Political Party as Fashion Statement

A while back I lamented that so few people actually strive to maintain a consistent personal philosophy, rather than a hodge-podge of isolated political views.  In this context, I thought the profile of "progressive" Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (the Daily Kos) by the sympathetic progressive-liberal Washington Monthly was interesting.  For example:

The younger-than-35 liberal professionals who account for most of his
audience seem an ideologically satisfied group, with no fundamental
paradigm"”changing demands to make of the Democratic Party. They don't
believe strongly, as successive generations of progressives have, that
the Democratic Party must develop more government programs to help the
poor, or that racial and ethnic minorities are wildly underrepresented,
or that the party is in need of a fundamental reform towards the
pragmatic center"”or at least they don't believe so in any kind of
consistent or organized manner. As this generation begins to move into
positions of power within the progressive movement and the Democratic
Party, they don't pose much of a challenge on issues or substance. So
the tactical critique takes center stage.
Moulitsas's sensibility suits his generation perfectly. But it also
comes with a built-in cost. Moulitsas is just basically uninterested in
the intellectual and philosophical debates that lie behind the daily
political trench warfare. By his own admission, he just doesn't care
about policy. It's here that the correlation between sports and
politics breaks down. In sports, as Vince Lombardi is said to have put
it, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." When the season is
over, you hang up your cleats and wait for the next season. But in
politics, that's not the case"”you have to govern, and if you don't
govern well, you won't get reelected. So while tactics and message are
crucial, most voters will ultimately demand from politicians ideas that
give them a sense of what a party is going to do once in power. Wanting
to win very badly is an admirable and necessary quality in politics,
and Moulitsas is right that Democrats have needed it in greater
quantity. But it is not really a political philosophy.

This article tends to reinforce a notion I have had of late, that is a trend toward political party as fashion statement.  For example, I get the impression that many of Kos's audience call themselves Democrats more because of the statement they think it makes about themselves rather than a thought-out comparison of the various party's positions and how they stack up vs. their own thought-out philosophy.  I am starting to sense that people choose parties for their brand-image rather than for the actual positions or people who represent them.  Democrat might mean "I am smarter than you", "I am with-it and cool", "I am dynamic" while Republican might mean "I am patriotic", "I am moral", "I am level-headed".  By the way, don't send me mail for the wrong reasons -- I am not saying the parties actually consistently meet these images, I am just saying that a large number of people seem to adopt their party to make these kind of statements about themselves.

Postscript:  If you think I am exaggerating, then someone needs to explain to me how a Democratic president can send us to war in Bosnia with Republicans opposing and then have a Republican president send us to war in Iraq with Democrats opposing when at the 40,000 foot level they are the same freaking war (US intervention to unseat a genocidal dictator with at best unclear UN mandate and opposition from key European nations).  I keep coming back to the simplistic explanation that the default political position is "I got my guy's back no matter what, and you guys suck no matter what", which I admit effectively compares the current political discourse to the chants at a Michigan-Ohio State football game, but I'm going to go with it.

PPS-  As a good libertarian, though, I am happy to know that young progressives are not necessarily pushing for more state control.

  • http://catallarchy.net/blog/ Brandon Berg

    "...which I admit effectively compares the current political discourse to the chants at a Michigan-Ohio State football game, but I'm going to go with it."

    The correct conjunction to use there would be "so," not "but."

  • http://politics.lel-hosting.com/ Matt

    There's a difference, but it's a subtle one, and its importance to the topic at hand is questionable.

    Michigan fans aren't screaming for the Wolverines to grab guns, march into the stands, and start offering Ohio State fans a binary choice between maize-and-blue jackets and violent death. Thus are the chants at a Michigan-Ohio State football game far superior to political discourse. (I won't use the "current" modifier, because while the level of rudeness has varied over history, this is ultimately what political discourse has always been about at its core. "Political" discourse which doesn't ultimately reduce to this is actually philosophy, not politics.)

    PS- As a good libertarian, I continue to be briefly-amused-but-quickly-bored by analysis of the whole "I prefer being beaten to death with a shovel, so I'm a Republican" vs "I prefer being beaten to death with a hammer, so I'm a Democrat" dichotomy. :)

  • http://www.bhag1.co.nr bhag1

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