This has been an interesting couple weeks of politics, getting sick of politics and not listening to myself about politics. I’ve been twittering and spouting off about politics because it riles me up. Because I disagree. Because I hear things that strike me as wrong and I want to respond. And what I failed to realize is that so often we just disagree (like I said before and then ignored) and pouncing on each other doesn’t help. I’m sorry.
I think politics would be a lot more friendly if we could cut out the rhetoric and just focus on an issue. If we could see where and how we disagree and just be fine with disagreeing. It’s easier to find a path forward if you understand where the other person is coming from. Too often in politics (myself definitely included), we don’t take the time to do that. Instead we jump to the conclusion that you must be stupid. That’s probably why I don’t usually talk much about politics (I tend to disagree with the standard Christian/Republican stance) and why in the past two weeks of talking more about politics I’ve annoyed some people and riled up others. Not that frustrating or riling is bad, but I’m not sure what I’m accomplishing.
Take the Test
So let’s accomplish something. My sister-in-law took one of those online quizzes that tell you where you’re at politically. These things are always goofy because on some questions I hem and haw and then wonder if I had answered differently if it would have changed the outcome (I checked, it didn’t change much). But at any rate, I think it can be helpful to see where we stand.
So give it a try. It’s about 40 questions and takes less than five minutes.
Done? And now I’m going to talk about the results, so to really be fair you should take the test and post your results in the comments.
My results: I’m a Democrat. Socially permissive and not so much economically.
| You are a
You are best described as a:
I think a test like this can be helpful because it lets us see how we disagree. And that’s important. This test basically plots where you land on social and economic policies. Do you favor control or permissiveness? You can see the social/economic chart and the political ideology chart (on the quiz site it also gives a celebrity chart for kicks. I landed on Hillary Clinton, though let’s say I’m closer to Bono.). (Yeah, it is a fairly simplistic tool, but it’s something.)
Explaining Where I Stand
I’m fairly permissive on social issues. Let people do what they want to do, within reason. As a Christian this stance makes sense for me because I don’t think you can legislate morality. As Barack Obama said in a much mis-characterized speech, “Who’s morality are you going to legislate?” This is the same social position Libertarians hold (founding father Thomas Jefferson is the poster boy in that camp).
Economically I’m less in the free market and more in the let’s help each other camp (notice that I get pretty close to socialism). I think people need help from time to time and the government should help them out. I think the rich can afford to help the poor within reason. This is perhaps best illustrated in comparing Barack Obama and John McCain’s tax plans. Obama raises taxes on the wealthiest, and cuts taxes for the middle class, with more of a spread the wealth mentality. McCain does practically the opposite with much smaller tax cuts for the middle class and much larger ones for the wealthy, with more of a trickle down economics mentality. I’m no economist, so maybe that’s an unfair characterization, but I think in general that’s accurate. Personally I don’t think McCain’s strategy works because people are inherently greedy. Just because you give the rich a tax cut doesn’t mean they’re going to spend it in a way that helps the rest of us.
Learn From Where You Land
At any rate, it’s interesting to see where people land and why. I noted that as a Democrat I landed fairly close to the Socialist camp. But if you’re a Republican there’s a danger of landing pretty close to the Fascist camp (which explains my dislike for the strident nationalism of the Republican party). Just for kicks I tried to take the survey as a fascist and ended up a strong Republican. I don’t mean that as a slam, but it shows two things. First, it’s hard to get in somebody’s head and know how they think (it took me a few tries to get a Darth Vader result). Second, what I thought was being fascist really wasn’t. And it goes all ways (what you take for anarchy may be Libertarian).
So I hope that gives some framework for understanding politics. It’s kind of funny that the major political divide in America is between socially conservative and economically permissive Republicans and socially permissive and economically conservative Democrats. They’re polar opposites on those issues. Disregarding everything I know about politics, I’d expect to see the major divide be between control (Totalitarians) and permissiveness (Libertarians), because at least they’re both consistent (all control/no control).
And as a side note, I think it’d be incredibly interesting to study this kind of thing throughout governments throughout history. For example, where did Franklin Roosevelt fall on this chart? Or Jefferson Davis? Martin Luther King Jr.? Mother Teresa? And on back into history. Some are pretty obvious, but others are less clear.
In Closing (finally)
Where the rubber really hits the road is that I think it helps to understand this when we talk about politics. Because too often we line up on our sides and sling arrows at each other (I’m just as guilty of this, as I’ve proven this week). But in reality we’re not going to get anywhere that way. Our ideologies are opposed. It’d be easier if we just acknowledged where we stood instead of attacking each other. Unfortunately, I don’t know many people who are good at doing that. It’s more fun to just crack a joke.
Sometimes I wish the candidates (both of them) would acknowledge this kind of thing and let it be an election between ideologies and not all the other crap. If you believe in economic permissiveness and social control, vote McCain. If you believe in economic control and social permissiveness, vote Obama. (And unfortunately we don’t have any other major choices so if you don’t solidly line up in those camps you need to make some compromises; or vote for a third party [“Go ahead, throw your vote away! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!”])
In the end, I think the reason I got so riled up this week is because I see so many Christians who think the Republican approach is the only way to go. And that’s just not true. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to be blacklisted (again) if I vote Democrat (and for a reality check, some people would not only blacklist me, they’d send me to hell, as Sarah Palin’s former pastor has said). Unfortunately this chart doesn’t really show defense very well, but I think that issue makes my divide with the Republican side all the more clear (that’s another blog entry). I guess I need to realize that my way isn’t the only option either.
What we all need to learn how to do is disagree well:
“As I continue to wrestle with complex human and political issues, I resolved myself to one thing: the starting point must be that the church is a place where we can grapple with difficult questions with grace and humility. And I believe that, even more important than thinking identically on every issue, we must learn to disagree well. Our ability as a church to disagree well is as powerful a witness to the larger society as our uniformity on every issue.” (Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, page 234)
And while Claiborne and Haw are talking about the church, I think learning how to disagree well would do our larger society good as well.
So where do you stand?