The Recorder – Guest Columnist Olin Rose-Bardawil: Voters adopt political party values, not their own

Published: 08/14/2022 12:19:06

Modified: 08/14/2022 12:15:40

The recent January 6 hearings proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Republican Party will stop at nothing to show its unwavering commitment to Donald Trump, even if it means abandoning traditional conservative values ​​of moderation and respect for the state of right. This devotion has allowed Republicans to justify carrying out acts of insurrection, election denial, and lawlessness seemingly without ulterior motive.

Being a Republican is no longer just about having certain beliefs or political values. To call oneself a Republican is not only to be a political “conservative”, but it requires worshiping certain political figures and certain orthodoxies at the same time. It’s easy to look at this current crisis within the Republican Party and point to Trump and the ideas he champions as the obvious culprits, but that would be an oversimplification. The insurgent tendencies of the Republican Party are the product of a much deeper American problem – one that has corrupted both Republican and Democratic politicians, and tainted the politics of many Americans.

Those in power realized that given the choice, Americans would stop thinking for themselves if their thinking could be “made for them”. In the age of social media – which has produced echo chambers and allowed propaganda to spread at an unprecedented rate – the only political decision Americans are required to make is which party they support, because their values ​​and political beliefs are prescribed to them once they get on board with a certain party.

If you asked someone how they decided who to vote for a century ago, they would probably tell you that they voted for the candidates most in line with their beliefs or values. If you asked that same question in today’s political climate, people might admit that they’re just voting for their party’s candidate. Americans used to embrace the political party that stood for their values, but now it seems the opposite is the case: Americans are embracing the values ​​that their political parties stand for.

This notion has become normalized in our society, but it should still concern us. We shouldn’t be surprised by the personality cults that surround so many leaders — blind devotion to Trump being a notable example — when Americans’ entire identity is shrouded in political ideology or the party they support. . Previously, many elements of our identities were separate from politics, but not anymore. Almost everything about a person, down to what they wear and what car they drive, is influenced at least somewhat by their political leanings and who they vote for on election day. So when an angry mob threatens democracy in the name of one man’s political future, it should come as no surprise.

George Washington recognized the threat of political parties and ideological thinking more than two centuries ago, and he did so as he prepared for the peaceful transfer of power, no less. In his farewell address to the nation, published in September 1796, Washington wrote that political parties “are apt in time … to become mighty engines, whereby shrewd, ambitious, and unscrupulous men may subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, then destroying the very engines that raised them to unjust domination.

Had he been there to witness the events of the past few years, I imagine President Washington would have been shocked at how much our current situation resembles his prediction.

Washington clearly saw the threat of ideology, but its wisdom seems to have escaped a confused America as to why thousands tried to overturn certification of the 2020 election on January 6, or why this country is more politically divided than ever. The reason for this divide is complex, but one thing is certain: it is far bigger than any single person or event, and it fills much of our society.

The tools of mass manipulation, social media being one of them, make it harder for individuals to think for themselves, so they flock to those who claim to have all the answers. We’ve seen it with Trump, and we’ll probably see it again. It is, however, within our power to loosen the grip of ideology on our society by educating ourselves civically and adopting a balanced approach to politics. It is crucial that we do this.

Until we are able to think beyond the scope of a political party and make political decisions based on our own values ​​- not ideology – we have no right to be surprised by the stories of corruption and wrongdoing that the January 6 Committee continues to uncover. If anything, we should wait for them.

Olin Rose-Bardawil is in second year at Williston Northampton School. He lives in Florence.

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