There was some interesting discussion going on in the previous post about parties, straight-ticket voting, etc., that got me thinking. It’s good fodder for an open thread, which you’ll find below, and I hope you’ll enjoy. Of course, you’ll have to read through all of my crap first, so in defense of parties, let me just give everyone my take on things.
I'm a Democrat. What little money I donate goes to Democrats, I only volunteer for Democrats, and in a past life, I was paid decent sums of money by Democrats to help them lose elections. Most of the time, I vote Democratic. But notice I said most.
Parties are important for a couple of reasons. First of all, they're supposed to provide a pre-existing means of support for candidates. This usually works better for the R's than the D's.
Second, we have to face facts. Most voters know more (or at least think they know more) about where a party stands than an individual candidate, and most voters don't go to the trouble to determine for themselves where a candidate stands on the issues. Having the label next to a candidate's name does give a voter a clue about where that candidate is, ideologically. And until voters start doing more research and get more involved in the process, which is unlikely anytime soon, party labeling is a convenient way to make sure that a voter who believes in issue X votes for a candidate that, at least, on paper, also does. For what it’s worth, it’s usually a tool to help a voter who hasn’t done their homework make a reasonably informed choice.
Most importantly to me, party identification is important because it represents an encoded set of beliefs (you can think of it as the party's platform, although I think it goes deeper than that) to which you subscribe. It's interesting that in conversations I have with friends who are as dissatisfied as I am with the Democratic Party, one phrase as been coming up more and more often - "core Democratic principles."
Now, I'm not going to be egotistical enough to say that I, and I alone, should be able to define those core Democratic principles for everyone else in my party, but I'd imagine that most of the disagreement within the Democratic Party is about how we manifest those principles in campaigns and in government, rather than on what those principles actually are.
To return from digression land, here's my take. You choose to identify with a party because it represents a close approximation of beliefs that you already hold. That doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't work within the party to make it an even closer approximation. It doesn't mean that everyone out there should party identify or else. And it definitely doesn't mean that you should vote a straight ticket every two years.
Here's the central point of this whole rambling post. If you identify with a party, great. I certainly do, and I imagine the majority of our regular posters here do as well. But when I see a Democrat that doesn't represent what I think are those "core Democratic principles," then I don't vote for him or her.
By the way, in case anyone's interested, if I don't vote Democratic, I usually vote Libertarian, if there's a Libertarian candidate running against a Democrat I don't like.
Open thread time: Notice that I talked about core Democratic principles without enumerating them. Here's your open thread fodder. Take your party of choice and list a few of what you think are its core principles. This should spark some interesting debate.