Point of View: Pigeon-holing and political prejudice

It’s time to drop party identifications.

Within every news broadcast on TV, the internet or on the printed page, the identification of a political office holder invariably includes their party affiliation, such as, “Rep. Ro Khanna, (D) California”, or “Sen. Roy Blunt, (R) Missouri.” I question the need and purpose of this.

The seemingly mandatory reference to the person’s political party was brought up in a discussion with an associate, and I was told that they preferred such identification because it “helped them understand where that politician is coming from without the necessity of knowing anything about them.”

Well, you can probably see where this is going.

Why waste your valuable time and energy listening to what one has to say when you can “understand” all you need or want to know through a single letter? It’s so much more convenient to remain within your respective “D” or “R” bubble thereby allowing someone or some organization make your decisions. Also, and possibly more insidious, this leads to candidates feeling more pressure to tow the party line in order to maintain their R or D “member in good standing” status.

This is certainly not a new political or social phenomenon. As a child in the age of mechanical voting machines, consisting of a switch next to each candidate arranged conveniently in two neat columns headed by either a donkey or an elephant, I recall my father having no idea what a candidate might profess or the general platform on which they stood. He identified as a Southern Democrat and, therefore, was obligated to run his hand down the entire column of donkeys. Furthermore, knowing my father’s process, my mother would make it a point to run her hand down the row of elephants. While an unfortunate and wasted vote on her part, she maintained that she was at least negating a totally thoughtless and possibly damaging vote. The reasoning and result of her voting process can certainly be debated.

The point is, until we actually listen to our candidates or elected officials and try to understand their reasoning (or possibly hidden agenda) while ignoring or, better yet, not knowing or caring whether they are unnecessarily identified as a member of any particular party, we are perpetuating unthinking tribal party politics, including single-issue and celebrity voting.

During any interview, we’ve all seen the identifying banners at the bottom of the screen showing their name, Rep. or Sen., the appropriate “R” or “D” and the state or district they represent. Since we are unwilling or unable to overlook these pigeon holes, how ‘bout the media just leave out those prejudicial letters and allow us to pay attention to what is being said without immediately prejudging the content and merit of the concepts being explored. We may find that there are folks on both sides of the isle, including “I”s, “L”s and “G”s or whatever other letter with which they are labeled, who have valid and interesting thoughts on how to handle our nation’s problems and opportunities.

I think it is high-time we stop mindlessly flipping all the elephant or all the donkey switches. In time, along with supporting a more informed voter base, it just may lead to a pool of better qualified and more considerate candidates.