I've heard that you shouldn't talk about politics or religion in polite company - but here I go....
One of my favorite classes in high school was government, taught by Jerry Gritz at Sonora High School. The highlight of the class, at least for me, was a 2-week period during which we interviewed community members about their political perspectives. By asking a series of questions about fiscal matters, social issues, tax policy, foreign policy and other philosophical issues, we were able to discern our own political perspectives. I found that I was very liberal when it came to social issues, moderate when it came to taxation and fiscal issues, and anti-interventionist when it came to foreign policy. Like my folks, I found that I agreed most with the platform of the Democratic party. I've voted in every election since I registered to vote at the age of 18, and while I've voted mostly for Democratic candidates, I've become increasingly disenchanted with my party. I've also remained disenchanted with the Republican party. As a rancher and a rural Californian, I found that I didn't care for any of the electoral choices we had in our most recent election. Nobody, it seems, represents my rural-centric, socially liberal and fiscally moderate viewpoint. I have no home politically.
I've heard that Winston Churchill once said that a young man who is conservative has no heart, while an old man who is liberal has no brain. I've certainly found that my political perspective has evolved as I've aged. Issues that were black-and-white when I was a young man are much more gray for me today. Life is complicated, and yet our politics don't seem to permit nuance or thoughtful consideration. Indeed, I probably share the burden of thoughtful people in any modern democracy - complex issues don't lend themselves to sound-bite solutions.
I live in a fairly rural area and make my living in agriculture. By nature, I'm pretty conservative when it comes to spending money, especially if it's not mine. I own and use guns - both in my work and in my recreation. That said, I've never had a need for a fully automatic assault weapon, and I'm not convinced that anyone has a "right" to such a weapon for personal use. I bristle at the idea of one-size-fits-all regulations that impair my own ability to manage the natural resources I depend upon for my livelihood, and yet I value the opportunities I have to recreate (camp, hunt and fish) on public lands. I have dear friends whose sexual orientation is different than my own, and whose desire to marry their partner presents no threat to my own marriage. Similarly, I have friends who have had to make hard, personal choices in private that I cannot fathom having to make - I can't imagine forcing my own perspective onto them. As someone who works outside nearly everyday, I can't escape the conclusion that our climate is changing - and that my own reliance on fossil fuels has something to do with this change. While I don't like the idea of war, I think there are some things worth fighting for - human rights and human dignity come to mind.
One paragraph, obviously, is too small a space to describe one's philosophy - my own views are complicated and ever-evolving. Unfortunately, our political system doesn't seem to comprehend complexity. From my perspective, too much of the Democratic party seems to represent an urban liberal viewpoint far removed from the realities of my rural livelihood. At the same time, much of the Republican party seems to be dominated by culturally conservative, angry politicians who refuse to acknowledge scientific research. Libertarians seem like kooks in many ways - any idea, even the idea of personal liberty, can be taken to the extreme. And I have to say that the Tea Party seems like a thinly veiled effort to make racism seem appropriate. In other words, I can't get excited to vote for any candidate - major party or otherwise.
I don't know what the answer is. I think that many of us appreciate the complexity of modern society - issues are rarely as simple as our leaders would have us believe. I guess we get the politics we deserve - we probably long for things to be simple and gravitate towards those leaders who tell us that there are simple solutions to our problems. In the meantime, I guess I'll keep holding my nose while I vote.
I hope this hasn't offended anyone - it's meant to describe my own distaste for modern politics at the moment. Other perspectives on these issues are important - as is the ability to learn from other people and to change our own perspectives. I hope others will share theirs!