The last few years in politics have been extremely polarizing. We’ve got Republicans and Democrats at each other’s throats, each party trying their best to discredit the other. Long-term friendships have ended, feuds have begun, and our country has been divided over political issues in a way that this country has rarely seen. Now, I live in an area that leans very strongly toward the right, so I may catch some flak for this, but I cannot and will not ever consider myself a Republican.

I am not a fan of political parties. Well, let me restate that: I am not a fan of the way a large number of Americans view political parties. The common notion seems to be that you’re either Republican or Democrat, and that’s all there is to it. No gray area; it’s all just black and white. Well, I don’t necessarily follow that. Personally, a lot of my political views are more conservative, but by no means do I agree with everything that the Republican Party stands for. I’m not going to get into my specific political beliefs on this blog, but there are some areas where my views lean toward the left. However, I don’t agree with everything that the Democratic Party stands for, either.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that we do away with political parties, or even that we could if we wanted to. They serve a necessary purpose in politics–just ask James Madison. Nor am I suggesting that anyone who is a member of a political party is wrong–there are plenty of very sensible people who align themselves with each party. I don’t have any statistics to back this up (I could make one up, if you’d like), but I’d even be willing to bet that these people are the majority. They are well-educated about political issues, have made up their own minds what they believe, and those beliefs led to their choice of political party.

But too often, that is the other way around. So many people decide first that they’re Republicans or Democrats, and let the party tell them what to believe. It brings to mind the old phrase, “Yellow Dog Democrat,” which referred to a Southern Democrat who would vote for a “yellow dog” before they would vote for a Republican candidate. Am I the only one that thinks this is wrong? It’s one thing to educate yourself and make an informed decision about political issues, but to blindly let a group of people dictate everything that you believe without trying to make any sort of decision for yourself is just insane. In the same sense, I’ll never understand why people vote straight Republican or straight Democrat on any ticket. Unless you have researched every candidate and made your own decision, how can you know that the people you’re voting for aren’t a bunch of crooks? Just because they’re affiliated with the same political party as you doesn’t make them a good candidate for the job.

Look, I’m not here to push any political agenda. I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or some other crazy party that I’ve never heard of. Everybody’s welcome here at Joe’s Place. All I’m saying is take the time to actually do some research and decide for yourself what to believe, rather than letting your party tell you what you believe. And that’s exactly what the parties want you to do, because that’s how they control you. When we as a people stop thinking for ourselves and let the government think for us, we no longer control the government–the government controls us. And if more people don’t start making their own decisions instead of letting some political party think for them, that’s exactly where we’re headed, and that’s not a road I want this country to go down.