Splitters! : A few notes on ideology and what I mean when I say “the left”
Reading through the comment threads of my last post in The Right Path series, I decided to hammer out a quick post to quickly address the subject of the left, the right, and ideologies. “What does Tod mean when he says ‘the left?,” seems to be the prevailing question. I expect if I don’t address it now, Monday’s post on the developmentally disabled is going to fall into a quagmire of fussing over who is and isn’t “the left” — so let’s just get it out of the way now. And while we’re at it, a preemptive word on my issues with ideology.
Let’s start with that last one first.
I get why people think I’m somehow anti-ideology, but I’m not. In fact, I’ve been pretty consistent in my Ideology Is the Enemy posts in saying that ideologies are a necessary tool toward good governance. Problems occur when your ideology becomes not just a tool, but rather the only tool. As I said in a previous post on this subject, the problem isn’t that ideology exists, it’s that “more and more, wherever I look, ideology is being used as the filter to determine whether or not data is trustworthy, rather than data being used to determine if an ideology is.” Or to bring it into real world terms, it’s okay (and sometimes even good!) for a political party to run a candidate on a limited government platform because your ideology dictates it. But the moment that same ideology begins convincing that party that this asshole is somehow smarter than a nation of professional statisticians, it’s time to reevaluate your reliance on dogma. But I am not here to argue that ideology is itself is inherently bad. Hell, I have an ideology. It’s just happens to be one that I’m making up as I go.
Now to the more difficult question of right and left…
When I talk about the American left or right, I’m talking in general about those that fall on the appropriate side of the commonly referenced U.S. political spectrum. Period.
Now, I know in advance this is going to irritate many people here. I know full well that people on the blue side are going to cry foul and insist that the Dems are different from the libs who are different from the neolibs who are different from the institutional left who are different from the New-Deal left who are different from the whatever left — or as I like to call it, the People’s Front of Judea Objection. But I’m going to stick to this regardless, in the same way I stick to calling the right “the right” even though it holds both Michelle Bachmann and David Frum.
The truth is I don’t particularly care for the whole Right-Left spectrum thing. As I’ve already discussed here, I believe it’s an artificial and limiting way of looking at things. Worse, it actually re-creates reality in a way it wouldn’t exist otherwise.
For example, in my hometown of Portland the teacher’s union is a corrupt, vapid, blight on the public school system. But we can’t really address this blight in any meaningful way, because the right/left spectrum dictates that there are only two political choices: be on the left and support the union (at the expense of our kids getting a quality education), or be on the right and support gutting all funding to the public school systems (at the expense of our kids getting a quality education). The only other thing anyone on the political scene recognizes is the “centrist” option of supporting the teachers union but with some amount fewer dollars than they want. In actual reality, there are hundreds — and probably thousands — of things we could do to address primary and secondary education needs, bettering schools in lower income neighborhoods, and preparing kids for college and the job market. But we consider absolutely none of those, because the right/left spectrum has recreated an artificial right/left reality where the only options are give the teachers union more money or defund public education.
As I said, I hate looking at everything on a limited, linear spectrum. I would much rather we looked at political options as a three dimensional web that had a greater diversity in allies and opponents. But that’s just not the way our country’s politics are done, regardless of how much I wish it otherwise. And the way I see it, frankly, that’s on all y’all. You want to view the world through an overly simplistic linear spectrum, then I get to identify you as being on one.
Anyway, I figured it would be easier for everyone to tear me a new on this here, rather than later when I’m taking about the issues facing the developmentally disabled.