The question has been asked since before George Washington recommended we not establish parties at the founding of our nation. It is a fair criticism, why do we need political parties at all? With the divide the Utah Republican Party is experiencing, should we scrap the Republican Party entirely?
Having been on both sides of this argument, I would like to share my thoughts.
The disadvantage of political parties is that they tend to polarize issues. Rather than questioning how and what to tax, we have two general opinions: raise all taxes, or lower all taxes. This can easily get in the way of finding real solutions, and the debates tend to devolve into Democrat vs Democrat-lite.
I would contend the gridlock exists because there tends to be as little difference between the two parties as there is accountability. In other words, if the people are able to hold their representatives accountable, they will make sure their candidate is finding solutions, or will be removed. The gridlock disappears when politicians represent the people, rather than representing special interest groups, and this criticism of the parties is really a criticism of apathetic voters not holding representatives accountable.
The whole purpose of political parties is to unite people who already hold common beliefs, or who value common principles. These beliefs and principles can be found in the party platform.
Candidates and delegates cannot morally run for a position of representation in a party they largely disagree with.
So what happens when someone agrees with with much of the platform, but not all? It would be difficult, if not impossible, to form parties where every member agrees 100% of the time.
How (and When) to Unite
Fortunately, we do not need to agree on everything to work together. People that share the same goals, values and principles, can come to a good compromise. People who do not share the same goals, values, and principles will have a very difficult time coming to any sort of agreeable compromise.
I believe this is what is happening in the Utah Republican Party, and is causing the divide. People who share different values and goals have realized that Utah is a Conservative state, similar to California being a Liberal state, making it difficult to run or elect anyone as anything other than as a Republican.
Essentially, a few members come into a party they largely disagree with (according to the party platform the rest of the members have aligned themselves to) and try to change the party to better suit their views.
In an effort to make the Utah Republican Party a “big tent” party, they preach the concept of “Unity at all Costs.” But can a party be unified when it’s members differ in goals and principles? Likely the answer is, “no.” And that’s okay. That’s why we have multiple parties, to help people of multiple views organize themselves together.
The First Amendment gives us the right to assemble, meaning we can choose who we assemble with. We can choose how our assembly is run. The government is not permitted to force our assembly to associate with those that disagree with us so greatly, on issues that are very important to us. The issues we hear from the “Big Tent Republicans” are calls for us to be more moderate on issues of abortion, gay marriage, the right to self defense, the right to freedom of assembly, taxation, and the proper role of government.
When this is the case, where someone agrees with, say, 50% of the party platform and disagrees on the rest, there are typically conflicting principles in the person’s mind. These inconsistent principles likely need to worked out by that person to gain more consistency, and get rid of cognitive dissonance. Another option is for them to take another look at the various party platforms and find the one that best represents their views.
For your convenience, I have included links to all of the major party platforms in Utah, since this is where Delegate Digest is currently focused, so you can find which party best reflects your opinion. You may be surprised at the result!