Party of One


I sometimes think of myself as a party of one. Not in the restaurant sense but the political one. This is true, of course of most people. Where could you possibly find a political party — by definition a mass organization — that matches your views and values point by point? Yet partisans seem to do it without having to do mental back flips. Identification with party is a tremendously powerful lure for some people and they are willing to ignore — more likely not see — their party’s flaws. Just as they cannot see the value in any other party’s viewpoints. A recent study suggests that party identification is an even greater dividing line in the United States than race. Quite astounding when you come to think of it.

I understand the urge. The desire to be part of something bigger than self is more or less universal. Even libertarians feel the urge to form parties. I once saw an advertisement on a university campus for the Anarchist Club. Were they kidding? Were they even aware of the irony?

When I was younger, much younger, I felt the same way. At the time I was a New Democrat — and defined myself as a social democrat. I’ve moved to the left since then and what’s more moved towards the ultra liberal or even libertarian end of the spectrum. That’s right I’m a socialist anarchist. Or a libertarian socialist, whatever label turns your crank. Not many of us and certainly not organized into parties.

Well, what does that mean? Primarily I’m concerned about inequality in all its forms — not just economic but racial, gender, power and so on. At the same time I demand personal responsibility, a recognition that personal actions can make a difference and that choice, even when limited by all the constraints of inequality, is something we make as individuals. So freedom is major goal for me but not freedom from consequence.

I’ve take those tests that measure your political compass and I discover this strange isolation. Of major world figures, my values most seem to match the Dalai Lama (I like the laughing thing) and Ghandi (yippee, peaceful resistance) and I guess that’s not bad company.

But it does create a bit of a conundrum for me. I’m also a democrat and believe in our oh-so-flawed system of voting. It’s all we have sometimes (though that too is a choice). So who do I vote for? Over my life I’ve voted a lot of ways; now, I try to vote for the least worst. They all look bad from my political standpoint — but they are all capable of doing some good. It’s the least harm that matters these days. So I vote strategically and work for change in other venues.

But that’s ten minutes.


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