I've seen lots of people define their political party based on the few issues they feel are important to them. For instance: some people would label themselves as Democrats because they believe people should have equal rights to marriage... others would label themselves as republicans because they believe abortion should be made illegal. What about all of the other positions those parties take? The Democrats believe the government should take care of everyone and watch over them where the Republicans believe the government is evil and all of its spending should be cut to nothing except war (I'm exaggerating here to make a point of skewed opinion, not a presentation of facts). While it may be true that it is impossible to find a political party where you agree with EVERY facet of their platform, but do you fall neatly into either the Republican or Democrat columns?
As I hinted at before, there is a plethora of options for political parties in the US, so I'm not even going to try to tackle every one. Instead, I am going to focus on the two parties that have captured my attention the most: Libertarians and Constitutionalists. When I first began my dive into political alternatives, I was drawn quickly to these two parties because my emerging political issue is personal rights. These two parties agree on several issues including the wish to return to a government strictly bound by the Constitution, the promotion of individual freedoms, and they both have similar economic policies. They also both agree on the issue of health care reform: the government is constitutionally prohibited from regulating health care.
The deciding factor for me was written in the preamble for each party. The preamble is the party line from which all of their policies can be derived from - with it, you should be able to identify exactly how the party would vote on any given issue without having to look at their issues page. The Constitutionalists believe that this country was founded not by "religionists", but by Christians that believe in "our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." They seek to return to American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the government within its Constitutional boundaries. This to me said that the party as a whole can selectively persecute because of religious beliefs (though not through legal means because the Constitution prohibits that). It seems difficult to me that a country with such a strong foundation favoring one religion over another can remain tolerant of other religions (I'm thinking of the UK right now which is going through problems with their Muslim population and much of the Middle East which is trying to work through its problems with Christians).
The Libertarians on the other hand emphasize individual rights and the elimination of the use of force or fraud to achieve goals. They don't even mention religion in their preamble except to say that they believe it is wrong for the government to promote or attack any religion in particular and that people are free to follow any religion they wish so long as it doesn't infringe on the personal freedoms of someone else. It just makes sense to me. Since I have learned about these platforms, I get a little confused when I see people arguing for something that would infringe on other people's rights or freedoms. Some examples I run into all the time are things like farm subsidies, health care, and government regulations. Things like the health care debate strike at the very core of the Libertarian platform. According to the Libertarians: the government is already too involved and needs to get out; Subsidies (farm, foreign trade like NAFTA, and energy) are all bad for the people; and government regulation does more harm than good. Look it up. Understanding that there isn't one party that fits all, issues that deal with the core party line should certainly align with your values.
The first thing you should do now is read up on your favorite party... go to your search engine of choice, type in your political party (like "libertarian party") and the first hit will be your party's website. You should then be able to navigate around their website to find their Preamble (here are links for the Constitutionalists, Democrats, Libertarians, and Republicans for a start). Do you agree with your party's platform? If not... why would you support them? Find a party that agrees with you. It isn't always easy to make a decision... but we've got some time... the next vote for the US House and Senate is November 2, 2010.