There are two things that really piss me off in political threads on the SDMB (well, there are a lot more than two, but there are two that I’m pitting right now), which generally have to do with the attitudes and statements made by some self-proclaimed political independents.
Now, I want to preface this by saying that I have absolutely no problem with people being independents, if that is in fact the position they have honestly come to after due diligence. And, for that matter, I have plenty of scorn for anyone who blindly follows any political party. Any political independent who values intellectual honesty and integrity, and shares such core values as freedom and independence and democracy, is my ally. And there are many such on the SDMB. I’m pitting a attitude that I’ve seen enough to piss me off, but it’s in no way the attitude of all or most independents. So keep that in mind.
The first thing that pisses me off is the attitude of “well, I’m an independent, and independent means objective, and objective is better, and therefore I’ll present my opinion as if it’s better than yours, along with some snooty and mock-surprised remarks about how odd it is that I’m a political independent, if you can imagine such a thing!”. Being an independent in no way makes your opinion better or more objective than anyone else’s. People who are registered democrats or republicans (at least, the thinking and reasonable variety who, all snideness aside, make up the majority of those that one finds on the SDMB) do not in any surrender their ability, or inclination, to think for themselves about any issue. Presumably, someone will only join a political party if they agree with that party about LOTS of things, but that doesn’t mean everything, and it doesn’t mean that they have those positions because of their party membership. It’s usually the other way around.
And even aside from arguing about individual issues, I think some people believe that being an independent is just plain better, as in, “any truly evolved thinking individual would cast aside the shackles of the two party system and be free!”. And that’s just plain silly. If you evaluated the two major (and all the minor) parties, there’s presumably some amount that you agree with each party. So you can figure out how well your views align with each party, and additionally how important the various pros and cons of party membership are to you, and then decide whether to join a party. Different reasonable and intelligent people will have different levels of agreement with different parties, and different reasonable and intelligent people will assess various other factors differently when deciding whether or not to joing parties. So get off your damn high horse.
My second related peeve is the false moral equivalence. It usually goes something like this:
Doper #1: I am really disturbed that party A does X.
Doper #2: I belong to party A, and I disagree with you for these reasons (blah blah blah). [I have no problem with Doper #2. This is why we have the Dope, so we can argue about things like this.]
Doper #3: Ehh, both parties do X all the time. They’re all the same. [THIS is what I have a problem with].
Now, with any two entities as big as the democratic and republican parties, it’s almost certainly going to be the case that there are examples in each of just about everything. And neither one is a paragon of virtue. But it is NOT automatically the case, based on some mysterious Law of Party Equivalence, that any criticism that can be fairly levelled at one party can also automatically be equally levelled at the other party.
Now, I (a democrat) would claim that the Republican party has, of late, done a MASTERFUL job of manipulating the media, and its membership’s general perception of the media, in recent years, in some generally dishonest and deceptive ways. Now, I may well be wrong in this claim. BUT, a meaningful response to my claim would NOT be “oh, the Democrats do it just as much”. They do NOT do it just as much. At least, it’s not axiomatically true that they do it just as much. Heck, I WISH they did it just as much and just as well, cause maybe we’d win some damn elections.
Similarly (and I’ve ranted about this many times before), it is NOT automatically the case that just because Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are two of the most visible Republican pundits, and Al Franken and Michael Moore are two of the most visible Democratic pundits, that Anne and Rush are equivalent, in terms of general honesty and trustworthiness and fairness, to Al and Michael. They might be. Coincidentally. Or the might not be. But the aren’t automatically so.
(Disclaimer: There is one way in which party affiliations might lead to lazier and less intellectually rigorous decision making than being an independent, which is that when it comes to issues that one doesn’t know or care much about, party members have the option of basically voting or supporting the party line. But this isn’t necessarily a BAD thing. For one thing, people just plain don’t have time to fully research and investigate and ponder every issue facing every level of local, state, national and international government. And it’s a reasonable assumption (although not an absolute proof by any means) that if I agree with group A on 75% of the issues that I have thought about, and group B on only 25%, then I’m more likely going to prefer group A’s stance on an issue about which I have not thought. And, of course, it’s possible to use your party’s position as your default position, but then keep the option open to change that position when you actually learn more about the specific issue. And needless to say, it’s also possible to be an intellectually lazy independent, and start out by always assuming that the correct position on any topic is precisely between the “left” and “right” position, or something along those lines, which is just as silly as assuming that the correct position is always the “left” or “right” one.)