There has been a trend lately by some to try and paint the tried and true political spectrum of left/right as being outdated or irrelevant. Much of this attitude is of course coming from some with political interests who are trying to find some mythical middle ground that will appeal to a vast majority of voters. Today the CBC released a poll that concludes that: “Ideology is not guiding Alberta voters.”. That conclusion is simply wrong. Ideology guides all voters to varying degrees. The only thing concluded is that people no longer self-identify as much with their place on the political spectrum. If a person does not consider themselves to be on the right or the left in political thought, it does not mean that their personal philosophy does not land to the left or the right. This if anything is more an indication of the growing political apathy and indifference. People don’t put time or thought into ideology even if they unconsciously follow one.
The left/right spectrum is a simple measure and does not cover everything. Very few people fall fully on one side or the other in every regard. To do so is the mark of a fanatic actually.
Most issues will have responses that clearly can be considered to be either on the right or left side of the spectrum. Just because some people land on different sides at different times, it does not mean that the spectrum is not valid or that it does not exist.
The right/left measure of ideology is a broad measure and is of use when looking at groups such as political parties. While a party may have indeed have policies landing on both sides of the spectrum, it is their general slant that truly identifies the party as a whole and again the left/right measure is the most basic yet indicative and important of measures for this. A voter has to make their choice based on the broad ideology of the party rather than one policy at a time.
Here is a note by the way, an almost fanatical pursuit of a mythical “center” is an ideology in itself.
Can it be denied that Alberta’s NDP is on the left or the Wildrose is on the right? Sherman’s Liberals just released a platform calling for increasing taxes on those they perceive to be “rich” and Redford’s PCs just released another big-spending budget which drifts both parties to the left.
While some try to cloak their leanings in claiming a center ground and putting out vague and inconclusive policies, their roots always show clearly in the end. Twitter is a great way to see the true leanings of groups and individuals. What you do is watch the tweeters and see which side of the spectrum they pejoratively spit about when annoyed. When a large group of people is prone to bitterly spitting out “right wing” and “right wingers” when somebody has a policy they don’t like, you have just been able to accurately place them on the spectrum even if they did not want to be placed there. In Alberta we have the Kitten & Rainbow party that tries it’s darndest to hide their place on the spectrum. In their being led by a former NDP candidate and in their supporters online loathing of the nasty “right wing” they expose themselves.
If the electorate truly was free and clear of ideology they would have rushed to embrace the Alberta Party that furiously is trying to claim the center. Alas, the disingenuous stance of this is transparent to voters and is reflected in the Alberta Party sitting at 2% in the polls despite years of claiming center ground. People may not self-identify much in ideology, but clearly they chose sides when it comes to parties.
Recognizing and understanding left/right positions is important when consuming data from think tanks too. If one doesn’t recognize the Fraser Institute as right or Parkland Institute as left, then you will not be able to take that grain of salt when looking at their statements and studies.
Left and right are indeed only two sides of a complex equation but they are still valid general measures. To broaden things into a four way measure, Political Compass brings authoritarian and libertarian into the mix. Left and right are still rather essential of course. While the quiz is not perfect or all encompassing by any means, it is fun and does give an interesting measure of where one lands on the spectrum.
Now below we see where I land. Looks like a dead-zone when compared to existing and past political leaders. This may indeed explain much about my history of personal political success 😉 Either way my ideological place is distinct if in a minority and there is utterly nothing wrong with measuring it and thinking about it.
A person should not pidgeonhole themselves within one side or another of the spectrum. That closes thought and is indeed the route to extremism whether left or right. Most people have thoughts that land all over the place. The center is a moving target. There is no sense fighting to find it. Choose your place issue by issue. It will be found by most that trends emerge and one isn’t as close to the center as they imagined they were.
Left and right don’t measure it all but they exist as sides on issues and are valid. They are not going away and we should quit pretending that they are.