10 Shades of Gray: The many faces of political non-allegiance

Much is made of political allegiances, and with good reason. Allegiance is what wins elections, and shifts in allegiance can be examined a macro-level and a micro-level. A person can change preferences based on events in the world around them, or due to changes in their personal views (or a combination of the two). Both are highly interesting subjects, and worthy of study. But little is said about political non-allegiance, particularly ‘outsider’ views. And since my own political story is one of outsider non-allegiance, I thought I’d do a blog on the subject. Political people are often a little harsh on the unaffiliated. We’re treated as either uninformed, apathetic, or easily persuaded. I thought it was worth noting some of the main non-affiliated positions that I can think of. Obviously, there is a bit of overlap between some of these views.

1- Ignorance: I don’t know.
Pretty self-explanatory. In this perspective a person simply doesn’t know enough to have an opinion. (Note: This assumes a level of intellectual honesty that is often absent in educated people). It is basically an honest and valid perspective. Not everyone has had the opportunity or the reason to learn what fiscal policy is, or what equity means. This view holds that allegiance cannot be justified due to lack of knowledge.

2- Apathy: I don’t care.
In this view, a person knows enough, but doesn’t care enough, to have an opinion on politics. This is also a legitimate position to hold. A lot of people are happy as long as the basic services that they are entitled are there. They see no reason to get involved in the dirty world of politics. This view holds that allegiance, like political interest, is not worth the effort.

3- Swing voting (uninformed): I’ll vote for whoever sounds good.
In this view, a person is engaged enough to vote, but has no loyalty to a party or ideology. These people decide elections. Their reasons for voting a given way vary, and I don’t feel informed enough to go into them. But I suspect pocketbook issues, leader ‘likeability’, the media, and the views of peers play a large role here. This view holds that present preferences are more important than lasting allegiance.

4- Swing voting (informed): I’ll vote for whoever is best.
This view is held by people who are politically informed, and vote according to the issues of the day, policy proposals, and whoever they believe is most capable. I think this is a great position. These people keep campaigns and parties on their toes, and prevent them slipping further into hacky point-scoring. This view holds that issues, not allegiance, should decide voting.

5- Centrism: They are all unreliable or extreme.
This view is wary of the extremes of politics, and holds that we need to come together and compromise a lot more. It’s almost a framing of ‘centre vs extremes’, rather than ‘left vs right’, and as such holds no loyalty to a given party since any party can be dragged away from the centre by internal factions. This view claims centrists and moderates from both sides of the spectrum have more in common with each other than with their respective extremes and, moreover, represent a greater swathe of the electorate. Therefore, allegiance to a single party is not justified.

6- Principled Individualism: They can’t ever represent me.
People who hold this view believe that parties cannot adequately represent them. This is often because parties require subservience to function effectively. Therefore, the principled individualist holds the party to be a fundamentally inadequate political unit for their views. Thus, no allegiance is justified.

7- Civility: I don’t like their behaviour.
This view bemoans the lack of civility in politics from all sides. It believes more could be achieved if people would abandon their tribalism and engage with each other in good faith. It holds that since no party is able to behave civilly, then no affiliation is justified.

8- Anti-partisanship: I don’t like their tribalism.
This view is a little harsher than the civility view. Where the civility outsider holds that the way parties behave is the problem, the anti-partisan holds that the partisan norms of the parties are the problem. This view is hostile to the hacky and arbitrary support/against a party’s policies, such as the view that the opposition is always wrong, even when it does something you like. The anti-partisan holds that since all parties are partisan, allegiance to any party is unjustified.

9- Antipathy (parties): I don’t like any of them.
This view is harsher still. It holds that partisanship of the parties is not the problem, but the parties themselves. This can be because of the perception that parties are morally bankrupt and packed with self-serving elitists, concerns about partisanship, disdain at party structures, or a disgust at politicians in general. Therefore, no allegiance is justified.

10- Antipathy (system): I don’t like the system. 
This is the harshest view. The political system itself is considered so flawed that support for the players in the system is unjustified. Reasons for holding this view vary greatly, and can be held by reformists or revolutionaries. But all agree that the system at present is so bad that it needs serious change. This view holds that supporting any party is implicitly supporting the system, or is pointless because the parties are products of a poor system. As such, no political allegiance is justified.

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