I’m not running with a political party, and a New York Times piece out today helps illustrate why. It’s an op-ed centered around a twenty question quiz, and it claims to sort Americans into six political subdivisions based on their responses. It’s like being placed into a house in Harry Potter: your answers make you a Gryffindor, a Hufflepuff, a Ravenclaw, or a Slytherin.
But these questions are painful, because they don’t dig at the real issues. Question 3 asks, yes or no, “Should same-sex marriage be legal?” This is obviously designed to force respondents to announce their moral views on the lives of others.
Yet, there’s something more fundamental to consider: should the government be involved in registering, licensing, and tracking personal relationships at all? Why have we done it historically, and should we keep doing it? What are the benefits and drawbacks to the government’s role in marriage?
Another prompt asks how strongly you agree or disagree with the statement: “Local governments should decrease the size of police forces and the scope of their work.”
Which is bad question design. Because what if you want police forces to have more officers, but a narrower focus? And it’s not as if these departments aren’t already struggling to retain staff , nor are they similar across the country .
The worst one may be this: “I would rather be a citizen of the US than any other country.” (Possible responses range from strongly disagree to strongly agree.)
But this is a bullshit question: of course none of us actually know what daily life is like in every other country in the world. None of us are qualified to objectively pick the place that would be best for us. Perhaps once in a while the grass looks greener elsewhere. Is that how we’re supposed to answer this?
All of the questions in this list are broken. If we did create a political party in response to this quiz , it would be a seventh option: The Reality Party. Because in truth, the answer to pretty much all of the questions is either “we have no way of knowing” or “it doesn’t matter, because a change in policy wouldn’t have a practical effect anyway.”
The Democratic and Republican teams aren’t working any longer. And new parties based on the dumb questions from the existing parties—those wouldn’t work either.
Today, the main role of the political parties seems to be to get people to focus on fantasies. That they can change the behavior of millions of people with a new law or address systemic problems by adding or eliminating some government program.
This is why I am not running with a political party. We need to have more fundamental discussions. We need to talk about genuine principles, not unworkable policies. We need to accept the reality that most people have thrown their hands up in frustration. That most people don’t really subscribe to even most of the views of one party or the other.
That if we bother to vote, we are often doing so as a defensive action. To slow down the side which is definitely the worst option of the two.
So let’s stop trying to sort ourselves into political parties–the current ones or some imaginary list. What matters is that we’re Americans.
And our country needs our help.