Thursday, January 17, 2008
Not Much Difference
In case you couldn't tell from some of my more recent posts, I'm really sort of ambivalent about American politics these days. While I think it's pragmatically important to be involved in the political process, I'm a little disillusioned by the lack of real political diversity among the choices. I've often said that there's not much difference between the Republicans and the Democrats when you come right down to it.

Well, I just saw a chart by that basically confirms this fact. The Y-axis measures the candidates on their social policies while the X-axis measures them on economic policy. Check out where the current crop of presidential candidates fall:

Notice how even the "liberal" candidates are still in the upper right "Authoritarian/Right" quadrant. Only Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel even make it into the Left/Libertarian Quadrant at all. It's no wonder then that Kucinich is my preferred candidate, considering that the chart below is where I fall.

The political compass folks have this to say about their presidential candidates chart:
When examining the chart it is important to note that although most of the candidates seem quite different, in substance they occupy a relatively restricted area within the universal political spectrum. Democracies with a system of proportional representation give expression to a wider range of political views. While Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel are depicted on the extreme left in an American context, they would simply be mainstream social democrats within the wider political landscape of Europe. Similarly, Hillary Clinton is popularly perceived as a leftist in the United States while in any other western democracy her record is that of a moderate conservative.

Great, so with Obama and Clinton as our current Democratic front runners, the best we can hope for in this election is to be able to vote for a "moderate conservative". This is why I'm often cynical about the possibility of any real change happening on the political level in this country. Though I've not given up all hope, since just giving up seems like an even worse option.


posted by Mike Clawson at 12:20 PM | Permalink |


At 1/17/2008 05:47:00 PM, Anonymous Miko

I end up just a little-bit southeast of you on that chart(but still squarely in the green) and as such have basically the same thoughts about the current crop of candidates.

I've always been a bit puzzled by this sort of chart for a couple reasons, however. For one thing, almost everyone I've ever met is in the left/lib box, meaning I either have strange luck in meeting like-minded individuals, the test is skewed in that direction, or our politicians are seriously out of touch with what most people want. (Most likely, a combination of all three.) For another, I question how they placed those candidates. I don't think the administers could place them reliably even with public remarks available. For example, all of Edwards anti-poverty work should surely have him left of center at the very least.

Methodology aside, what do we do about it? I'd say that the fact that basically all of our candidates are auth/right needs to call for the opposite of ambivalence. id est, we need to change the voters before the candidates will change.


At 1/17/2008 08:54:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

yeah, I'm not terribly impressed with anyone who has a chance and I'm a Kucinich supporter too... in so far as the issues go anyway


At 1/18/2008 12:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

DISCLAIMER: I've always been suspicious of these things.

Hmmm...I ended up in the Libertarian camp. I find this interesting because that is exactly where I was over seven years ago and yet I feel like my views on different policies have changed quite a bit over the years. Interesting.

In all honesty, Mike, I am a little concerned about how truly balanced this assessment is. A lot of the statements that it was asking you to weigh in on seemed pretty polarizing or seemed to favor a more progressive viewpoint. I dunno if I'm reading too much into this, but it just made me a bit uncomfortable as I went through it.

How did they place the current candidates? And how did they place the historical figures that they pointed to when giving you the feedback (ie Hitler, Stalin, Gandhi, etc)? I find it interesting that individuals like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama (all individuals that I would say most people admire) end up squarely in the Libertarian camp.

Once again, this is just an observation, but it makes me doubt the neutrality of this survey. I guess I just doubt their sincerity when they claim "We have no ideological or institutional baggage" in their self-descriptions on the FAQs page. In all honesty, I think we all have some ideological baggage ;) :p


At 1/18/2008 12:55:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Re: methodology - according to the political compass folks they said the following about how they placed these candidates:

"They have been evaluated through scrutiny of public statements, manifestos, interviews and, crucially, voting records."

Though I agree Nick, I too detected a left/libertarian bias in the way many of the questions were worded.


At 1/29/2008 03:06:00 PM, Anonymous Miko

Just came across the following test:

It uses the same categories and places me in about the same spot, but differs in that some of the candidates placed for comparison actually fall in the liberal/left box, which is refreshing.

I can't speak as to which methodology is better, but they claim:

The positioning of the candidates was carried out with a comprehensive and objective method with regard to the policy proposals of the candidates. Multiple coders positioned each candidate and each positioning was subsequently checked by a group of (international) scholars assembled at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Their scientific independence and integrity guarantees that the positioning was carried out according to high academic standards and are correctly represented in the political landscape, based on strict scientific methods and well-established theoretical assumptions. Electoral Compass is completely transparent, all positions and their justifications are accessible by a simple click on each of the candidates.

Also noteworthy is that they claim to use the responses given in future scientific research/polling work. I can't see that data being representative, but if you want to drive the national average slightly to the left, this is your chance. ;-)


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