Today in an Opinion Piece in the NY Times David Leonardt Wrote:
About a decade ago, I went on a search for swing voters. It didn’t go well.
I wanted to understand what was likely to sway swing voters in a looming national election. So I asked my colleagues in The Times’s polling department if they could give me the names and phone numbers of some self-identified independents who had responded to the most recent Times poll. My colleagues sent the names, and I began dialing.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t manage to find any actual swing voters. People would tell me they voted for both parties. But when I pressed them about when they had last voted for the party that they usually did not support, they’d come up blank. They had voted either for both George Bushes and Bob Dole or for John Kerry, Al Gore and Bill Clinton.
It was clear, however, that they liked thinking of themselves as standing apart from the two political parties.
I remembered this experience while reading the debate inspired by Eitan Hersh’s recent Op-Ed. Hersh, a political scientist, argued that many Americans now engage in “political hobbyism.” They follow politics intensely and care about it passionately. But they don’t do much with that passion. They don’t do a lot of the hard, dutiful, often frustrating and also potentially impactful work of grass-roots politics.
In response, some readers asked Hersh for constructive advice. Here’s what he wrote on Twitter:
“Join the local political party org. You don’t need to agree with everything it stands for. You can actually help shape what it stands for.”
And: “Use the local party as a vehicle for goals. 100 yrs ago, parties handed out food and vaccines to the poor. What’s your 21st century version?”
Hersh concluded by saying that social change requires “committing to imperfect institutions.” He’s right. It’s easy and fashionable to decry our two highly flawed political parties. It also does relatively little good.
Passionate conservatives should get involved in the Republican Party and work to improve it. Passionate progressives should get involved with the Democratic Party and work to improve it. (And true independents, who are rare but do exist, should be able to reclaim a meaningful version of the label.)
There is no reason for Americans to feel guilt or shame about having strongly held beliefs.