“I Do Not Wish to Disclose a Party Preference”

About a week ago it hit me — there isn’t a political party in the United States that represents my values or political views.

When I was growing up in Newport Beach, CA in conservative Orange County, I would have described myself as a moderate or a liberal. But after four years as an undergrad at the University of California, Berkeley, it became clear that the extreme-left government of that city was far more interested in passing bills to protest global social injustices rather than in properly running the municipality. The place was a cesspool, it was unsafe at night and the leadership had no interest in fixing the city’s problems. I was more than happy to graduate and get out.

“You want liberal politics? You can have it!” was how I felt.

My political views thus moved to the far right. Well, at least it was the far right for the Bay Area. I registered as a Republican and voted that way pretty consistently for the last 30 years. I was systematically teased/abused by my friends in the ultra-liberal San Francisco area, but I was willing to argue my perspectives when challenged.

But as I have watched the political leadership of the last 16 years of both Democrats and Republicans, I have come to the conclusion that neither party represents the values and views that I have — either my perspectives on the relationship between citizens and government, or on the social contract that I believe exists between individuals.

And so this past week I changed my voter registration from Republican to “I do not wish to disclose a party preference.”

Ronald Reagan once said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.” I feel the same way about the current Republican Party.

I will not vote for Donald Trump. He is not worthy of being the leader of the free world.

And the Republican Party looks ridiculous as it goes through a parade every four years where candidates cannot talk rationally to issues as they pander to the base to try to get the Party’s nomination.

On the other side, Secretary Clinton has shown egregious ethical challenges, she has ties that are too close to those who have governed so poorly for the last sixteen years, and she has enriched herself as much or more than anyone in Washington over the last 25 years at the expense of the body politic.

And the Democratic Party stokes class tensions to rally its base, and is beholden to interests such as the teacher’s unions which prevent needed reform from happening in our K-12 schools.

But the Brexit vote this week really clarified my perspectives.

I’m dismayed by those people who call the ones who voted for the Brexit “stupid,” who keep highlighting the lower educational levels of the voters who preferred to Leave, and who refer to the outcome as a “peasants’ revolt.

Did you really just call these people “peasants?” Really?

The issues we face in America are playing out globally, and, to my realization, I’m feeling disaffected myself.

So, if the two parties don’t represent what I believe, a fair question is, “What do I believe?”

  1. I believe that the power of government is granted by the governed.
  2. I believe that the President and Congress work for me, not the other way around.
  3. I believe that government should be limited in size because any large institution decreases in effectiveness as it grows — governments, corporations, etc. At some point perpetuating the organization becomes its objective end.
  4. I believe in the rights and powers of the individual to do both well and good in the world.
  5. I believe countries should not spend more money than they have, and should only run deficits in dire circumstances.
  6. I believe taxes should be kept low, as should spending.
  7. I believe that evil must be confronted with overwhelming force and clarity in communication. The role of government is to keep its citizens safe, and to pretend that we can avoid referring to evil and confronting an issue for how it manifests itself is grossly naive.
  8. I believe that most people in the world are good. I believe that regardless of nationality, race, gender or whatever orientation with which people choose to identify, that most individuals want a roof over their head, food on their table and comfortable lives for their children.
  9. I believe that both the left and right have shut down rational discussion on various complex issues ranging from reproductive rights to incarceration laws to immigration.
  10. I believe that our university campuses are supposed to keep students physically safe — not always intellectually safe. Our goal as teachers is to push our students into their zones of discomfort so that they can ponder issues that affect the human race. Unfortunately, our universities have become some of the least tolerant places in the world. People can say whatever they want, as long as it is within a vary narrow set of norms.
  11. I believe that people should be able to get married to whomever they want. As long as no one else is getting hurt, people should largely be left alone.
  12. I believe studying the humanities and religion is critical to understanding the great issues with which humans have wrestled over the last 1,000 years. I believe that the criticism of studying “dead white males” and Western Civilization at major universities has lowered the common language and quality of discourse in our public sphere.
  13. I believe that my belief in #12 does not mean that other points of view are not worth studying and understanding.
  14. I believe that not all individuals have equal talents. Some will be able to do more and make more money than others. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this. Even wide disparities of income and wealth are not, ipso facto, bad things.
  15. I believe that the American Melting Pot is a powerful force for good. Different groups of people bring their uniqueness to our society, which makes us stronger when we are bonded within a common identity. Citizens do not have to agree on all issues, but we are better as a country when we see ourselves as playing on the same team. The too often repeated notion of “Red” vs. “Blue” undermines so much of what makes our country great.
  16. I believe stirring up divisions based on class is just as evil as stirring up divisions based on race or religion. Yes, I believe that both Sanders and Trump increase divisions in society, and saying that one is substantively worse than the other might make an individual feel better, but completely misses the point of why these divisions are so great right now on a global basis. See Brexit.
  17. I believe that helping those who are less fortunate than others is a gift, blessing and privilege. In the words of my colleague Dave Dodson, “Sharing is not offering a portion of your surplus. Sharing is when you give up something you want to keep, because the other person needs it more than you.”
  18. I believe that people should be required to work and make productive contributions to society in parallel to receiving aid from government — even if that work is paid by the government.
  19. I believe that work gives people self-esteem and dignity.
  20. I believe that Andy Kessler is right: San Francisco too often smells like body odor and urine. And the city government exacerbates the situation.
  21. I believe that those elected to office must actually govern and get something done. And this means compromising. The strategy of simply vilifying “the other side” — be it George W. Bush or Barack Obama — is not worthy of an elected representative of one’s fellow citizens.
  22. I believe that not all societies on the globe have contributed equally to our species’ progress over the last thousand years. Some have lagged behind for centuries.
  23. I believe that in today’s world, laws and societal norms that restrict freedoms based upon who an individual is — race, ethnicity, gender, etc. — are out-of-date.
  24. I believe that people from any culture or location can get along with people from any other culture or location. I see it every year in my students — they come from all over the world and they are incredible. They give me hope and remind me of all the greatness which the human species is capable.
  25. I believe we would all have been better served if Sanders had defeated Clinton in the Democratic primaries. Not only would the debates with Trump have been the best entertainment television in the history of the humankind, but it would have enabled the possibility that both parties might be destroyed so that something new could arise in their places.

Finally, I believe that Thomas Jefferson was right: