As you can tell by my icon, I follow the Clemson Tigers. (Woo! Big wins over Wake and UVa this week!) I am emotionally invested in their performance (for better or for worse...) for a couple of reasons: I attended the institution, so their performance academically and athletically reflect on me, whether that's fair or not, and my performance reflects on them as well; awareness and support is good for the school; it is fun. I get something out of it, and when I give/spend money on their stuff, so does Clemson. It also lets us talk about stuff other than work at work.
That relationship gets further away when you look at professional sports, because I didn't attend anything to do with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; I was simply born near where they play. A lot of people at work have brand loyalties to their cars like sports teams, and that's kind of fun, too, because cars are so oddly personal while the corporations themselves are still quite distant. If you dislike a design decision with Ford or a racing team hire they make, it is not easy to voice that opinion to someone who cares. So the give and take is a little further removed from university teams (which is one of the reasons I prefer college to professional, and why I think it's ok to use "we" in reference to college but less so for professional teams).
One brand loyalty that makes even less sense to me is the political party. I understand why candidates and elected officials show loyalty: the parties give them money. But why should I, as a voter, give money to a party rather than a candidate? What about either the Republican or Democratic Party is constant enough to foster such a relationship? Aside from getting their people in power, what vision do they serve?
I think they are obsolete, and the evidence to support this really started in 2004 when Howard Dean revolutionized the way that political candidates raised money. Ron Paul and Barack Obama pursued that tack as well, and other movements, notably the Tea Party, has also shown that a group of people can focus their political interests without the structure of existing political parties. There will be future ad hoc coalitions like the Tea Party, and I think they are a more appropriate representation of popular will than something entrenched, precisely because they are not entrenched. If they lose the pulse of the interested participants, it fades away. There is clearly a large minority (or possibly plurality) of disaffected voters for whom the mainline Republican and Democratic platform is not adequate. Part of the problem is the arbitrary restriction of the growth of the size of the House of Representatives to an insufficient 435 members. Making the seats more accessible (which was the Constitutional intent) would allow for those coalitions to be able to participate.
Even still, there are those people who will refuse to vote for another party because they are in the other party, much like people who refuse to buy Ford because Dale Earnhardt drove a Chevy, even when the candidate of the other party could (conceivably) represent his or her (let's be honest, probably his) values better. Ever heard of a yellow dog Democrat? Why should that concept even exist?
So stop. Forget them. Pick the guy you like best. Start locally, because they aren't partisan. Defy the arbitrary strictures of platforms. Why are pro-labor, secularism and pro-abortion lumped together? Why are free trade, conservative social values and strong defense? Any of those could be separated from any other, but they are not because the political parties and their platforms require them to be, due to the binary nature of partisan politics. That's silliness.
I need to go change into my orange shirt and make fun of a Tarheel. It's a big game this Saturday.