When discussing politics, I often hear people say things along the lines of “I don’t consider myself a Democrat OR a Republican,” “I don’t believe in labels,” “Liberal and Conservative don’t mean anything to me,” or “I’m a moderate/in the middle.” I’m never quite sure exactly what this means, and, not surprisingly, you never hear anyone mention specifics, like which things they agree with or disagree with on one side and also the other.
I’m personally not impressed with people saying “I’m not one or the other” or “you can’t label ME!” I think that’s kind of a reflex to show what a unique snowflake you are, when in reality, you’re not.
Take me as an example: I believe in low taxes, the free market, minimal regulations, strong local and state government and weak federal government (the forgotten concept of “federalism”), personal responsibility for your outcomes in life, and I reject identity politics pretty much wholesale.
Am I a “moderate?” Am I “in the middle?” No, I’m a conservative, and it would be silly of me to claim I’m somehow in the center when I’m clearly on the right. What is so bad about admitting this? Why is this so hard?
If you believe in higher taxes, “fair share” politics and the wicked “1%,” identity politics, socialized medicine, more government regulation, social engineering of personal choices like smoking and eating, and want Washington dictating social policy to the whole country rather than letting states and cities create the bulk of social and government policy, you’re a liberal, and you should just be honest about it instead of pretending to be “in the middle” when you’re not. What do you gain by pretending to be moderate when you’re not? Social standing? The appearance of open-mindedness?
It just seems like a big act that means nothing to me. Most people have a belief system, and pretending you don’t only makes it harder to solve problems, not easier. It makes it harder to have honest discussions about policy and society, because you’re playing “hide the ball” about your actual beliefs. This is somewhat different than the other common trope of saying you just want “sensible such and such regulation” in order to appear as if you really thought hard, struggled with the arguments, and considered both sides rather than just falling in line with your team’s talking points, but it’s in the same vein. Just about everyone falls in line with the majority of either liberal or conservative beliefs, and almost no one believes in half of one and half of the other, or even 60/40. Because frankly it would be pretty logically inconsistent to do so, you really couldn’t have a coherent set of beliefs or logic if you did.
If you applied similar logic to other ways to think and live, it would be like saying “I’m kind of a yuppie, but kind of a gutter punk too,” or “I’m kind of a cowboy, but also kind of a gangster rapper.” Just…no. Being or believing one thing or one kind of thing is going to logically preclude some others in most cases. Gutter punks aren’t also investment bankers and vice-versa, you’re not kind of one and kind of the other. You make choices, you have values, and you believe in certain logically consistent values and not others. And that’s ok. Just like it’s ok to be liberal, and it’s ok to be conservative, and you’re not less open-minded just because you have a consistent philosophy and worldview.