A Ramble on the Boring Nature of Ideological Battling
The United States once again is drawing near that ever-sacred year of madness: The Presidential Election. You would be forgiven for thinking that we’ve already been in the throes of this process–candidates have already left the race, joined the race, the candidate selection has taken its final shape, panic has kicked in because the candidate selection is unsettled–but we really haven’t reached Presidential Election mode. Just the silly season that comes immediately before.
Fall is just around the corner, though, and the reality of Primary Presidential Nomination and Presidential Head-to-Head is just weeks away. I love it and can’t wait, because TRC loves (LOVES) politics. But I am already weary of the boring, boring ideological battling that will eventually accompany the madness. This is not just liberal v. conservative, but it will be conservative v. conservative as well, as candidates seek to find the perfect ideological portfolio to convince the party he or she will be just the thing that everyone is looking for. (It is not liberal v. liberal, of course, because the liberal is the incumbent). The nominees must battle out their ideological bona fides, because their policies, in all likelihood, are pretty much the same. Hopefully in the countless discussions about science and Christianity, and Christianity and Mormonism, and small government and small businesses, and how Liberals are terrible, we can learn something about how the candidate will govern. I doubt that we will learn much, because political ideology, in my opinion, has little to do with how one will act as an elected officially. At least that is what TRC hopes beyond hope. Because when ideology becomes policy-making in a divided government, no one makes any policy (see debt ceiling, and everything else the past year). And so, I dread the ideological battling.
Why do I dread ideological debates? Because ideology is boring. Some Americans are political animals, and some are not. Some people are religious, some are not. The world influences us through our experiences and our genes and our education and through a million other factors and the adult human grows into the kind of person that has an ideology that best suits their vision of the world as it is, and how it should be. That’s it. I am no more interested in your ideological pinnings than I am in your personal secrets. Don’t try to convince me to change and I won’t try to convince you. Because it won’t happen. You or I might change our ideological worldview, indeed this happens all the time. But I think it rarely occurs because someone of the other ilk convinced the other. It was probably a further combination of the factors listed above, leading an individual to reassess for themselves what she values, and why.
So don’t worry about me and my values, and I won’t worry about you and yours. My worldview is carved out of my life, it has been given much (too much?) thought, and it works. For example, I don’t believe in god, I do believe in progressive taxation as the best way to take care of all the needs of the United States, I appreciate the value of welfare programs even though I know people take advantage of them, I think science explains the universe better than Religion, but I think stories are how we understand the universe, and I still have a viable morality that imbues my worldview. These are things that inform my ideological worldview. You might be an evangelical conservative, who swears by the Bible and by small government and the smallest taxes imaginable, rejects all science as hot-air, thinks handouts to the poor are a waste of money, and believe that if you are not a Christian you are going to hell. That’s fine. The wasted time spent trying to convert the other is boring and fruitless.
I can imagine that some readers of TRC are wondering, if ideology is so boring, why this blog reports about things like the views of science of the Republican candidates. What does it matter if Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann believe humans were created by a god rather than biological evolution? (if they do, I have no idea). This is an excellent point, and makes the valued distinction this whole post is about. Bachmann and Perry are free to reject all the science they want. That’s their right. But when Michele Bachmann starts a charter school with the intent of mixing the lines of school and religion, or when Rick Perry claims that the state of Texas teaches both creation and evolution, the conversation is not about ideology, it is about policy. This is a fine line, and it is why political and religious ideology can never fully be removed from government or policy-making, and the expectation that they would be completely removed is unrealistic.
Nevertheless, we have laws about what is allowed in the the science classroom, and we have a tax code, and we have programs that are funded by the government, and they operate regardless of your ideology. If you claim that you want to teach creation in the science classroom, you are talking about policy (unconstitutional policy, by-the-by, at least as of now) and I am happy to have a heated debate about history and how educational policy should be decided and whether the previous Court rulings rejecting Creation Science and ID were correct. That sounds like a blast. If you want to argue that science leads children away from salvation and into atheism, or that anyone who wants to raise taxes is against freedom and liberty, or that liberalism leads to fascism by making taking away individual choices and providing a nanny state, then you are just talking political ideology. And as much as those sentiments are perfectly absurd and incorrect and ignorant, it is your right to claim them. See why ideological battling is a waste of time?
What is interesting is what you want to see the government do, and how you think the government should do it. The US has voters like me and you, and everyone else, and the government will have to operate regardless. This is the question that is worth the fight: how should we govern a nation where there is no unified ideological majority? There is probably not even an ideological majority within each of our two parties, let alone nationally. But we have parties, and they have general outlines of what the values and beliefs of their party are, and the parties work through an often contentious process to bring about a candidate, and those candidates face off, and hopefully the winner will be able to govern the nation towards my side, because my side is a better way to run a country. Of course, you want the opposite of that, because you and I don’t agree on political ideology. Oh well.
How should we run the country anyway?