One of the best feelings in the world is realizing that there are other people who think like you, who care about the same issues, and – most importantly – who have a tremendous amount of passion for changing the way things are and ameliorating the lives of all Canadians.
For me, that feeling was present at my first Liberal event, my first leadership convention, my first time volunteering for the party, and, to be honest, every Liberal event, convention and volunteering I’ve participated in since. For me, partisanship was like an extended hand, welcoming me into a community of intelligent, diverse and independent peop le who have helped shape me ineffably.
I like to joke that I had two upbringings: one traditional, and one with my political friends. Be it running around at a leadership convention frantically distributing flyers, canvassing in the midst of the less than lovely Canadian winter, or just discussing ideas with others the people I met and became close with in politics became my second family. For me, that is one of the most wonderful parts about politics and even more specifically, partisanship.
However, as with everything, there is a darker side to partisanship. Yes, partisanship can be a great thing, and one can learn so much and gain so much from joining a political party. At the same time, one does not have to look too far to see the downsides. For example, let’s examine the status of partisanship in the United States. Having been previously involved in an American political campaign, and as someone who follows American politics with zeal, I’ve previously discussed the situation with many of my political friends and contacts. Something that almost everyone agrees upon is that American politics is too polarized. The problem with partisanship, especially in a system with only two major parties, is that there is often the feeling of “with-us-or-against-us”. Very few congressmen and congresswomen break party lines regularly to vote to directly represent their district or their portfolio.
George Washington explicitly warned against the dangers of political parties, arguing that they would diminish the effectiveness of the democratic process, and in some ways, I agree. However, it takes numbers to make a change and be effective and great ideas come out of a room of like-minded people united by the goal of changing their political situation.
My advice is search hard for an advocacy group, a political party, or an organization that you feel comfortable in, but don’t be afraid to raise your voice in dissent. Just because you are a member of the party does not mean you are blind to its faults. Use your skills to better the party by recognize that nothing is perfect.
Partisanship is a wonderful thing. Blind partisanship, however, is not.