Something I’ve been thinking about for a while is why I’m not a Democrat. I’ve pretty much answered the question before about why I am personally a Republican, but I haven’t specifically addressed the flipside. In some political discussions, this seemed to be the subtext of responses.
The main thing is that I disagree with the party on many major issues.
I think capitalism and cheap energy have done more to lift billions out of poverty and improve the quality of life than all the labor unions in the world, and this isn’t something Democrats widely acknowledge. There are excesses and problems, but the solutions really try to throw the baby (modern quality of life) out with the bathwater. It’s telling that Democrats argue that global warming is an existential threat, but don’t follow that up by embracing alternatives like fracking or nuclear power. None of these situations is perfect, but the gains are worth it, and the main alternative is a radical reimagining of society by people who fail to hold themselves to the same standard.
The policies the Democratic party supports create warped incentives. A welfare state has to be balanced with a system that doesn’t encourage dependency. An embrace of victimhood neglects significant problems with the behavior of some people within victimized groups that has to be addressed in order to get significant improvements. The immigration amnesty suggestions pretty much ignore rule of law, rewarding people who don’t play by the rules, while the laws in place aren’t in the best interests in the country, but in ways that impress voting blocs (IE- prioritizing relatives of people already in this country, rather than those with skills the country needs.) The party basically supports a very generous welfare state, and unlimited immigration, a combination that is untenable. There’s an emphasis on acceptance rather than assimilation, the mosaic rather than the melting pot, which results in less cohesion. It was rather telling that during the 2016 campaign, the Democratic party’s website had sections for they would help various subgroups, rather than a shared vision/ principles.
We are currently in a time of massive social changes, many of which are positive, and there is tendency from Democrats to punish the people who aren’t moving quickly enough (IE- the cakemaker penalized for refusing to make cakes for a gay marriage at a time when gay marriage wasn’t yet legal in the state.) History is often described as moving inexorably towards positive progress, but we forget the failed experiments and excesses (prohibition, socialism, eugenics.) We need a push and pull to weed out the bad ideas. Looking at places where liberals have no pushback (college campuses and academia, internet circles) show a poor model for the country. While conservatives go overboard with excessive rules of order and propriety, at least those are clearly defined, whereas the left changes the rules constantly.
The civil rights accomplishments of the last few generations have been impressive, but as a country, I think we’ve gotten to most of the low-hanging fruit. There aren’t future changes that are currently as obvious as allowing gay marriage, or ending the most onerous forms of school segregation. The next steps are tougher, less obvious, and more expensive. This isn’t acknowledged as readily by people on the left, who seem to have a warped view of the problem, and are now in a position to push for changes that could make things worse.
This is a massive country, where there a lot of top-down changes by people who won’t be directly affected. Officeholders might be booted out, although they’ll also have significant effects on people outside their constituencies. Various government boards have even less accountability in coming up with regulations that are sometimes contradictory. And they don’t often realize the losers (for example- if an affirmative action policy is meant to have some racial and ethnic groups proportionally represented but doesn’t have a cap on the number of other groups, it will require some groups to be underrepresented.) Then there’s the use of law to attempt to fix things that aren’t fixable, and penalizing institutions for things that are often someone else’s fault (IE- encouraging penalties on a college that has a low percentage of women in engineering when it may be the result of the talent pool, which could be a result of how the students were raised/ acculturated) or maybe no one’s fault (Do men prefer jobs that involve problem-solving and women prefer jobs that involve working with people?).
A related question to why I’m not a Democrat is why I’m not an independent.
The way elections are set up really disadvantages third parties, but also makes it easier for people who are essentially independents to run major third party campaigns within a presidential primary (see Trump and Sanders in 2016). For all the talk about how parties should be abandoned, radical change is more possible than ever before.
Another factor is talent pool. Partisans tend to be absolute and extreme, but most third partiers more so. The libertarian national convention would have arguments about whether heroin should be legal for children. Candidates for statewide and federal office tend to be local activists, generally not on par with their equivalents on the major party. In contrast, Republican and Democratic candidates for Senate tend to be accomplished state legislators, members of Congress, prosecutors, etc, who also generally had accomplishments before they sought their earlier office.
I’ll gladly vote for a third party candidate in individual elections (or a Democrat), and have done so in the past. But I don’t see myself backing enough new candidates to support a new party. This would be subject to change when a new party is in a position to have primaries between qualified candidates.