It is no mystery to those who know me that I dislike political labels. Now I find some people that actually like them.
I find that people bring with them a lot of baggage when they interpret my words, reading too much into what I say based on what they think my ideological background is. They are often wrong, which makes conversation and debate very confusing and counterproductive. This is one reason I call myself an independent. The labels of “Republican” and “Democrat” only make things more difficult for me, as do “conservative” and “liberal.”
Example: I once came across a blog basically accusing conservatives who wanted the government “out of the free market” of anarchism. I left a comment trying to set the record straight and noting that, in the same way, liberals who “want the government out of the bedroom” could be accused of the same thing (Imagine how many market transactions occur in the bedroom!). I was from then on simply assumed to be a conservative. Everything I said from that point on was tainted, such that even when I admitted seeing bias on Fox News, I was attacked for not wholeheartedly enough condemning them for being purely a propaganda machine worse even than MSNBC!
I notice that while people may or may not generally fall into broad ideological categories (this is disputable), there are more than enough exceptions to the rules to warrant doing away with political labels entirely. They are misleading at best and divisive at worst. I want to be able to explain my position against the new health care law without then having to defend those who are against the “ground zero mosque” (I really wouldn’t mind having a mosque there.). Labels allow people to dismiss me as “one of those nut-job racist birthers” when I claim that Obama’s economic policies resemble those of Mussolini’s (It’s true.), shutting down debate. Both “liberals” and “conservatives” are ignored because the other side lumps them together with fringe wackos under the same label. Without labels, this would be harder to do. Ending the use of labels should be supported by anybody with a point they want to get across without being marginalized. Now I find that several people have come out against just such an anti-labels movement and I still don’t understand why. I hope this post will begin a discussion.
George F. Will writes in his column, “When people label themselves conservatives or liberals we can reasonably surmise where they stand concerning important matters…” I beg to differ. While one can use those terms as a general rule of thumb, they are incredibly imprecise. Was Dennis Kuccinich against the new health care law because he is a conservative – or because, as a liberal, he didn’t think that it went far enough? Was Ron Paul a liberal because he wanted us out of Iraq?
George F. Will also writes, “People have different political sensibilities; they cluster and the clusters are called parties.” Again, I beg to differ. From my perspective, the parties were already here, and people only “clustered” to them because they felt they had no choice. As long as the specter of “the spoiler effect” exists, we will be stuck with the same two parties we have now. Over time, through the “echo chamber effect”, people became ever more polarized until the illusion of clusters was complete. I have also read the work of different sociologists that seems to suggest that most of the political squabbles we have today are not based on ideology, but on group loyalty (Catholics, Baptists, Jews, blacks, Latinos, veterans) and self-interest (welfare recipients, transnational corporations, corrupt politicians).
George F. Will also writes, “‘Hyper-partisanship’ is deplorable, but partisanship is politics. What would it mean to have a ‘nonpartisan’ position on the issue with which Judge Hudson has dealt?” I ask, “If “hyper-partisanship is deplorable, then isn’t normal partisanship at least undesirable?” One can take a position on something without being partisan about it. I can say that I’m against the new health care law without demonizing Obama and those who voted for him, without being insulting, without making fun of Pelosi, without grasping at straws doubting Obama’s birth certificate, and at the same time being willing to compromise and listen. I can do this because I am more interested in my representatives doing the right thing than I am in how many seats my party has gained or lost (Officially, I don’t have a party.). Yes, partisanship is politics, and politics is power, and power corrupts. Let’s drop the rhetoric.
Mr. Will is not alone. Jonah Goldberg writes much the same things in his column. I just hope he’s only missing the point and not being partisan.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.