A Political Dilemma

In this country, there is no political force that believes both in individual freedom and individual responsibility.

One party wants to police the choices you make in your personal life, while the other one wants to police your bank account and the way you do your work.

One wants to control what you do in bed, while another one wants to control what you do outside of it.

One condescends to you by dictating to you how you should conduct your personal life, the other one condescends to you by telling you how you should do everything else.

One wants to “protect” you from your personal choices because you are supposed to be too stupid to live with their consequences. The other one wants to do the same for your actions in the public sphere.

Both sides see us as victims and try to convince us of our victimhood so that we would embrace them as our saviors.

Psychological health entails a capacity to act independently and successfully in the private and in the public sphere, at home and at work. (“Loving and working without fear and expectation of fear.”) To offer full support to either party we have in the US, you have to relinquish control over one of these spheres to the all-powerful entity that will dictate your options to you.

I listen to reasonable, intelligent Conservatives, and what they are saying makes a lot of sense to me in many ways. But then they start on their “right religion / wrong religion, good sexual orientation / bad sexual orientation, good family structure / bad family structure, I-know-best-what-you-should-do-with-your-body” thing, and I lose all interest immediately.

So I go back to Liberals, and what they are saying makes a lot of sense. But then they start on their “we are all conditioned to be victims so check your privilege you overentitled elitist snob who thinks that we have some degree of control over our lives”, and I just wilt.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot decide whether “If you are unemployed, it’s always 100% your fault” is more offensive than “If you are miserable it’s always 100% somebody else’s fault.” I don’t know whether “If he’s got no insurance, then let him die” is more wrong than “She only managed to become so successful because of her white, hetero, male, Anglo privilege. Oh, she is a lesbian Latina? Then, surely she must have some other privileges by the bucketful.”

One of these political philosophies vilifies failure and worships success. The other one vilifies success and “privileges” failure. But what if you experience both on a regular basis? That is, what if you are human? What if you want to own both of your failures and your successes without being ashamed of them? Then who do you vote for? (And if somebody says Ron Paul, I will have to ridicule them in a very harsh way. Just a fair warning.)

52 thoughts on “A Political Dilemma”

  1. I don’t agree with any politician or party 100%, but I would have to say Ron Paul comes closest to what you seem to be after; on a national level anyway.

    I disagree with Paul on tariffs, for example. But if we agree on the other 90% of policy, and the other candidates agree with me only about half the time, then I have to vote for the one with whom I have the most in common. Even if it means I have to hold my nose, just a little.

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    1. “I don’t agree with any politician or party 100%, but I would have to say Ron Paul comes closest to what you seem to be afte”

      – How dare you insult me in this way??? I have nothing in common with this disgusting anti-abortionist woman-hating maniac who believes it’s his business to police my uterus. Did I not say specifically that politicians who want to police people’s bodies are disgusting to me?

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  2. Regardless of Ron Paul’s idiosyncracies he is definately a breath of fresh air in many ways. He is about as far removed from the cookie cutter prospects of both parties that at least he has spurred more youth to pay attention. Considering he is 76 and is the one drawing the most from the youth wing, I find that remarkable. 🙂
    One thing I have noticed throughout the years and around the world, if you are a leader that is attempting to make substantial change from the status quo there is a good chance you will be assassinated. Yitzhak Rabin, John F. Kennedy, Benazir Bhutto all come to mind. Considering we havnt seen much in the way of actual attempts on Barack Obama shows you how close he stays to that status quo.

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    1. No he’s actually really boring and terrible. Many of his ideas seem radical because they’re so honestly, unashamedly fuck-you-got-mine, whereas most conservative political positions put up a pretense of being in touch with the little guy. He has spurred white male youth and their hangers-on who like the idea that somehow problems of race, sex, and class will magically resolve themselves in a completely free market where the Supreme Court is toothless and the federal government has been gutted alive. Even if you give him the benefit of the doubt a quick check of your recent memory will reveal to you that four years ago most of the nation thought Obama was going to be a “breath of fresh air” and he was going to shake things up and speak truth to power and all that horseshit. Obama’s disappointing and Paul’s godawful. They’re both running sucker games.

      Er, nobody tried to asssassinate LBJ for his Great Society. Also JFK was super-conservative in some ways. Hated commies. Hated em. Laid the groundwork for the Vietnam War to really get under way. Gave J. Edgar Hoover the go-ahead to wiretap MLK’s phones and investigate his past. Slept around a bunch too. Hardly the paragon he seems in his legacy.

      On the other hand a Serbian national did assassinate that ultra-conservative aristocratic asshole Franz Ferdinand, precipitating the horrors of the first mechanized war. So there’s that.

      Stephen Colbert 2012! /joke

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      1. I don’t understand why we are discussing Ron Paul here when he was the one whose supporters screamed the nasty “Let him die!”, if I’m not mistaken. I hope nobody doubts that I don’t support this way of thinking. Nobody should be dying in a developed society for lack of a medical insurance. This is just not on.

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      2. Sorry I’ll ignore Ron Paul posts from now on. They just make me so MAD I want to burn them. Sometimes, I want to burn the whole world. [Not really.]

        I know I’m going to vote for Obama. I don’t want to, but I feel like there’s no other choice. It’s either slumping along a just barely left of center status quo for four more years, or rampant insanity.

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        1. This wasn’t addressed to you. P. rhoeas. I know you dislike Ron Paul as much as I do.

          People keep trying to insist that there is some sort of a Libertarian movement in the US. Scratch any Libertarian, however, and you’ll find a rabid religious fanatic (or a person endorsed massively by rabid fanatics.)

          I will be promoting Obama on the blog, too.

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      3. Obama’s disappointing and Paul’s godawful. They’re both running sucker games(P.rhoeas)

        I agree wholeheartedly but when I look at Paul compared to the others, well, you know, lol.

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        1. I, for one, fail to see any significant difference between Ron Paul and Santorum. Both are religious fanatics. So what if one is catholic and the other one Evangelical? A fanatic is a fanatic.

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      1. “But yes, in politics, maybe even more than in everything else, the good die young.”

        – It’s easy to idealize the young who simply had no time to make their share of mistakes.

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  3. People are slaves to grammar — either to the active tense or the passive one. I’ve had conservative friends over the years and they are anything but consistent with their ideology. If something bad happens to someone else, it’s always their fault, but if something bad happens to the conservative it’s because people were behaving badly and unjustly. I was genuinely surprised to understand this. I thought conservatives would be very happy if the “tough love” they applied to me were applied to them as well, but apparently this isn’t so. When I’ve said: “I’m very sorry life kicked you in the ass, but I’m sure you had it coming!” they recoil in genuine horror and alarm.

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  4. You vote for youself. Embrace the dogma of your politics until you cant, follow your nose pay attention struggle and evolve. I dont think that casting a single or corrct ballot is as influencial as living a single life and correct life.

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  5. I think it is fairly rare for individual beliefs to match up well with a two-party system that lends itself to binary oppositions. I can see where you’re coming from in terms of your analysis of political platforms, but most of the individual liberals and conservatives I discuss politics with do believe in both individual freedom and individual responsibility (I do not discuss politics with social conservatives though, as a caveat).

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  6. “In this country, there is no political force that believes both in individual freedom and individual responsibility.”

    Do you know of *any* country that has a party that believes in the libertarianism you talk about, which also has a significant chance of winning the general election?

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    1. I DON’T talk about any “Libertarianism.” Let’s not assign labels to me, especially not ones I detest.

      The dichotomy I described in this post is very specifically American. I can’t imagine it being reproduced anywhere else in the world.

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      1. Let’s leave out labels then, sorry. I’m just curious to know which country do you consider has a government (or at least a major political party) that comes closest to the political ideals you described in the post.

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        1. I don’t live in other countries. However, as I said, the conflict I describe in this post cannot possibly have relevance for any other developed country. This entire problem in the US exists because both seemingly different political philosophies are extremely bogged down with religion. There is no political space – even a discussion space – that has not been infected by religious discourse.

          See the recent comment in this thread that immediately starts referencing the poor and the sick as a response to my use of the word “politics.” It’s a knee-jerk reaction of Americans to slip into religious terminology whenever any political or social issue is discussed. There is no such thing as “American politics.” It is all a huge prayer meeting.

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    2. Given that libertarianism (in the hackneyed American sense of being a synonym for laissez-faire capitalism) is openly opposed to democracy, why should it have widespread support in democratic venues?

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  7. In the real world, individual freedom and individual responsibility work only for the able-bodied individual without overwhelming responsibilities for other people and with the ability to compete in the marketplace without undue impediment.

    For all your imagination, Clarissa, I fear that you have little understanding of how race works in this country. It takes some concerted effort for people who have had some degree of respect to imagine what it would be like to grow up being seen as “bound to end up in prison” or as “bound to get pregnant and drop out of school”. Someone has to believe in the child, and not all children have that someone in their lives to counteract the weight of stereotyping.

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    1. “Someone has to believe in the child, and not all children have that someone in their lives to counteract the weight of stereotyping.”

      – Which child? Who is talking about children in this post? What does race have to do with any of this? I’m expressing my desire to see a political philosophy that would believe both in MY individual freedom and responsibility. MINE. Not some child’s that you just invented and like to feel sorry for.

      “In the real world, individual freedom and individual responsibility work only for the able-bodied individual without overwhelming responsibilities for other people and with the ability to compete in the marketplace without undue impediment.”

      – I’m the individual you describe. Am I somehow not deserving of having a voice? Should I not be able to look for a political philosophy that I like because there are disabled people in the world?

      Gosh, how I detest this “children in Uganda are starving right now, so how dare you XYZ.”

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      1. In the United States, “individual freedom and responsibility”, not further qualified, is a phrase frequently coupled with the desire to blame poor people for being poor, and to consider poor people morally deficient untermenschen. America is a very Calvinist country. American libertarians tend to be well-off white men who believe that nothing bad can happen to them or their families, and don’t particularly care if the rest of the community goes to hell in a hand-basket – because poor people deserve to be poor. “Who needs public education? I can send my kids to a private college prep school and then to a private college.” Somehow they expect that the lower-paid professionals (K-12 teachers, nurses) will appear out of thin air.

        I happen to believe that decent public education, public health, free libraries, parks, public sewage treatment, and a whole host of other public services are necessary to a first-world standard of living and to an economy requiring talented and skilled workers.

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        1. “I happen to believe that decent public education, public health, free libraries, parks, public sewage treatment, and a whole host of other public services are necessary to a first-world standard of living and to an economy requiring talented and skilled workers.”

          – Who’s arguing? Definitely not me.

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  8. I will vote for President Obama unless the Green Party has a candidate I like. If I think there is any danger that the Repubenron candidate will carry Delaware, I will vote for Obama anyway.

    I think the “Let him die!” response is precisely in keeping with personal responsibility for the effects of ones choices. The Libertarian cop-out seems to be that the churches will take care of such people. Except for Buddy Roemer and John Huntsman, I regard all the present and former Repub candidates as willfully, deliberately, and knowingly evil people. I think you asked once in a different post whether anyone does evil which he or she knows is evil. These people are excellent examples to show that the answer is yes..

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  9. I’m voting for Obama because I really don’t have much of a choice here. I voted for Obama after realizing that Mike Gravel wasn’t for me when he joined the Libertarian party (and lost the nomination from them to someone else) I can’t imagine a future for my friends in the US if any of the other candidates win, and I’d quickly grow sick of helping them escape into Canada.

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    1. That’s what I’m saying, we don’t have a choice.

      And Canada is well on its way to not being a haven for rational people any more. 😦 Harper is doing all he can to ensure that.

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      1. I gave my friends that news in the last election when they asked about moving to Canada with me. I said “Well, Canada’s under a conservative government right now, and… (details Harper’s exploits here)”
        It led to a lively debate about where progressive Canadians go when their government lets them down. I suggested Sweden.

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      2. The political climate in Canada is changing – but it’s not just the conservatives. The Libs, NDP and Greens are working hard to ensure that everything is completely blown out of proportion and presented in a partisan light, rather than with the cool dispassion of reason.

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    2. In 2008 the Libertarian Party at its nominating convention had the choice of ex-Democrat Mike Gravel and ex-Republican Bob Barr. That they chose the latter further cemented my impression that the “libertarian” movement is strictly a subset of the conservative movement.

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      1. “That they chose the latter further cemented my impression that the “libertarian” movement is strictly a subset of the conservative movement.”

        – Exactly. People keep trying to convince me that there is a difference between a “libertarian” and a regular republican, but this idea is extremely unconvincing. Just look at the list of every libertarian’s endorsements.

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  10. If you read The Authoritarians a freely-available laypeople-oriented version of Robert Altemeyer’s academic books on the personality trait of Right Wing Authoritarian you’ll find out what is behind the base of the Republican Party (and to a lesser extent, the Harperites and Reformatories here in Canada).

    Traits of RWAs include:

    (1) Extreme loyalty and submission to their own in-group, which basically means those they see as the established and proper authorities. RWA could well be described as “natural followers”.

    (2) Extreme hostility to those not seen as being like their own in-group or seen as legitimatized by authorities. Examples include the hostility to LGBT people, feminists, immigrants, and non-Christians.

    (3) To somehow phrase it, living in bubbles, where they only ever pay attention to those they already trust. This leads to them having demonstrably erroneous beliefs that they actively resist evidence against. Examples include the “parallel reality” or WingNutDaily, or the myth that Reagan was some sort of icon just like the modern GOP (in reality, Reagan signed abortion rights legislation, opposed an anti-LGBT initiative, withdrew US troops, and raised taxes).

    (4) Double standards, with extreme forgiveness for those trust and follow. Examples include how the GOP is seen as pro-life, even though its policies are actively opposed to those that actually prevent abortions; how it is seen as protecting the sanctity of marriage even though GOP ex-spouses outnumber GOP candidates; and how they have no problem with Serena Joy (pardon me, Phyllis Schlafly) making a career of telling other women not to have careers; and how “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion”

    (5) Holding and actively agreeing with contradictory beliefs.

    (6) Extreme conventionalism.

    Being a RWA is not the same as being politically conservative. It means loyalty to established authorities. “Established authorities” depends on the context. For example, RWAs in the US were generally right wing, while in the Soviet Union they would have been hard core communists, because communists were the established authorities in the USSR.

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  11. Rob F,

    I can think of progressives/liberals who could be described exactly that way. College town liberals, for example, who live in a bubble of their ‘own kind’, and can’t conceive of any intelligent person possibly having opinions unlike their own, or any sane person living a lifestyle unlike that of college town liberals.

    Clarissa,
    Which party is it that wants to dictate how I live my personal life? Is it the one who tells me that it is no longer acceptable for civilized people to kill animals (wild or domestic)to eat? The one which tells folks which words are and are not acceptable for use in ‘civilized’ discourse? The one which wants to police my ‘tolerance’?

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    1. “Is it the one who tells me that it is no longer acceptable for civilized people to kill animals (wild or domestic)to eat? The one which tells folks which words are and are not acceptable for use in ‘civilized’ discourse? The one which wants to police my ‘tolerance’?”

      – None of this falls in the realm of one’s personal life. Discourse and tolerance are distinctly public phenomena. I agree that it is extremely annoying to have language-police descend on one. It keeps happening to me on my own blog where semi-literate Liberal preachers of “privilege-checking” try to tell me how to express myself. It has nothing to do with my personal life, though.

      “College town liberals, for example, who live in a bubble of their ‘own kind’, and can’t conceive of any intelligent person possibly having opinions unlike their own, or any sane person living a lifestyle unlike that of college town liberals.”

      – Erm, I’m a college town liberal. And as you might have noticed, I welcome people of widely different ideological perspectives on my blog.

      I really don’t appreciate it when people foster the image of a close-minded Ivory Tower academic, especially to my face. It’s a myth, and a pretty meaningless one.

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      1. I really don’t appreciate it when people foster the image of a close-minded Ivory Tower academic, especially to my face. It’s a myth, and a pretty meaningless one.

        Meaningless, indeed! There are all kinds of nut cases among students and faculty at even the best universities.

        Some faculty and students as well are openly racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.

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      2. “. It has nothing to do with my personal life, though.”

        What could be more personal than the food you eat and your diary? Or what you wear (fur, high heels).

        And what about progressives who want to police people’s sex lives, even if they don’t want to create actual laws (eg trying to convince women that giving blow jobs is anti-feminist or whatever).

        or actually support laws that favor women in domestic disputes or child custody battles.

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  12. At my old university, one of my favourite professors was fiscally conservative, but didn’t vote for the Republicans because he couldn’t help but notice they do very little to support fiscal policies he thinks are sound, and he didn’t have the heart to, in his words, “sell out” students , since they were always trashing students and talking about ways to keep them from voting, or trying to raise tuition. He said that he couldn’t believe they failed to notice what a good long-term investment an educated populace was.

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  13. bloggerclarissa :
    It is all a huge prayer meeting.

    On a slightly different subject, which is still part of the same, I find that even the most avid atheists in America (and to some degree, but less so in Australia) simply can’t get beyond metaphysical or essentialistic thinking. Of course, both of these pertain to theology — so you still have gender bigotry in otherwise self-professedly secular realms.

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  14. I’m not as down on political correctness as you are (or more to the point I’m equally disgusted with both PC and the anti-PC backlash) but I really don’t see the “victimhood,” “privilege scratching” and other stereotypes of the left in Democratic candidates for elected office. What I see there is an attempt to be all things to all people, especially the swing voters, who I’m not convinced actually exist.

    What makes it really hard to support Obama is the continuation of post-9/11 hysteria in the form of things like the Patriot Act, NDAA etc. What makes Ron Paul tempting is that he’s “right” on my “front burner issues,” although generally for the “wrong” reasons, and so extremely wrong on all the other issues.

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    1. “I really don’t see the “victimhood,” “privilege scratching” and other stereotypes of the left in Democratic candidates for elected office”

      – I wasn’t talking about the candidates since I never met him and have no idea what any of them actually believes. These candidates are all mouthpieces for paid interests. I was talking more about the people around me who support those candidates.

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    1. FWIW, Clarissa, the word that’s been coming to my mind more and more re. you is individualist. IMHO it’s unfortunate that individualist has become largely a synonym for libertarian, which is why I coined the term “thick individualism.”

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  15. In recent months I have thought of the Democratic party as not liberal, but status quo, and the Republican party as not conservative, but insane. I will take the status quo over insanity any day, so Obama gets my vote.

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  16. Your post reminds me of Ayn Rand’s tirade against the “mystics of the mind” and the “mystics of muscle” in Atlas Shrugged. Your thoughts aren’t really a tirade, but I find it amusing that two women raised in nearly the same place, upon coming to America, reach the same conclusion decades apart. You have stumbled onto a “truth” that cuts through conventional political alliances.

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