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Tuesday, February 21, 2006
A False Dichotomy
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:15 am

A discussion has broken out over a post at (Is Instapundit a Conservative?) over Glenn Reynolds’ ideological persuasion (and his own self-identification).

Wrote Dan Morgan of

There is no avoiding labeling to some degree. For the biggest labels, there are only two: Left or Right. At some level, we must all choose one of these two. This is not an artificial divide. There is genuinely a rift in the country that roughly fits this paradigm. And in the America since the 1960s, Left or Right is referred to as liberal or conservative.

I don’t have time to get into the issues of what “liberal” and “conservative” mean both in general terms and in the American political context (although I have noted before that I am not all that happy with those labels).

Avoiding that discussion for at least the moment, I would note that the only way in which politically active Americans are “forced” to make a “choice” between two “sides” is in terms of party affiliation, given that there are really only two real choices, given the nature of our electoral system.

The dichotomous nature of our political parties forces the two camp mindset that forms the basis of Dan’s thinking. It also contributes to the politics-as-sports phenomenon in which we are required to choose a side, root for our side, and score everything as being a plus for our side or their side. (Such an approach is, by the way, ultimately unhealthy, as it leads to an uncritical eye towards the government when one’s “team” is winning…).

The political world is simply far more complicated than that, as are the ideological positions of citizens who may all happen to vote primarily for one party or the other.

As it stands, both the Republicans and Democrats are coalitional parties and therefore, by definition, do not have ideological homogeneous memberships.

Others involved in this discussion:

  • James Joyner
  • Stephen Green
  • Dave Shuler
  • Rusty Shackleford

(And, shockingly, they all come at the issue differently…)

Filed under: General | |Send TrackBack

The Moderate Voice linked with So What Is A Conservative?
Outside The Beltway | OTB linked with Right vs Left: The Labeling Game


  1. Right vs Left: The Labeling Game

    Every so often in the blogosphere, the old label argument rears its ugly head. Someone asserts that the old Left vs. Right and Liberal vs. Conservative labels don’t apply and a round of blog posts gets written in reaction.

    This time, Glenn Re…

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway | OTB — Tuesday, February 21, 2006 @ 11:06 am

  2. So What Is A Conservative?

    TMV is the weary recipient of the label-sticking game. “How can you call yourself a moderate?” If you haven’t seen it, keep reading comments here during a given week and you’ll likely see it come from the right or the left (oh, the last one on the …

    Trackback by The Moderate Voice — Tuesday, February 21, 2006 @ 12:31 pm

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