It's time for Americans to stop skirting the issue because they might think that it's too controversial. You are what you are, and it doesn't matter whether you are a conservative libertarian, liberal, are a combination of all or not. The political parties need to sharpen the contrast between the parties. It's going to boil down to the role of government.
It used to be that divided government was best, but now it is just the cause of polarization. Every constituent should know what the party and political candidate stands for. It's time to stop relying on the slogan “smaller government and fewer taxes" because that's a pretty vague stance. Everyone wants less bureaucracy, and I've never known anyone that enjoys paying taxes; granted most don't mind paying their fair share. If a candidate is running on "smaller government" ask them what departments they will eliminate. If it's less taxes; ask them what they will cut. That way, you will know if they are for your programs, you will know if the candidate is for status quo, improvements, or elimination. It's the same way with taxes, if they are for never increasing taxes; then you know where that candidate stands. It's important to know if they will compromise, or if they have an ideology that won't allow them to compromise.
I will bet my last dollar that most people will say that they pick a candidate not the political party, but historical data proves them wrong. Subconsciously, people will choose a political party when they're voting for a questionable person that they know nothing about. It's where those negative ads that people say they don't like come into play. A lot of people will say they are a pragmatic moderate because it's the popular thing to say. They want to portray an image of being above the fray. I have run into a few people like that but that stance is more of an exception that it is the norm. A lot of people don't know a lot about politics, so they are sincere when they say that they vote for the candidate and not the party. That doesn't mean that they don't have an opinion about the safety net, entitlements, social issues and the war. I know many that agree with the democrat's stance on the environment, war, and economic policies, but they will never vote for a pro-choice Democrat. There's nothing wrong with that stance because it's how the person feels. That's the very reason I won't vote for republicans and their stance on the social issues. People try to make straight party voting a bad thing, but in order to believe that, you would have to ignore the significance of party platforms. I think older republicans have seen the future demographics and they know they have to stop straight party voting or they are doomed. I have voted for several republicans in the local elections because it doesn't really matter who fixes the roads or votes in a budget proposal. There are extreme ideologists, I will never vote for, but that's unusual in local elections. It's usually about the shopkeeper you do business with, or the person they helped you coach a little league team. Politics never comes up in the daily conversations with these people.
On the national front, the lines are drawn. A republican has to be in denial, if they don't think that, their party doesn't want to eliminate the safety net, regulators, unions, the minimum wage, entitlements, and Roe v Wade. It's a party of individualism, and it hates every element of “it takes a village." It’s a party of capitalism, but ignores the fact that government always bails them out because capitalism in America likes to privatize the gains and socialize the losses. On the other side, the democrats need to realize that their programs have had a long run, and it's time to reform them, if they are to be sustainable. It's time for democrats to grow a spine and not be ashamed of protecting the environment, the poor, a woman's reproductive rights, collective bargaining, and middle class issues. Democrats need to vote for those that talk against plutocracy and not avoid the topic because it might influence their donors. The inequality between rich and poor is what brought down the Roman Empire and was the main contributor of the 1929 Great Depression, and it's time to let our fellow Americans know that. You would be surprised of the similar talking points, but back then the middle class went after the poor farmers instead of the Wall Street giants.
It's not always about politics or ideology, a lot of times its how we treat fellow human beings. Will we really take the life of a teenager wanting our cell phone? Are we at that point where we think that violence, guns, and chest beating is the answer? A lot of my friends disagree with me about politics and ideology, but our friendship takes us beyond those issues. My friends don’t mind telling me how wrong I am because they know I can defend my position and vice versa.