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Groucho Marx famously resigned from the Friars Club with the explanation that he didn't want to belong to any club that would have him as a member.

A plurality of Americans must feel the same way as, at last count, 43 percent polled by Gallup classified themselves as independent, compared with 27 percent identifying as Republican and 29 percent as Democrats. That breakdown has been pretty consistent over the years. The last time I found with one of the major parties taking the lead was a week in December 2012 when 38 percent identified as Democrat, 35 percent as independent, and 25 percent as Republican.

I often wonder why anyone would associate with any party, much less one that stresses ideological purity. Such a belief places little faith in what voters would do with their free will when given all the information needed on a given issue, instead insisting that if you're X party, you must vote for X policy.

I've never been able to understand straight-line voting; it implies that people are unable to think for themselves. Surely that's not right. No one needs talking points to communicate, do they? (That's sarcasm, folks; apparently some do.)

One of the biggest reasons for people becoming independent voters is because they're sick of all the partisan sniping. When even your choice of restaurant can paint you in a partisan light, I can hardly blame them. Politics aren't the reason I don't go to Chick-fil-A; pickles are ... they have no place on a chicken sandwich as far as I'm concerned. I don't even put them on my chicken burgers.

The way things have been going, people will start ignoring the food served and instead make their restaurant decisions based on the owners' politics. No clue yet what that would mean for people like me, but no spicy food or red meat for me, please; IBS is a cruel mistress.

Founding fathers like George Washington and John Adams weren't fans of partisan politics and warned against them, for all the good that did. The Federalists and Democratic-Republicans soon started making waves ... and unfounded allegations against opponents. And it's only gotten worse.

Working together for the greater good? Pshaw! It's much more fun to dig in and refuse to negotiate, so if you don't have the majority, well, you're just out of luck. This is heightened by "negative partisanship," where you're loyal to your party just because you don't like the other party.

Hey, it's not their fault their mamas dress them funny! All right, maybe a little of it is. Their mamas wouldn't keep buying those lederhosen if someone spoke up.

Jim Geraghty, National Review senior political correspondent, wrote back in the heat of the 2016 race of this scary partisan devotion becoming, essentially, a religion.

"Ultimately," he wrote, "what far too many people in politics believe is that the other party is just the bad guys, the embodiment of all flaws of human nature and every kind of sin, to be defeated at all costs. Period. ... This is a really stupid way to look at the world. Human virtue does not line up by party. Each side is big enough to include some jerks, loons, maniacs, idiots, insufferable know-it-alls, pathological liars, and toxic personalities. To think otherwise, you have to spend a lot of time ignoring the counter-evidence while making your life a festival of confirmation bias."

Oh, but it's not confirmation bias unless you're referring to the other party's beliefs. For your own party it's truth handed down from on high from God himself (or herself), packaged in a beautiful box of chocolates.

Even if I was offered chocolate, it wouldn't make me want to join a party. I can buy my own, and without any of that weird, tough nougat or fillings (ahem, crickets) that have no business being in chocolate. Who likes that stuff?

I minored in political science in college, but only had two professors in that department who wore their political affiliations on their sleeves. One let it affect grading; the other did not. I took three classes from the one that didn't, as opposed to one from the one who did, and got an A in all four classes. I enjoyed going to class with the one who didn't let politics get in the way precisely because he encouraged debate.

That's what's missing in much of today's politics. True debate isn't happening because no one wants to entertain ideas other than the party line.

Political scientist Lilliana Mason of the University of Maryland, author of Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity, last month told Perry Bacon Jr. of FiveThirtyEight: "The danger of mega-partisan identity is that it encourages citizens to care more about partisan victory than about real policy outcomes. We find ways to justify almost any governmental policy as long as it is the policy of our own team. What is best for America, Americans or even small children is secondary to whether our party's team gets what it demanded."

But it's for the party, so ... yea? Is it any wonder so many people don't want any part of it?

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Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at blooper@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 07/25/2018

Print Headline: No party animal

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Comments

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  • jfvande
    July 25, 2018 at 7:13 a.m.

    Thank you Brenda for another thoughtful column. I look forward to each Wednesday to my weekly dose of sanity. I do recall that George Washington, in his farewell address to Congress, that if this new experimental form of government failed it would be due to political parties. I am seeing more evidence of that daily.

  • Delta123
    July 26, 2018 at 1:34 p.m.

    I believe there has never been a time in this country's history where the rhetoric and partisanship has been this hateful and toxic. Ever.

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