democrats because I'm pro-life, and for a very secure border with Mexico (but also very pro-immigration, too). These are very important things to me, personally, and can't just sign them away. As for the Republicans, I can't deal with their hysterical attacks on the concept of gay marriage and their narrow need to incorporate religion into publicly funded areas, such as prayer in schools, Judeo-Christian statues in court buildings, and "faith-based" charity funds.

I'm pretty much completely against the drug war, seeing it as an incredible waste of resources and an incredible hit on personal liberty. From where I sit, the drug war is all politics, with the real players knowing for decades that it hasn't worked and never will. Both parties know this, and sacrifice billions of tax dollars a year and millions of people's freedom to help them stay in power. With this, the LPO is the party of sense.

But still, the LPO is way too extreme for me to sign on 100% with. In some moral ways, they make sense, but have no concrete and realistic plans to replace necessary services, such as schools and police for the underprivileged, among many other things.

Above all this is the War on Terror, the clash of civilizations that threatens us all. Jonah makes no account for people that believe that there is one overriding cause that trumps all others, like I feel the War on Terror is. Frankly, if I can't trust a candidate for president with our national security, there's no way in Hell I'd vote for them.

So, where does that leave me? Which of the two camps that Jonah lays out do I fall in? After reading that, can you honestly call me a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian? If any of the parties' faithful reads this, I can pretty much guarantee that they'll find some things about my ideology that they completely disagree with. How can I be a Republican if I'm for gay marriage? How can I be a Democrat if I'm for the tax cuts that recently went through? How can I be a Libertarian if I understand that public funding for schools and police is the moral and right thing to do?

I can't -- at least, I can't if I don't want to be a liar.

Update: I've been getting a lot of feedback about this, so I wanted to say one more thing about the subject. There is something to be said for "working within the system" to change directions of parties instead of abandoning them. I'll buy that, except in the case of the LPO, whose ideology is rigid by design. Within the Big Two, though, sure -- they move along fluid lines, responding to the different times and events. Still, speaking for myself, my core values don't line up all that well with the core messages of either big party right now. But people change and parties change. Who knows? 8 years from now I might be a card carrying member of a party once again. But not right now.

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