Democrats & Liberals Archives

Political Pigeonholes

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day about the political spectrum in the United States. Specifically, how it seems as though many Americans don’t know, or understand, it’s realities and implications. Despite learning about political parties in High School, I have trouble understanding it because I have trouble labeling myself, for some of my views I feel that I am to the left of center, for others I fall on the opposite side. When discussing politics, I think that it is easy to label a view as Left or Right but, people should look at their own opinions and let them fall where they may, regardless of political party or right-left labels. Yes, there are “party” people who will take the stance of the party for the sake of the greater good but, for the rest of us, our individual issue choices cannot be, and should not be, pigeonholed so easily.

For example, I side with many of the views and opinions of Adam Smith regarding laissez faire economics and some of my views could be seen as conservative, whereas many of my social/labor views fall well to the left-hand side of the spectrum. While in Germany, I was as "comfortable" in discussions with skinheads (who are extreme right — and I do not condone their views) as with punks (who are usually hard-left and have a more Communist viewpoint). From my own experience, I have come to the conclusion that the German political spectrum contains more radical points-of-view but that is not to say that I have not met radical Democrats, Republicans, or Libertarians (and one very radical one comes to mind) in the U.S. but, up until recently, polarized political opinions were not something I had seen much here in the States.

That seems to have changed (and is in flux) right now. I'm unsure if this is due to a mis-communication but, based on current events, it seems as though Americans are going farther and farther to the extreme ends of the spectrum, taking hardlines and an "us-versus-them" attitude — splitting the country into two factions: the Liberals versus the Conservatives. We hear about "right-wing conspiracies" (and I'll admit I have bought into a few) and the "Liberal media", which have lead people to blame one another for the problems with American society and the world at large, although our own myopia keeps us from seeing the larger picture. Post 9/11 America stood united to try and heal the deep wounds that were created whereas now it seems as though we have forgotten about 9/11 in favor of allegiance to the viewpoints of some carefully scripted talking-heads.

We base our views blindly on the opinions of those who have high-profiles rather than looking deeply at the issues and questioning the wheres, whys, and consequences. Take outsourcing for example: many of us who are employed in Information Technology (IT) in the U.S. are worried about our jobs going to developers in India, China, Russia, etc. Yet, this is a trend that we can really do little to stop. I'm consoling myself to the fact that many of these positions will return as U.S.-based companies come to the realization that they want to deal with Americans (simply because we are here and not half-a-world away) but there are many of these positions that will never return. I read and hear about the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and, while I lament for those who have lost their jobs, many people who are now out of work supported NAFTA (or, indirectly, the politicians who voted for NAFTA), not realizing its implications.

If we look to the War in Iraq, one interesting thing that I see is the huge number of people who support the President's actions and are proud of our troops, but who would not be willing to enlist themselves. I'll admit that I am too old to enlist and, when I was old enough, did not — mainly because my parents and others thought that I should look for other avenues post-High School. Personally, I support our troops and do not blame them for the current situation, but it troubles me deeply when I hear others complain or criticize them for what they are doing. I know, for a fact, that many of these people did not vote in the last elections (Presidential or otherwise) and do not know anyone who is in the military. Contributing to a democracy is not something which a laissez faire attitude can accomplish — if you did not voice your opinion at the polls then you have little to no reason to voice it elsewhere. Like jury duty, voting is something that we, as Americans, should do because it is our duty — not just to ourselves but also to our children and our children's children. We may not "like" these things but, if we are to stay American, then we should all take an active role in shaping the path of our country.

But where does that path lead? Referring back to my original question, should we (as voting Americans and active participants in our democratic process) lean towards one side of the spectrum or the other because that's what we are told to do, or should we vote based on our own morals and opinions? Currently, I find that politicians worry more about polling numbers than being truthful. They have become (for the most part) homogenized, made-for-TV versions of leaders, men and women who want to appeal to the lowest-common denominator rather than standing firm and true to their personal beliefs. As such, many of us are left with a "lesser-of-two-evils" choice when we reach the polls to cast our vote. True, we cannot agree with the candidates on every subject but we should feel free to express our opinions regardless of what category we will fall into — mainly because we should refuse to be lumped into categories. If, as many of us profess to be, we are truly rugged individuals, then we should ruggedly defend our individualism rather than submitting to applied stereotypes.

As we approach November 2004 I would hope that more of us worry about the specific issues at hand rather than which candidate we favor, rather than which candidate proves to be the most adept at avoiding direct answers in the hopes of not alienating any demographic. Instead of stereotyping ourselves with party affiliations and arbitrary right-left labels, let's make honest and informed choices. We're all in this together and we, as members of a democracy, have the power and the duty to make ballot choices which reflect our positions on the issues.

Posted by huxley75 at November 30, 2003 2:12 AM