Political parties are the equivalent to Bruce Lee’s ‘classical mess.’
Political parties, unfortunately, are a necessity in any system of representative-style government (as opposed to monarchies, dictatorships, etc.). It is easier to get things done when the power of numbers are behind you. Because of this, the most natural evolution of such a system invariably culminates in two parties. It is simply more feasible that way. And while there is much to be said in favor of a non-binary system – access to a greater number of tolerable candidates, for one – implementing such a system is unsustainable. It will invariably evolve back to two parties eventually.
The largest problem with political parties is that over time, a prevailing ideology emerges, which stifles flexible thinking. Because times, cultures, situations, and parameters are all fluid and dynamic, any static belief system will inherently be less efficient and relevant than one that allows for departure from the standard practices of the day. Any ideology that does not account for change is going to find itself outdated. The very definition of progress requires change, so an efficient system should allow for flexibility.
Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own.
Unfortunately, most political systems care more about their own ideology than about finding the best solution to a problem. When this happens, a unit’s (nation, state, city, etc.) representatives come to represent the party first over the whole. I contend that this is a conflict of interest. Any constituency is going to be made up of individuals outside of one’s party, so to only act on behalf of the party is disingenuous with the duty one holds.
The other problem is that the parties naturally evolve to simply oppose the other, even when reason or necessity dictates than an alternative position be held. These competing beliefs are pervasive, infecting not just the political system, but also the entire populace. It creates a culture of divisiveness rather than one of unity.
It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.
-Hans F. Hansen
Political parties play into our evolutionary need for belonging to a group. This is another reason why it is difficult to transcend their pull, especially when a majority of one’s social network is comprised of a particular political ideology. Some may fall into a rut out of personal necessity, for fear of ostracization. It is also easier to not “make waves.” Politics is no different than any other area of thought – the comfortable route, intellectually, is to not have to think. It is easier to simply accept what everyone else is going along with. Psychologically, it is also simple to justify such beliefs because if so many others have adopted the system, many of whom are well-regarded and intelligent members of society, then surely the system must make sense, right? It is common to assume people of higher intelligence than ourselves must have looked into something. This is why endorsements are effective. We simply do not have time to investigate every single issue and viewpoint in order to come to our own conclusions. We must take shortcuts and do our best with the information we find given the amount of time each of us feels like allotting toward the task. The unfortunate thing is that most people don’t allocate any time or effort into research or seeking out more information.
True intellectual autonomy requires that one completely divorce oneself of any inflexible ideology, and political parties are notoriously slow when bringing out changes in their dogmas. A sort of “party of no party” is essential if one is to remain truly individualistic, similar to Bruce Lee’s “Way of No Way,” in which he attempted to divorce himself of the “classical mess.” I posit that political parties are the equivalent classical mess. Practice intellectual freedom.
Political parties (which, again, are a necessary evil) also have the added detriment of inhibiting discourse on a substantial level. When claiming any sort of affiliation, one immediately relegates oneself to a position of blind acceptance of the popular tenets of that ideology, and any conversation or debate begins from there in the eyes of the opponent. It is the default perception that, if you claim political affiliation, you must, therefore, claim its beliefs. Thus, a tremendous amount of time and effort is typically wasted trying to convince the other that you are not a stereotypical republican, democrat, socialist, libertarian, etc. It is much easier and less stressful to simply say, “I’m independent.” Then your opponent is forced to listen to your policies, rather than those of your party.
So what are you waiting for? Get rid of your party. As an independent you can still vote for whomever you choose, but you also give yourself the freedom to be flexible in your own thinking. Plus, you can’t be accused of being a “dirty liberal,” a “gun-loving conservative,” or one of those “crazy-assed libertarians.” Parties are only necessary if you’re in office. If you’re not in office, why limit yourself? Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.
It does not bother the wolf how many the sheep may be.