Think for yourself this Election Day

One big shift in the U.S. in recent years has come to our sense of community. These days, with social media and internet news, people have become more likely to feel a sense of community with those who share the same political views or other interests, and less likely to feel bonded with those who happen to live nearby.

Far-flung partisans have unified. Yet people have also become more likely to avoid their neighbors and even their relatives if they happen to vote differently.

That trend strains the integrity of American society, whereas cross-partisan bonds and independent thought strengthen it. When we realize that it takes all kinds of people to make the world go around, when we look for a common threads rather than dividing lines and when we feel obligated to serve those who disagree with us, we reinforce the structure our nation was built on and add to its lifespan.

Partisans have unified by coordinating their actions, but also by homogenizing their beliefs. For instance, the proposals of President Donald Trump or Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of which would’ve been radical a few years ago, have become standard for Republicans and Democrats, respectively.

Sometimes policy positions flow upward from the people to the party, but we have noticed that they more often trickle downward. Those who agree with parts of a party’s platform soon endorse all of it, taking strong positions on issues they didn’t used to feel strongly about. This can be seen with Democrats on abortion and Republicans on immigration, to give just two examples.

We urge all voters to think for themselves, issue by issue. Resist the temptation to vote straight ticket. Try to identify yourself by other things that make you yourself, rather than letting your politics run away with you. The other party’s voters are not your enemy. They are not “those people”; they are individual persons, each as complex as yourself. When you choose the candidate you think is better in each race, avoid thinking of them in black-and-white terms.

Perhaps the biggest problem with American democracy is the fallacy of winning. Even when a candidate or party “wins” an election with a majority of voters, it’s not winner take all. The other party’s voters don’t go away. The “winners” might be able to implement some policies they support, but they can’t sweep out the “losers.” Our nation’s founders didn’t design our government to work like that.

In our system, when its checks and balances work as they should, the ones with the most power are often the swing voters: the voters and legislators who remain open to suggestions until they ultimately make their decisions. They usually recognize that no option is perfect but that choosing is a necessary responsibility.

We have endorsed candidates in the state and federal races over the last week-plus, but we will not endorse in the county and town races. We will say that we are impressed by every single candidate in these local contests. They are serious and caring and qualified in various but real ways. If you don’t already know about about them, read about them in the Enterprise, in print or in the “Politics” category of our website under “News.” Party politics doesn’t have much to do with these county and town jobs, so don’t let that dominate your decision-making. Think for yourself.