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17 November 2010 @ 12:45 pm
Political Space  
Were I currently working in an academic setting in which a portion of my job revolved around authoring papers, I would write quite a bit more rigorously on the following topic.

However, for the purposes of livejournal, let us take as a given that the US political spectrum can be usefully divided into two dimensions: an "economic" dimension and a "social" dimension. Each dimension represents a gradient from progressive to conservative.

In the case of the economic dimension, the progressive end of the spectrum favors an increasingly even distribution of wealth among citizens, whereas the conservative end of the spectrum favors more a more laissez-faire approach and thus, implicitly, a wider gap between "rich" and "poor".

In the case of the social dimension, the progressives favor legal and social equality regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, sexual preference, etc. while the conservatives favor traditional social roles that tend to favor the majority/patriarchy.

Given the above political space, I would contend that, for at least the past thirty or so years, US politics has generally been very slightly on the progressive side of center on the social dimension, but very strongly on the conservative side of center on the economic dimension.

With respect to the social dimension, I base my claim on the very slow but generally steady progress of progressive causes over the last three decades. As evidence of progress, I cite increased economic power of ethnic minorities, the notable increase in the acceptance of homosexual relationships and the achievement of a high water mark with respect to women in Congress (111th congress) and the Supreme Court. As evidence of the slowness of this progress, I cite slowly increasing restrictions on abortion, a majority of states with laws banning gay marriage, a significant income gap between men and women, pervasive transphobia and related violence, etc.

With respect to the economic dimension, I base my claim on the steady decline in the top federal marginal tax rate to the lowest since 1931, the increasing shift of wealth to citizens with the highest net worth, the steady decline in financial regulation since the 1950s, and the recent Supreme Court case Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, which allows unlimited expenditures on campaign advertisement by corporations and similar legal entities.

This median tendency in recent US politics (moderate on the social axis, conservative on the economic axis) suggests an explanation for various recent phenomena. Consider, for example, John Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" as well as many of the recent columns of Thomas Friedman. They, along with other less well known figures, have become increasingly insistent in their calls for "moderate" positions in politics. Given the issues they cite, one can infer that they are speaking primarily about the economic dimension and thus, by advocating moderate politics on the economic dimension of the contemporary US political spectrum, they are in fact advocating a radical shift from the status quo. Thus, the "radicalization of the moderates".
Tiff, Tiffany, Eowyth, Blaze: Legalize Loveblaze_love_fire on November 17th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
Love this take on current politics... Might I ask what brought about the posting, though? :)
alataristarionalataristarion on November 17th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
Nothing in particular; this is just the kind of thing I think about regularly.
Tiff, Tiffany, Eowyth, Blaze: Friendsblaze_love_fire on November 17th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
:) And that would be part of the reason that I think you are awesome and that M is super lucky to have you :)
the beemaiabee8 on November 17th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
Yup! :)
the beemaiabee8 on November 17th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
You know me, I was radical before the moderates were and this whole business makes me want to hit something and/or hide under a rock.
Jerry Federspieljpfed on November 18th, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
Happy to see you posting (you should totally post more often!). These are very interesting topics.

I interpret Stewart's position differently. I think that Stewart is hoping for a kind of moderation, but more in the tone of discussion than in its content. Let us imagine a state of affairs where people of differing opinions consistently alienate one another in individual conversation. Then individual conversation will no longer be a meaningful force for political change; and what are you left with? Mass media. Given Stewart's abysmal opinion of the mass media, I think he really doesn't want it to gain greater control over change in popular opinion. He wants people to be able to talk to one another, as individuals, without alienating each other.

For his part, Stewart has claimed that he doesn't even consider left vs. right to be the essential axis of political conflict in the U.S. today, but corruption vs. the rule of law. But that doesn't rule out a possible non-orthogonality of these axes.
alataristarionalataristarion on November 18th, 2010 04:47 am (UTC)
I have decided to attempt to post more! We shall see if that works out for me.

And you're definitely right about the axes; the two I mentioned form a model that seems to describe US politics very well, but there are certainly a lot of other cleavages: corruption vs rule of law, religion vs secularism, interventionism vs isolationism, etc. I am definitely open to the interpretation that Stewart views the world through a somewhat different model, which would also explain a fair amount about him.