Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Problem with Proximity and Party Loyalty

According to Michael Freeden, ideologies define political concepts in terms of proximity. Otherwise, political concepts “make no sense on their own” (Freeden, 61). In the United States, the two dominate ideologies for the political system are conservatism and liberalism. Conservatism is obviously related to the Republican Party and liberalism is related to the Democratic Party.

For example, same-sex marriage does not mean anything by itself. However, if the political concept is put into proximity to the ideology of conservatism, it is defined as “unnatural” and therefore should not be made lawful in the United States (Freeden, 88). Put into proximity to liberalism, same-sex marriage is a social advancement and should be made legal.

However, party loyalty undermines the disclosure of political concepts to different ideologies. Party loyalty is a dominant aspect of the two political parties in the United States, and it destroys political concepts from coming into proximity with other ideologies other than conservatism and liberalism. If a politician is loyal to his party and thus ideology, then he is more likely to be promoted in his party. So, party loyalty suppresses other ideologies, because politicians are in the end trying to do what is in their own best interest: gaining power, money, and prestige.

So, without introducing other ideologies to help execute political concepts, political concepts are not able to evolve and change as fast into a better concept. Two heads are better than one, but three heads are even better, and so it is with ideology. Now, I am not saying that we should introduce other macro-ideologies like communism to help define political concepts but micro-ideologies would be beneficial (Freeden, 78 & 94). With more versions of a political concept being discussed, the more likely a better solution or decision can be made on that particular political concept.


Virginia Beasley said...

I have always somewhat despised the two plus party system in place in the United States because it seems so limiting to me, and seems to breed generations of people who never really are given a reason to think for themselves. It's so much easier to just identify oneself with one party based on the preference of family members or friends, and then spout the ideologies of that party without ever giving it much investigation or even learning and overview. Elections have become a name-calling joke, where tabloid-esque rumors, and every slight contradiction is someone's policy is put on petty display. It's become a cycle where politicians have to lie and play dirty to stay afloat in the political stream. I personally even feel a sense of discomfort about putting my own vote forward in the upcoming presidential election, because I know I haven't really educated myself about the candidates well enough. It's hard to really learn what the real deal is in US politics is though, because it is all buried under so much crap. Total fanatical party loyalty in the United States has in many cases become more about laziness than anything else.

Anonymous said...

A large problem with the two party system and party loyalty is that people don't necessarily vote for the candidate that represents their views the best, they vote for the lesser of two evils or whatever party they identify with. In my own experience, I find it difficult to decide who to vote for. Looking at the options, we have my own party, the Republicans, who appear to be so vastly out of touch with true Republican values that it makes nearly no sense to vote for McCain. The Republican party I identify with is one that believes in limited government because I believe that when the government gets involved in our personal lives, it does nothing but limit our freedoms. That being said, the Republican party I am given the opportunity to vote for does not represent at all what I want, especially since they want to have more and more control over peoples lives (anti gay marriage, anti choice, etc.) things that I don't agree with. I may agree with them fiscally, but even in that regard, I don't agree with them entirely. On the other hand I have the Democratic party who, although I don't agree with all their views and wants, are at least doing what their supposed to do. So do I vote for the party that is supposed to represent my views but in practice doesn't, or do I vote for the party that does not represnt my views, but actually does what it's supposed to?

Scarlett D'Anna said...

I definitely agree that people are voting along party lines instead of the issues they actually support. They simply cast their ballots for the Democratic or Republican candidate because it’s what their family has done for the last forty years (which is absurd, considering how much both parties have changed over last two generations). As Kip pointed out, the ideas the Republican Party has traditionally stood for have been overshadowed in recent years by Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice and Gay Marriage debates. The same can be said of the Democratic Party as well. Even worse, both of these issues are targets for the dreaded “one-issue voter,” who ignores everything besides one topic they feel strongly about. They then proceed to cast their ballot for a candidate that they may disagree with completely, with the exception of that pivotal “one issue.” To me, the problem is this: voting along party lines and “one-issue voting” simplifies a process that should involve careful consideration.