It's Time to Ditch the Party Labels and Truly Think

2 ¾ min

I was talking with a friend the other day when the conversation took a sudden political turn. Knowing the two of us come from opposite sides of the spectrum, I braced myself, wanting to be kind, but also wanting to defend my views.

During the debate, I got the sense that I was surprising my friend. Instead of toeing the party line, as others often do, I considered her words, acknowledged areas of agreement, and raised issues that she may not have considered. We parted, and will likely remain friends, perhaps waving cheerfully the next time we see one another.

That’s not the type of political debate one usually encounters today, for two reasons. One, it is hard to maintain a cool head and debate in a civil manner. It goes against our grain, as I will testify as one who is trying to train herself to think and act in that way.

Two, there seems to be a widespread attitude that individuals should never disagree with the political party they align with. If one supports President Trump, one should support every policy he promotes and every Tweet he produces.  If one is a good progressive, then one must regurgitate politically correct talking points, regardless of how ridiculous they may seem. 

Whittaker Chambers was one of those rare individuals able to think his own thoughts and to challenge even people who thought like him. This point is highlighted in a short biographical piece by Joseph Salemi in the June issue of Chronicles magazine. Chambers, says Salemi, took a job as senior editor of National Review in 1955, that is, with a decidedly right-leaning publication. Yet Chambers did not fall into lockstep with the magazine’s positions. Instead, he thought his own thoughts and was unafraid to express them:

Although he had fully rejected the horrors of totalitarian Communism and called himself ‘a man of the right,’ Chambers was never ideologically committed to a rightist worldview. His political opinions tended to be eclectic and pragmatic, and predicated on what he considered sane, rational, and humane stances, regardless of whether the positions were ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive.’ His greatest moment at the [National Review] magazine was surely his devastating review of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. The review’s title, ‘Big Sister Is Watching You,’ set the tone immediately, and it tore Rand’s atheistic philosophy of capitalist selfishness to shreds.

Imagine what would happen if we had more thinkers like Chambers today. There is a crying need for individuals who are willing to chew on an idea, investigate it thoroughly, and then offer a well-reasoned argument. If we were blessed with more thinkers like Chambers, then perhaps we would see a lot more serious debate in our political activities?

Perhaps it is time to ditch the party labels and examine policies and ideas with an open mind and through the lens of rational thought.


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Image Credit: 

Carol M. Highsmith, Public Domain

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.

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Wonderful article, and exactly in line with my generally left-of-center thoughts. I suspect more of us are leery of the entire party platform than the media of every side likes to portray. I love your site and editorials as they challenge my worldview, some essays being more successful at that than others. I would like to propose a challenge to the IT team: a series of essays on the nature of personal responsibility. Conservative thought emphasizes personal responsibility for the consequences of one's actions instead of the left's always blaming society (though the argument could be made that it's not an either-or proposition - but that's another discussion). I think this is one of conservatism's greatest contributions to society. But recent events have brought other varieties of responsibility to the forefront: what are my responsibilities to others? The current pandemic brings an important moral dilemma: does my liberty to freely assemble entitle me to expose someone else to a disease that could kill them? Several essays on your site bemoan the (we hope temporary) infringement of this right without considering that responsibility to others. Or does conservative thought not even acknowledge any concern for others, leaving them to stay away if they don't want to be exposed? I would love to see some essays discussing both the political and moral consequences of these ideas. And the recent death of George Floyd elicits the question of what responsibility each of us has to enforce our society's values. We can each hold strict egalitarian values on our own, but is toleration of other's violation of those values tantamount to support? (This is part of the left's argument about "systemic racism"). I would love to take advantage of your team's knowledge of historical conservative thought; what would Edmund Burke have thought of our several predicaments? Again, I would love to see essays as thoughtful as yours. Thanks again! Jim Stanley


While we're at it, let's ditch religious labels too.