Political Identity Crisis
Sometimes on social media I wind up in political discussions in forums designed for that purpose.
I find that self-described conservatives often think I’m a liberal because I believe in empirically proven collectivist legislation such as universal healthcare.
Self-described liberals often think I’m a moderate or conservative because I think free markets work well in many instances–and because I argue against the ills of wrong-headed, governmental restrictions in various areas such as housing regulations.
So people judge my overall political belief system based on my take on specific political issues. But every issue is different, so I tend to believe legislation should not be based on ideology but on empirical evidence about a specific issue.
The problem, of course, is that you often just wind up with just two choices in an election no matter your take on various specific issues. This is a reflection of our increasingly polarized and, I think, broken two-party system, but we’ll put that aside for now.
The Small “d” Democrat
I think of myself as a small “d” democrat who believes our governmental legislative systems are largely dysfunctional because they have been, according to certain studies, captured by moneyed interests. As a result, they do little to serve the “will of the people,” as measured by polls and research. I’ve got nothing against the ultra-wealthy per se, but they are neither qualified nor elected to make decisions for the rest of the nation.
So what does that make me? Radical? Populist? Moderate? Socialist Libertarian?
Beats me. “Small ‘d’ democrat” is the best I can think of. Because I do believe that a representative democracy (yes, and I know we live in a federal republic, as millions of online cranks will insist on) is a good, self-correcting system if it typically reflects the will of the overall population rather than the will of most powerful plutocratic class. And, if it protects minority rights even while reflecting majority opinion.
I suspect that there are many people who, like me, do not fit neatly in today’s political stereotypes and conventional classifications. (It never did make much sense to plot the complex plethora of political ideas along the absurd paucity of a single horizontal spectrum.) If we ever banded together, maybe we could call ourselves “The Empirical Party” to indicate we base most of our political opinions on the best facts available, undergirded by a few basic values such as liberty and fairness.
Of course, I’m well aware that our two-party system means that any third-party has almost no hope of gaining a foothold. But it’s nice to have a dream, and one never knows.
Featured image: 1874 cartoon by Thomas Nast; Credit Kean Collection/Archive Photos/Getty Images