Up until the weeks before I parted ways with Cato, I never felt any overt pressure to toe any sort of party line. But almost as soon as I left, I found that I was noticeably less reflexively defensive about anti-libertarian arguments. I found it easier to the see merit it in them! I feel sure that much of this has to do with the fact that at some level I had recognized that my livelihood depended on staying within the broad bounds of the libertarian reservation, and that this recognition had been exerting a subtle unconscious pressure on my thought. Once I became an independent operator, much of that pressure lifted. And as soon as that pressure lifted, I began to feel much less attached to the libertarian label. And as that sense of attachment waned, I became even less reflexively defensive about anti-libertarian arguments. It became hard for me to avoid the conclusion that my political self-conception had been interfering with my ability to evaluate arguments objectively. I had been letting people on my team get away with bad arguments, and I had been failing to acknowledge the force of arguments against my team's tenets. The fact that everybody else does this, too, doesn't make me feel any better about my own sins against Truth.To espouse a political label does indeed invite distortions in our thinking -- I would say requires distortions in our thinking. Nobody who thinks for himself will always end up at the party line.
To some extent the ideologies we choose reflect our characters, and so much of what our chosen party preaches will make sense to us. But there is nothing very consistent in the policy prescriptions of either liberals or conservatives, or indeed in any ideology but the most extreme libertarianism. When you see people changing their opinions to match what their party leaders are preaching this year, or revising their ideas about Presidential power based on the party of the President, you can see the foolishness of too much devotion to the team.
Of course it is very difficult to influence events in a huge country as an independent thinker; only a mass movement can do that. But if all you do is immerse yourself in a movement and accept whatever it teaches, are you really making any contribution?