Love it or hate it, social media provide an outlet for political opinions — some incendiary, some provocative and some sensible, sound and rational. The beauty of soliciting comments on Facebook is that the replies are quick, heartfelt and varied. Some folks who might not feel comfortable offering political opinions in a social gathering seem at ease discussing politics openly in a Facebook chat.
My current 5,130 Facebook political page “likes” range from the most conservative or libertarian to the most liberal. The range of views on most posts offers a great diversity of thought. Most of the time the conversation is civil, but at times I have chastised those who cross the line.
Many of them, but not all, don’t really want an impartial or unbiased discussion but would rather defend their party and attack the other, much like sports fans cheering for their team and trash-talking the rival team.
Interestingly, there is great variation within the parties, particularly in the Republican Party. Loyalty is expected among party members without agreement on issues, philosophy, preferred candidates or party direction.
So this past Sunday I posted the following question, hoping to glean how each political party is perceived by voters of differing affiliations:
“I would like some good, productive, honest feedback. Please refrain from insults and snark. Please indicate your party affiliation followed by what you think the Republican Party stands for, what you think the Democratic Party stands for and, if you like, what you think Libertarian, Independent, or any other minor party or movement stands for. This might go in a future column (without names). Thanks.”
Within hours, there were more than 100 responses and they were illuminating. Loyalty to party was not evident in these responses. While certainly not scientific, some interesting trends emerged.
• First, some believe there isn’t a lot of difference between the parties, as evidenced by one of my favorite responses.
“GOP = Party of growing the government, big spending, and liberty killing. Ok to subvert the Constitution if it is for a GOP idea. DEM=Party of growing the government, and big spending. Ok to subvert the Constitution if it is for a DEM idea.”
“R’s and D’s are one [and] the same . . . I’ll hang out with Independents, at least we can speak our minds and owe no allegiance.”
• Second, there was some consensus that the problem is not ideology but that both parties are more interested in self-preservation or helping the influential.
“The battle in America is not right versus left, it is the people vs special interest groups.”
• Third, those who identified themselves as Republicans (more than 40 percent of respondents) were the least happy with their party for a variety of reasons, including the emphasis on social issues, increased intolerance and lack of cooperation. On the other end, a few believed the GOP wasn’t conservative enough.
“Registered Republican, extremely disappointed with continued focus on social issues . . . cannot continue to legislate morality.”
“As a Republican, this past election was first time I voted democrat for president. GOP today is not the party of Reagan. It has become a close-minded party of elitists and heartless individuals.”
• Fourth, respondents believed the Libertarian party primarily has good ideas but loses support because they are not realistic in their application.
“Libertarians — 90 percent of what they stand for is good but that last 10 percent is so offensive, we will continue to reject the party as a whole.”
• Fifth, there seemed to be a general belief that the GOP is the party of the rich and is becoming a small tent while the Democratic Party is for the working class, is more tolerant, appeals to women and minorities but spends too much.
“D stands for big government and handouts. R stands for smaller government and earning it for yourself.”
“R’s stand for individual (I’ve got mine, don’t care if you get yours) and D’s stand for group (all should be given a fair shot).”
You can learn a lot about what people think if you just ask them. Oh, and it helps if you listen.
Paula Dockery was term-limited as a Republican state senator from Lakeland after 16 years in the Florida Legislature.