In today’s tribal culture it has become much harder to be an individual. That’s especially true in politics.
If you identify as a Republican you need to profess (if not actually believe) that climate change is an overblown hoax, that mask mandates are a blow to fundamental freedoms, that there was widespread fraud in the last election, that abortion is murder and on and on. No deviation is tolerated. (Just ask Liz Cheney.) It is extremely rare, for example, to find a pro-choice Republican these days.
If you identify as a Democrat you must be pro-choice, for a higher minimum wage, for strong action against climate change, for paying off some or all college debt, for attacking the “root causes of crime,” and on and on. It is extremely rare these days to find a pro-life Democrat. (In my first job out of college back in 1981, I worked for one and he wasn’t alone.)
But it is hard to find a clear philosophy that runs through these issues. What does being for a higher minimum wage have to do with your position on reproductive rights?
That’s one reason I sometimes hesitate to identify myself as a Democrat. Even though I always vote for Democrats, I do that only because the party’s candidates are much closer to my overall world view than are the other guys. But if I were a Democratic candidate myself I wouldn’t come close to checking off all of the party’s litmus tests.
But here’s the thing. Most people, aside from those who are most politically active and take up the most oxygen, aren’t all that “consistent” in their views according to partisan dictates. Normal people have views on all kinds of issues that don’t make sense to the activists because they don’t match up with the tribal dogma. Many blue collar workers, for example, are for a higher minimum wage and the right to organize a union, but they’re rather conservative on a lot of social issues.
The other day the New York Times ran a fun quiz that helps sort this out a bit. What if there were six American parties that gave people a chance to fit more comfortably into one of them? You can take the quiz yourself here to find out which party you might find yourself in. I ended up in something called the American Labor Party.
Overall, I found those 20 questions to be pretty accurate in defining where I fit in. I ended up in the most liberal quadrant on both social and economic issues, but within that quadrant I’m much more conservative on social issues than other liberals (but somewhat more liberal than the population as a whole) and slightly more liberal than other liberals on economic issues. I’d say that’s about right.
But those 20 questions were mostly broad. I thought it’d be fun to tick off my many “inconsistent” views. See how many match up with yours. We’ll take them alphabetically.
Abortion. I’m for the right to have one, subject to reasonable restrictions. We won’t end abortions by banning them. In fact, there has been a steady reduction in abortions over the last couple decades and it’s got nothing to do with state laws that make it harder. I like Planned Parenthood because I think parenthood should be planned.
Afghanistan. I think it was wrong to leave at all and the execution of the leaving was a disaster. I hold Pres. Joe Biden, who I otherwise love, mostly responsible.
Joe Biden. No other presidential candidate came as close to matching my views and temperament as Uncle Joe. But I don’t think he’s right every time. See Afghanistan.
Bitcoin. Can somebody please explain Bitcoin? Then maybe I’ll have a position on it.
Climate Change. It’s the most serious issue facing the planet, but I’m not for the Green New Deal because it gets into all kinds of hard-left social issues that have nothing to do with the problem at hand. I like economic incentives that harness the power of the free market.
College Debt. Why should the two-thirds of Americans without a four year degree pay off the debt of the one-third who did get a degree — and who earn twice as much? I’m for a big expansion of means-tested Pell Grants.
Cops. I like them. We should have more of them. But we should also demand reforms where necessary, tougher screening of applicants and let’s make it easier to drum out the bad apples.
COVID. Just get the damn shot and stop whining about your “freedom.”
Crime. I’m against it. Sure, we should go after the “root causes”, but not at the expense of a sense of urgency about the bullets that are flying right now.
Critical Race Theory. It’s awful. It’s a threat to liberal democracy. I think we should treat people primarily as individuals, not as oppressors or the oppressed based on their skin color. But, on the other hand, you can’t ignore the role race has played in society. I’m against banning CRT in schools, but school boards need to have the good sense to demand a balanced teaching of our history.
The Designated Hitter. Among the worst inventions of human kind. Stop talk of its pernicious spread to the National League once and for all.
Education. I support public schools, but I’m fine with charters, and I’m very concerned about the hard-left strangle hold on higher education.
The Free Market. I love it. It’s the most powerful engine of human advancement ever invented. It can also go terribly astray, so I’m for a free market with the rough edges sanded off. Regulations are needed in the interests of things that the market won’t necessarily respect on its own, like working conditions and environmental protections.
Free Speech. I’m very much for it. Don’t take it for granted. I’m a whole lot more worried about attacks on free speech from the hard-left than anybody else right now.
Guns. An avid hunter, I own a couple myself. But I see no reason for anybody to have semi-automatics or hand guns. I know. I know. We can’t go that far, but can we at least have universal background checks, for cryin’ out loud?
Health Care. Everybody should have it, but I’m not for “Medicare for All” because it’s just too expensive. I’m for incremental improvements to Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.
Infrastructure. A lot of stuff needs fixing. House progressive Democrats should stop holding Biden’s bill hostage and just get on with the work that needs doing.
Joe Manchin. Without him there is no infrastructure bill and no broader social and climate change spending bill at all. He’s a Democrat who wins in a state that went for Trump by 36 points. Would you like fries with that, Sen. Manchin?
Liberal Democracy. It’s the gift America gave to the world. It’s the best system of government there is. It is the end of history. We should defend it and encourage it throughout the world. And, yes, that sometimes means using our military.
The Military. It’s a dangerous world out there. I want a strong American military, but that doesn’t mean they should get a blank check. I suspect there’s a lot of waste there.
Minimum Wage. It should be higher. Much higher. I know it will eliminate some jobs in the short run, but it’s worth it to send the message that there is dignity in work.
Prisons. We lock up way too many people then we need to for public safety and conditions in too many of those places are inhumane. A former prosecutor I know suggests the beer test. Take any prisoner who has served most of his sentence and is over 40 years old. Put a beer in front of him. If he gulps it down, keep him in. If he sips it, let him out.
Redistricting. Gerrymandering is done more by Republicans simply because they control more state legislatures, but it’s bad no matter who does it. It should be done by a panel of judges or by a nonpartisan commission.
Donald Trump. He changed one of my fundamental beliefs about human nature. I once thought everybody had at least one positive human trait. Guess not.
Voting Rights. Yes, the Republicans are trying to make it harder for Democrats to vote and yes, that means they’re also making it harder for people of color to vote. But so far they’re failing and most of what they’re doing is rolling back special efforts during the pandemic. It is not “the new Jim Crow,” but it’s still bad. I’m for the Democrats’ voting rights bill.
So, in summary, I’m pro-choice, for gun control, for a much higher minimum wage, deeply concerned about climate change and for the national voting rights bill… yet also resolutely unwoke, tough on crime, and somewhat hawkish on international relations.
That makes the Democratic Party feel like a size 6 shoe for my size 12 feet, but the Republicans would be an even more painful fit. Where do I sign up for that American Labor Party, again?
Welcome to the 204th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!