Modern political ideology has devolved into a form of sectarianism. Party identification now serves as nothing short of an intellectual brand. If an individual claims to be a Democrat or a Republican, or to have a deep ideological connection to a sect of either party, all sorts of assumptions are encouraged. To some degrees this is logical; the point of political parties, after all, is to provide structure and organization to a complicated electoral system that exists simultaneously at federal, state and local levels. Partisanship is a label that provides a clue to how a person thinks and what policies they support. It does not, however, solve the entire mystery of individual intellect; there is a reason there are sects of political parties.
To assume that all members of a political party are in ideological lockstep–a reaction that has become in vogue with the rise of histrionic opposition to anything anyone with a different party identification does–is the greatest defect of modern political culture. Motives alone account for vast differentiation even between those who agree on outcomes, to say nothing of the path by which different ways of thinking propose to achieve those outcomes. Too much of politics is wrapped up in a myopic concern with the ends of policy, not the impact these have on society in the meantime. The modern obsession with ends is one reason for increased polarization. One end is associated absolutely with the rectifying of injustices; any who stand against it are therefore painted as against justice. This banal and binary form of morality cannot help but become caustic and breed intense partisan divisions.
The crux of the issue with modern politics is in the inability to rectify this didactic division of the American polity along partisan lines and the constant calls for consensus. There is a faux connection between getting along and getting things done on Capitol Hill and morality in politics. Division, often conflated with mere dissent to popular opinion, is positioned as misanthropy; the man who dares to dissent is viewed immediately as standing in the way of social progress.
But this is a view that ignores natural law and turns it on its head. Man is an individual creature. He thinks and feels for himself. First and foremost he must look to his survival when interpreting new information and situations. This means that he must, as a moral imperative, reinforce the division between himself and his fellow men. Instinctually, this is a matter of his very survival.
In 2017, much of the exigency of bodily survival has been alleviated by the blessings of modern technology. And to many this means the survival-rooted politics of division are arcane and pejorative, painted as the lingering fears of intransigent neanderthals. But this is a view that ignores spiritual life.
The soul is a chimerical creature, formed by a dialectic between the reason of the head and the emotion of the heart. These two organs have dual-sovereignty, and one cannot suppress the other without doing irreparable harm to itself. Society, with its promises of equal and impartial justice, creates a balance between men. Long-term self-interest mandates that the pursuance of individual betterment not alienate one’s neighbors who one day be imperative to survival. Each person is held in check by fear of righteous vengeance sought by the party they wronged with the help of the state. This fear is aided by the reflexivity of rights, for each man can imagine that the anger he would feel should someone injure him is mirrored by his neighbors who value the same rights. The soul, to function rightly, depends on the same balance.
Yet, modern politics demands that men sacrifice the prick of conscience. Principles are inconvenient and divisive, hard to understand because they are significant on an individual-by-individual level and often deal in esoteric ideas unconnected to the hard statistics of legislative battles.
The result of such skewed thinking is obvious. Each successive year this approach to politics does nothing to resolve ongoing issues, yet it doubles down to on its rhetoric and in ostracizing those who dissent.
Instead, we need to transcend temporal political considerations. It is time to stop putting so much stock in ideological labels and instead focus on the philosophy which underlies systems of thinking. Each person who wishes to participate in political discourse must develop and stand for an ideology that represents his or her unique thoughts and feelings. This means rejecting the myth of political consensus and embracing division. The cornerstones of American government, after all, are rooted in the recognition that man is an individual. Politics, if it is to be successful, must embrace this too.
Also published on Medium.