The Relative Comment

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A Ramble on the Boring Nature of Ideological Battling

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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?


Written by Christopher ZF

August 30, 2011 at 12:52

2 Responses

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  1. I can’t tell where I agree and disagree with this post exactly. Yes, you’re right, ideological battling amongst people is silly, as much as I try I will almost never cause an ideological shift in others. While I think you have created the most “sane” response to this problem of ideological discussion, it is frankly conservative insofar as it assumes we all want the status quo. I tend to agree with you on this, but with many moral caveats. If I agree to your policy truce, then I accept the rules of the game: American politics with its fantastic checks and balances as well as its terrifying corruption.
    The question is (and this should be a much bigger conversation) how do we respond to inherent flaws in our system? For a conservative, the response to what they perceive to be a liberal media bias is a revolt against the “powers at be.”Or, more recently is the direct attack on Keynesian economics (but I don’t know enough about this to really talk). You can argue whether this is correct thinking or conspiracy theory, but ideological questions cause us all to be conspiracy theorists. For example, I see the increasing corporatization of our political system and feel overwhelmed; some days I simply just have to imagine a complete sea change (guess who is avoiding the term revolution). This requires me to think beyond policy.
    When the system seems broken, policy doesn’t seem to suffice; it feels like a drop in the can. But this leads to helpless rage: the system is so damned broken and I can’t do anything about it. And yet, if you decide to opt for policy, you are giving up the fight and in many ways giving up what you believe (not that policy can’t be a way to pursue what we believe, but it is certainly a pared-down version).
    And there’s the dilemma.


    August 30, 2011 at 16:05

    • Its not just policy that I’m for in changing government, but you have to change things through legal means: ballot measures, the courts, executive powers, etc. If we allow you to bring a revolution because you feel overwhelmed by the corporatized nature of our political system, then our system is bad to begin with, and we’ll just see revolution upon revolution.

      Most of what you are saying I sort of agree with (how’s that for a watered down statement of support) but I think that the major political problem on both sides of our politics is that opting for policy and working in the actual channels of government to bring about the changes one wants to see in the country, which is a slow and difficult process, is equal to giving up what you believe and lacking principle. That is such bullshit. Being an elected official unwilling to compromise on anything does not make you a principled and moral person, it makes you a stubborn person.

      There are terrible laws in the US that I hope will very soon be overturned by policy or the courts or voters. Example: gay marriage should be legal everywhere, and that it is not is a big stain on the the nation. But what are you going to do about it? You work to elect individuals that will create a policy of marriage equality, or will support supreme court nominees that will, when the opportunity arises, create an open, just, and equal framework of marriage laws. Because how else are you going to do it? That’s what I did when I voted.

      Illustration: I think that Obama has, for the most part, handled his push towards gay and lesbian rights brilliantly. He has been criticized repeatedly from within the GLBT community for moving slowly, but by not coming out and fighting for federal gay marriage legislation (which would not have passed), he has been able to make great strides on the issue which will inevitably (in my opinion) lead to federal recognition of gay marriage. The ideologically principled man might have come into the White House and declared that he WILL legalize gay marriage, and then failed because everything locked up. Whether or not Obama believes in gay marriage, he has been quite skilled at navigating the political arena to move the US towards gay and lesbian equality in actual political substance, not just principled ideological barking.
      This is what I am talking about.


      August 30, 2011 at 16:29

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