Friday, April 20, 2007

Political Terminology

I think we need to start over and redefine the labels we use when talking politics. The tried and true Liberal and Conservative are just not that accurate, and Right and Left are fairly well-understood, but too arbitrary. I'd like to see more accurate and meaningful labels used like Populist, or Elitist, or some other terms that actually mean something like what a person might believe.

My biggest gripe about the term Right is that the folks who inhabit that end of the spectrum seem to think that it means Correct when applied to them. We have a local right-wing radio host who has billboards around town advertising his show that refer to him as Mr. Right. Other signs for his show say that it is "Right, Every Day at 5PM". I really get the impression that these folks like being called Right, even if they realize that it doesn't mean that they are actually correct.

Another local billboard provides a handy definition of the term Liberal - the Taxpayer's League says that it means Tax Tax Tax and Spend Spend Spend. I kind of thought that liberal meant open to new ideas, willing to try new things and not too interested in unnecessarily restricting people's rights. Sometimes being liberal does mean spending tax money to provide services that are needed and beneficial, sometimes being liberal means giving people the freedom to live their lives without government interference. I suspect that it just doesn't work to have catch-all labels for just about anyone's political views. I have many views that are aligned with folks on the left end of the spectrum, and many other views that are aligned with folks on the right end of the spectrum. On average I probably end up somewhere in the middle, but there are few situations when the middle is a real option. This is probably the case for even the most extreme cases. The far right-wing folks who consider themselves frugal are perfectly happy collecting taxes and using the money for things like law enforcement or national defense. The far left-wing folks who get painted as tax and spend liberals have plenty of situations where they find themselves not wanting to spend tax money, like on public school bible study classes or on stadiums for profitable sports teams.

I guess that maybe instead of looking for better labels we'd be better off just going without labels and taking the time to find out what someone actually believes, rather than just hearing Liberal or Conservative and thinking that we know their point of view on the whole range of issues.


wunelle said...

I think often about the same thing. I suppose in the end the labels are not the germane thing; what matters is what specifically we believe. Labels make it easier to find like-minded people, and they help identify broad camps. But the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have quite flexible meanings. I think for the Fox News watcher, "liberal" means anyone who doesn't like Fox News, whereas I suspect most people in the broad center of the political spectrum would not define the term that way. To my thinking, we have no real Leftist party in America analogous to the religious Right, in spite of how Democrats are labeled; Democrats today seem very centrist.

Maybe you need to invent or endorse a new terminology!

Dante said...

This post resonates with my thinking as of late. I came to almost the same conclusion just a few days ago - while trying to define liberal and conservative...