On my Facebook profile, I have my political views listed as “Not partisan, but highly political”. This is occasionally misunderstood.
I am highly political because anything that involves more than two people becomes political. It is political whether we educate our children or not, and how we do it. It is political whether we have medical care for people who cannot afford it or not, and it is political how we pay for it, or do not. It is political, whether we want to admit it, whether we wear a mask or not to stop the spread of COVID.
When it comes to living with others, everything is political. But the various positions, pro or con, are actually seldom partisan.
Here in the US, the Democrats have historically been known for promoting immigrant rights, yet both the last Democrat President and the current Republican president both have less than stellar (to put it kindly) records on immigration, with many of the actions being taken by current administration being laws put in place by the former. Yet, the Democrats are quick to condemn the anti-immigrant actions of the Republican President.
“In the US, there is basically one party – the business party. It has two factions, called Democrats and Republicans, which are somewhat different but carry out variations on the same policies.” – Noam Chomsky
I often get accused of being, at various times, a liberal, a Democrat, or a progressive. In reality, there is not a mainstream political party or identity in the US that aligns with most of my views. The closest would be to consider me a leftist. But even that is a moving target, because in many European countries, my political views would be slightly left of center.
All of which is to say, partisan politics is a horrible place to invest your identity or your hope for the future.
I recently posted on Facebook that it saddened me that people who claimed to be pro-choice would criticize Melania Trump for having posed nude in her modeling career. After all, if we are in favor of allowing women to have control of their bodies, it makes sense to me that we would also be in favor of allowing them to have control of who they show those bodies to, and under what circumstances.
The pushback I got on that fell in two categories: Those who thought that her having done that was against their own moral values, and the vast majority being those who pointed out that it was fair game because of how the Republicans had talked about Michelle Obama.
As I tell the 7-year-old constantly, “They did it first” is not a valid excuse for misbehaving.
But I have other reasons for decrying partisanship. I don’t think it’s very useful.
If my hope for a change toward a better world than the one in which we now live is partisan, then the entirety of my ability to enact that change comes down to election day. Voting in members of “my” party or faction is all that matters, and all we can do. And it thus strips us of responsibility and agency.
But if we move from “Everything is partisan” to Everything is political”, then we have scads of options to effect change in the world around us. Because the truth is, everything we do is a vote for the sort of world in which we want to live.
If you say you want to live in a world that has thriving small shops, yet you buy the majority of your goods at multi-national chains, you voted against small shops. If you say you want a world filled with diversity, yet you don’t question why everyone on your team at work looks like you, you voted against diversity. We vote for better political discourse when we engage in better political discourse. We vote for inclusion when we include people who have historically been excluded.
We get to vote every day for the sort of world in which we want to live. So we might as well vote for a good one.