Do Political Labels Make You Stupid? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 13 2012 @ 3:22pm

by Patrick Appel

Adam Ozimek argues that "a self-conscious lack of labels is in fact a label, and can be just as constraining of one":

[T]o define oneself as, for example, “of no party or clique”, as Andrew Sullivan does, creates in others a social expectation of holding beliefs that defy parties and cliques. You may not be expected to take particular and easily predictable positions on every issue as you would if you had a politically well-defined label like, say, paleolibertarian, Christian conservative, or pro labor democrat.  But you are expected to regularly take positions that are idiosyncratic.

Sure, but open-minded examination of various debates should regularly lead to idiosyncratic opinions that satisfy neither party completely. And, as Wilkinson wrote, there is a major difference between "specifically political labels" and "naming one's convictions." Andrew is a marriage equality supporter, a fiscal conservative, a circumcision opponent, a beard advocate, etc. His embrace of these positions is part of what makes him idiosyncratic. 

Swearing allegiance to a party, which packages together an assortment of dissimilar beliefs, avoids the messy business of examining topics individually. Additionally, a lack of party loyalty prevents partisanship from overriding our convictions. A real fiscal conservative, for instance, would have serious problems with Bush's spending history while a strong partisan would find excuses for it.

There is nothing inherently wrong with identifying oneself as primarily liberal or a conservative; these terms have deep philosophical roots largely independent of politics. But when liberal and conservative become exact synonyms for Republican or Democrat the terms are detached from their histories and corrupted. 

Earlier debate here, here, and here.