Friday, June 27, 2014

Party In The USA

So I'm a sucker for political quizzes. Like, the sort where you answer a bunch of clearly leading questions and then they drop you into one of four or possibly six poorly determined categorizations that don't match what you believe at all.

OK, actually, I'm not that much of a sucker for them, specifically for the reasons listed above. There is rarely ever only two answers to a question; motives mean just as much as outcomes when determining political philosophies; and, most importantly, I don't think that there's a binary spectrum of political thought. At the very least there are three axis (economics, social, and military) and you could just as easily probably add three more--and even these axis can be split up even more.

Still, every once in a while I'll look one over and take it. The Pew Research Center has one here. I'm not a real big fan of it--the questions are worded oddly, are somewhat repetitive, and don't even come close to plumping the depths of the nuances of ideology. However, they did at least make a pretty decent effort of splitting up the outcomes into eight different categories, from Solid Liberals to Steadfast Conservatives. They've included alternate names for what are traditionally classified as Libertarians ("Business Conservatives") and Populists ("Faith and Family Left") along with the traditional Liberal and Conservative. They've added in "Next Generation Left," "Hard-Pressed Skeptics," and "Young Outsiders," each with their own slight variation of degree on the spectrum. They also set up the "Bystanders" for those who don't engage the process or otherwise can't vote.

Thing is, you can re-calibrate this every few years, plugging in a different set of criteria each time and be a little accurate. I remember (mumble mumble) years ago, taking Poli Sci classes in college and learning about another similar octo-ideology system. Just as the Pew one above slightly favors liberals, back then it sliced conservatives up slightly more. While it can be fun and informative, I'm not sure how useful it is if you have to keep changing the outcomes every so many years.

And, really, I'm not sure it matters all that much. Most people are all over the place on various issues--and that's OK. And many people identify with a party that does not really line up with their opinions--and that is also OK. For me, a few fundamental questions should tell you where you land, and then take each issue as they come. There aren't two positions (Liberal and Conservative) or even four (add Libertarian and Populist); most people take a nuanced look at politics, as they should. And there's also absolutely nothing wrong with surrendering judgement to a collection of people (i.e., a political party) with whom you generally agree--there's no way everyone can know all the details and tradeoffs of every single issue, and anyone who claims that everyone should is naive.

Still, maybe I'll have to make a Crank Ideology Quiz myself just to see where all of you land. Might be interesting.

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