Political labels lack meaning

Emily Johns

ABy Mike Jones an “unabashed liberal.” A “staunch conservative.” The grass is always greener on your side. The world would be a much better place if the other side would open their eyes to reality. Of course, the other side is just as capable of judging the world as we are, so they just must be evil. If they are evil, we must be good. We are defenders of all that is true and just.

Sadly, people actually buy this crap.

When someone is labeled “right-wing,” what does that say about him or her? It attributes several political stances that are often supported by those people and organizations that call themselves “conservative” or “Republican.” These issues tend to include militarization, gun rights, privatization and free trade, family values, homeland security, racial profiling, oil interests, the death penalty, lower taxes and constitutional republicanism. Organizations affiliated with the right-wing are the Republican Party, the National Rifle Association and the Christian Coalition.

“Left-wing” refers to a person who tends to advocate abortion rights, welfare, affirmative action, education, environmentalism, civil rights, animal rights, drug legalization and participatory democracy. Affiliated organizations are the Democratic Party, the Sierra Club and the American Civil Liberties Union. It’s obvious that a person can easily take stances in varying degrees of extremity on issues on either side at the same time. Many whose politics derive from Christianity support family values, welfare and civil rights, while condemning war, abortion and the death penalty. A libertarian would support free trade, abortion, gun rights, lower taxes, civil rights and drug legalization while opposing probably everything else as an unnecessary expansion of government. Greens and Independents are also hard to force into either pole. Most of America has a little of this and a little of that on their political plate, as well as other issues that didn’t get into the horse race.

More important, there is no underlying logic to the dichotomization. How do you call for militarization and lower taxes at the same time? Without exploring each issue individually, can the same ideology draw support for abortion and animal rights? These charged phrases are honored more as buzz phrases than as actual goals of politics by the major parties and political entities.

This is not to say that “conservative” and “liberal” are meaningless ideologies. However, they are commonly misused in everyday verbal behavior interchangeably with “right-wing” and “left-wing.” Given their actual definitions, they most certainly aren’t opposites. “Conservative” refers to a person who favors smaller government and is cautious of change. “Liberal” refers to a person who wishes for government to be free of bigotry and to work towards societal progress. In many cases, there is no reason to pick sides, for they can agree.

Enlightened politics requires a removal of these thought-suppressing labels. What draws many to this antisimplistic conclusion is the realization that, given only two choices, one has the options of fascism-light and communism-light. Fortunately we have more options than that to choose from. Besides, why join a team when it is much more liberating to think for yourself?

Mike Jones is a University junior studying psychology. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]