Friday, September 7, 2012

Who Am I Anyway? A Political Identity Crisis

A waving American flag atop the United States ...
I am a registered independent. I have not decided whom I will cast my vote for in November.

I am steadfastly independent, and take pride in that position, yet I am dismayed by pundits on TV (and there have been a lot lately) who characterize independents as people who can’t make up their minds, as individuals who are uncertain of their convictions, as the “undecided.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I have no lack of opinions or positions. I am rarely swayed by popular opinion, non-issues, or negative campaigns.

While watching the Republican National Convention on PBS last week, mention was made of a Pew Research Center political party quiz. I decided to take it – perhaps it would help me decide where I belong politically. You may want to try it too – it’s just 12 questions.

The initial results were no surprise – my views are most closely aligned with the “average independent” – I was right smack in the middle. But I thought that odd, as I selected “strongly agree,” or “strongly disagree,” on most questions. (Again, I tend to have opinions.) So I dug further.

I clicked on the “on economic issues,” and “on social issues” buttons, and surprise, surprise, I am not in the middle at all. It turns out I am very conservative on economic issues – more so than the average republican. At the same time I am very liberal on social issues – more so than the average democrat. I am nowhere near the middle, uncertain, or undecided.

Where is the candidate that represents me?

I can’t imagine a future United States that doesn’t include same sex marriage. I can’t imagine a United States that isn’t a melting pot of varying cultures and religious beliefs (including the choice to not believe). At the same time I can’t imagine a future United States without a vibrant (debt-free) economy, where enterprise, innovation, and capitalism thrives. Call me idealistic.

Most of all, I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions. When did our political parties (and their candidates) become so polarized in their views? The problem with the Pew political party poll (and perhaps with our two party political system) is that it’s missing an axis. Individual beliefs (at least mine) can’t be accurately characterized on a single left-right dimension. Where do you fall?