Vote purple

The United States was not founded with political parties. In fact, our first president George Washington warned against them in his farewell address. Yet, it seems like America did what Americans do best nowadays: ignored him.

Even from the beginning, with Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, political parties were not just used as vehicles of bringing people of similar views together. They also incited major divisions and created misconceptions among the American people that the “other side” is wrong, and even worse, evil.

The political polarization in this country is astounding, and has reached a new level of division. But there is another mounting problem that plagues the American political system, unbeknownst to many: voting along party lines.

Voting along party line means to only vote the way the political party with which you are registered votes, and it is a dangerous technique. A party line vote can mean one of two things: the voter’s beliefs align exactly with their party on every issue, or the voter did no research or did not understand the ballot and just copied the party’s stances.

While the first situation may not seem like an issue at first, upon deeper reflection, it shows an underlying problem with the way our political system works. Two dominating parties can effectively brainwash voters through mass propaganda, and can demonize the other side. In turn, this will increase the divide between political parties- thus the divide in the country- and it can destroy the freedom of ideas through groupthink. (Also, how likely is that the millions of Americans registered as Democrats, or the millions registered as Republicans, hold exactly the same beliefs and want to vote exactly the same way on everything?) However, it is the second situation that reflects a bigger problem in the American political system.

For a democracy to be successful, citizens must actively participate in choosing their government and approving their laws, but there is an increasing apathy that is plaguing the population today. There are many people who don’t even bother to research who the candidates are or what the propositions mean, leaving them clueless about what or who to vote for.

This is where the corruption of the parties comes in. Political parties use targeted marketing strategies to convince potential voters that “their way is the best way,” even though usually, these voters don’t even know what the issues are truly about. Ignorance about candidates and acts opens the door for mass political parties to buy your vote, and your voice as a voter is destroyed.

Voting purely by party line, eliminates personal accountability and kills the interest and investment of people in government. You may not even agree with what the candidate’s actual platform is, but you vote for them because of the letter next to their name. Similarly, when Congresswomen and men vote, all too often the actual desires of the states are ignored while the representatives just follow their party.

Drawing this party line in the political sand snowballs into other effects, such as the aforementioned division between parties, increased voter dissatisfaction and decreased number of voters. If people just do what their party tells them, they lose their motivation to participate in government and they start to believe that their voice doesn’t matter anymore. And if the trend of voting party line continues, then their individualized vote may not matter after all.

Now, of course it is very possible that even a moderate liberal could agree with every liberal decision on the ballot, and there is nothing wrong with this situation if you do. If you have done your research, follow your morals and actually agree with the party decisions, you are exercising your democratic rights correctly and utilizing political parties the right way.  

Also, while many issues with the political party system in America have been outlined, these parties do serve their purpose. They give people the chance to connect with others, they inform people of political events, they check the opposite party and can help people quickly identify the basic views of candidates tied to the parties.

It can be hard and time consuming to conduct thorough research on what is on the ballot, but it cannot be stressed enough the importance of this task. Even though election day is tomorrow, there is still time. Blindly voting based on what your party says helps no one, especially not yourself, and you will only be dissatisfied with the result. Fortunately, there are nonpartisan guides available for the sole purpose of giving voters the basics of what they are voting on, and the strategy of looking at sources from the “other side” may give you a new perspective on an issue.

In the end nothing can police voters on how to vote and this extra research shouldn’t discourage voters, but taking the extra time may be the difference between having a senator, a representative, a governor or a president, that you actually want versus one you only knew as red or blue.

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