I don’t remember the exact issue at hand, but there was a moment in a political discussion with a friend in college when I was defending something George W Bush had said, and then I suddenly stopped myself and realized I didn’t actually agree with our 43rd president. I agreed with Bush on most things, and I certainly felt he was unduly attacked by the left. Together, those two impressions led me to reflexively support some of his positions I would not have otherwise.
It was that realization that led me down my current path. I wanted to learn about, support, and argue for ideas I believe in, not whatever a politician with an R after his name said. Ironically enough, my rallying cry came from a phrase Sean Hannity oft-repeated: “I’m a conservative first, and a Republican second.” Needless to say, Sean Hannity and I have since parted ways in our understanding of and adherence to that principle.
The truth is, it’s a difficult tight rope to walk. When our country first gained our independence, the Founding Fathers desperately wanted to avoid political parties. Within a few years of the new U.S. Constitution, Federalists and Democratic Republicans were accusing each other of treason. Parties are a necessary phenomenon in democracies, and it is natural to see one’s fellow party members as teammates deserving of support.
But there should be limits to what we countenance in the name of party unity. I grew up a Republican, and as such am most disappointed in Republicans abandoning conservative principles. I’ve touched on this already. But lest anyone get the impression this is solely a Republican malady, today’s examples come from the left.
Some of these turnabouts took a few months, some days, some just a matter of hours. But in each example, people’s opinions changed drastically depending on what best helped their team, not what they really believed. And if they do not even believe what they say, why should anyone else? Blind partisanship is not only unhealthy for civil discourse, it also undermines their credibility. The same goes for all of us.
Like I said, this is a natural and understandable phenomenon, but we should all strive to put principles first, and demand our team live up to them. Otherwise, what are we fighting for?