January 14, 2008
-- by Thomas Leavitt
The graph on the Political Compass web site, which analyzes the positions on the political compass of the various candidates for President in the primary elections, demonstrates why many many Americans like myself feel so disenfranchised by the current political process and the "choice" it has given them. Every single candidate of significance in both parties falls into the upper right hand quadrant: Authoritarian/Right - the Democrats just fall closer to the lower left-hand corner of that quadrant, the Republicans, the upper right hand corner.
Me? I fall into the extreme lower left-hand corner of the lower left quadrant: Left/Libertarian... my views on social and economic issues are almost diametrically opposite that of every single candidate. And exactly in the same quadrant as my political party: the Green Party (globally and in the U.S.)... although that party is much closer to the center than I am, amusingly enough.
Kucinich and Gravel, both in the upper right hand corner of the lower left quadrant, Left/Libertarian, are the closest candidates to my preferences. You can look at the 2004 Election diagram, which shows that the two closest candidates to my position (in the same region as Kucinich) were David Cobb and Ralph Nader (no surprise). John Kerry and GWB both, of course, fall into the lower left hand and upper right hand corner of the Authoritarian/Right quadrant (also no surprise).
... and guess where Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dali Lama all fall? Desmond Tutu. Michael Moore. Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation")? Just to name a few folks. You guessed it: the lower left hand quadrant. The first three are sourced from the Analysis page (the site strongly recommends that you take their test before reading that page), the last three are sourced from the site's Libertarian Left thinkers page. You might also want to take a look at who the guiding intellectual lights of the Authoritarian Right (and thus the American political mainstream) are. Take a look at those two pages, and tell me which one has more books on your reading list. :)
Where do you fall on the Political Compass? Which individuals would you rather be associated with? Do you feel "represented"? Do you feel that the Democratic Party, in the form of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, folks that in other areas of the world would be described as "moderate conservatives", truly represents YOUR political beliefs?
Look at where the Labour Party in Britain has gone over the past three decades (middle of lower left hand quadrant to middle of upper right hand quadrant)... is there any doubt that a graph of the Democratic Party in this country would show the same pattern?
Dave wants to drag the Democratic Party back to Left/Libertarian quadrant it occupied thirty years ago. Me, I think: "Why spend the effort to do that, when there's already a party that truly represents my views?" We have a difference of opinion on tactics. I'm curious as to which side of the discussion the readers of this blog fall on.
Of course, as the site mentions, if we had a rational political system, with proportional representation, then this entire discussion would be unnecessary. Dave and I would happily both be members of the Green Party of the United States (and so would vast numbers of other people), and we'd be working in coalition with the Democrats occupying the "moderate conservative" lower left hand corner of the Authoritarian/Right to frustrate the efforts of the Republican party to destroy everything we hold dear.
P.S. I'm going to write them and ask that they include Cynthia McKinney, one of the leading candidates for the Green Party nomination, on the primary page. I don't think there's enough information available for him to easily make an analysis of the other candidates' positions, although I'm sure they'll all fall into the same general region (based on what I heard today when I attended the Green Party Presidential Candidates debate - soon to be available on the KPFA web site).
Posted by Thomas Leavitt at January 14, 2008 12:33 AM
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Long ago "the left" learned that there is only one way to fight against the moneyed interests. They formed a coalition. The coalition included labor and other groups under attack by capital. This coalition as effective for a while.
For all the fighting they might have done internally, they understood that the primary weapon they had was solidarity. In the real world, where things get done or they don't, this was what mattered. They stuck together.
The only way to fight the moneyed interests was to stick together. So when they had problems they revised the structure, changed the leadership, did what they had to do to keep the coalition together and fight the moneyed interests.
The primary objective of the moneyed interests was to find wedges to use to break that coalition apart. They used race, religion, anything they could find.
And finally, along came the Greens.
Posted by: Dave Johnson at January 14, 2008 8:26 PM
And why is this the only country in the entire world where this logic applies? The only country in the world where everything from center-right to the far-left MUST be constrained to residing within the same political party?
BTW: The Greens have yet to come even CLOSE to the progressive electoral movements of the past in terms of their effect - you claim that a progressive third party is new? How about Henry Wallace, The Progressive Party, 1948, 1 million votes (out of a much smaller pool). Bob LaFollete, 1924: 17% of the vote. Teddy Roosevelt, 1912. 2nd place.
And, to my recollection, the hundreds of thousands to millions of votes obtained by Socialist candidates of the past: Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas, didn't appear to be motivated by a desire to "unite" with the Democrats. And yet, oddly enough, when the forces of "disunity" were strongest, the labor movement and the progressive movement was strongest.
In fact, if you look at history, a good case could be argued that the greater the "threat" to unity provided by an alternative, the more vigorous the efforts of the Democratic Party to alter policy to forestall defections. No serious threat to the Democratic Party's hegemony on the "left" has existed since the 1960's, INCLUDING THE GREEN PARTY... and thus, the Democrats have drifted ever further to the right.
Posted by: Thomas Leavitt at January 14, 2008 9:21 PM
There is no "The Democrats" - there are out-of-date political hacks and there are a new breed rising up. Some Democrats are good, some are bad, some are GREAT.
Plenty of us are doing what we can to put people into place in the Democratic Party who agree with us - with both you and me.
Anyway, this idea of adding another party is the wrong approach. We should all be working to change the public's understanding of what is happening. Politicians RESPOND TO DEMAND. You don't change politicians by threatening the party, you change them by changing the public environment in which they swim.
CHANGE THE PUBLIC and even the Republicans will be moving to the left, like in the 60s and 70s. If the PUBLIC is demanding strong economic democracy, strong environmentalism, etc. the politicians will respond or be thrown out.
Posted by: Dave Johnson at January 15, 2008 2:41 PM
Again: why is this the only country where the answer of "start a new party" is the wrong one? Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, the U.K., all of Europe, India, Pakistan, Iraq... the list goes on and on and on. When an existing party no longer serves the needs of a significant portion of its constituents, people (and elected officials) leave it and form a new one.
Why is this the only country where our political choices, and the resulting election time dialog, is constrained to the representatives of two parties?
If the Democrats and the Republicans both run Right/Authoritarian quadrant candidates, why shouldn't we start another party seated in the Left/Libertarian quadrant. One that can put another message on the table, introduce another set of positions and alternatives into the dialog?
Are we really served by the status quo? Wouldn't we be better served by hearing from a greater variety of voices at election time? Wouldn't we be better served by a system which facilitates this?
Posted by: Thomas Leavitt at January 15, 2008 3:05 PM
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