Our society is currently experiencing a rampant disenchantment with the two-party political system and a rapid adoption of the ‘independent’ label. Whenever I admit that I associate myself with a particular political party, I tend to get either a blank stare or a skeptical look. While I do not advocate blind allegiance to one party, I believe that there is a role for partisanship in a healthy democracy. Our country was founded by men coming together with strong ideas as to how to govern our country. The founders did not enter the Constitutional Convention with the goal of everyone becoming friends and being able to gloat about their ‘bipartisan’ efforts. They fought hard for their beliefs, almost to the point of the convention falling apart. Despite the bickering, and I would argue perhaps even because of it, they created one of the greatest documents in human history. Their disagreements forced them to face the issues head on and create compromises that satisfied all parties. Nancy Rosenblum, Harvard professor and author of “On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and Partisanship,” said political parties have received negative reputation and we have placed undue value on independents. She claims that independents “are the least interested in politics, the most politically ignorant, the lightest voters.” Is this what we want out of our democracy? I would much rather see vigorous debate from both sides of the political spectrum, heavy engagement in the issues and interest in elections. Without these characteristics, which are most often seen among party-affiliated citizens, our democracy could fail. Democracies require engaged and committed citizens in order to survive. Of course, partisanship can become dangerous under certain circumstances. First of all, we need to be weary of the ‘my party, right or wrong’ mentality. There is no such thing as a perfect party. They all make mistakes. Thus, we must make honest evaluations of the party with which we affiliate ourselves and not blindly accept our party’s statements and positions. Critical thinking is key for maintaining a strong democracy, and we must not lose sight of that. Partisanship can also become dangerous when we let it trump aspects of our lives that are more important. Politics is one of my passions, but I am careful of never letting it damage relationships. This is not to say that we should not engage in debate with friends; rather, we should participate in respectful discussions and put the relationship above ideological differences. Despite the potential downfalls of partisanship, it still plays a critical role in our democratic republic. If we want to change our government and society for the better, we have to get involved. Joining a political party and standing up for our beliefs as a group, rather than falling into a state of indifference, is a great way of making necessary changes to improve society. With an engaged and passionate population consisting of differing political parties, we can confront the pressing issues we currently face and make a positive impact.
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