Changing Political Ideology — Why Some Do and Why Mine Won’t

Changing Political Ideology: Plutocrat/Fox News Created Tea Party Astroturf ProtestI often think about changing my political ideology: turning conservative. I wonder if I will ever become conservative. And I actively think about it. I go through what they think and try to imagine myself thinking the same things.

Of course, it’s hard in modern America. The truth is that the Republican Party and the conservative movement itself are so delusional that I can’t imagine ever becoming one. But I suppose I can imagine myself being the kind of person who writes or reads The American Conservative. Those are reasonable people who I already agree with a lot of the time.

Thoughtless Ideological Orientation

But whenever I hear about some conservative who has turned liberal or some liberal who has turned conservative I always think it’s the same thing. These people have not changed their beliefs. Instead, they have made up their minds. These are people who were only liberal or conservative in the most facile of ways.

They got their political ideology from where they grew up, the people they hung around with, their parents, or whatnot. It is extremely unusual that someone has read all three volumes of Das Kapital and then decides the Milton Friedman was right all along.

Why My Political Ideology Won’t Change

As a result, I don’t think that my political ideology will ever change. The truth is that even though I’m a liberal, most liberals annoying me. I find that they have not thought very clearly about their belief system. They’re often extremely ignorant about the issues of the day. And I find I need to educate them as much as I do conservative. The only difference is that it actually does some good with liberals.

For Most, Politics Is Tribal

Most politics is tribal. So when someone supposedly changes from Liberal to conservative it is more likely the case that they used to hang out with liberals and now they’re hanging out with conservatives. And vice versa.

So we really shouldn’t make much of the fact that people change political ideologies and parties. The only thing I will say is that when someone changes a party they are more likely to take the new political ideology more seriously. That’s not always true. In fact, that’s not usually true. But it is true often enough to be interesting.

Change Leading to Seriousness

Sometimes people who do take the new ideology seriously annoy they’re new friends. Because their old friends are just tribal about it too. They don’t like to be around someone who takes their political ideology seriously. Such people often get shunned and find themselves in a political realm of one.

The truth is that I would love to be conservative. I think of myself as personally conservative. Of course, even the most cursory look at how I act and what I think and so on shows that I’m a liberal.

The Difference Between Real Liberals and Real (Non-American) Conservatives

I’ve come to see the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives as being determined by whether they value mercy or justice more. That’s not American conservatives, of course. People of both types are in the Democratic party now. It’s just the loons who are in the Republican Party.

You can tell this because there are about 30 percent Republicans. And the truth is that there are always 30 percent of Americans who will believe any wacky thing you can mention. The Earth is flat? 30 percent. Part of the population is actually lizards living inside of human suits? 30 percent. Trump is doing a good job? 30 percent!

I’m Stuck Being Me

So I will die a liberal. Even if liberalism goes on to hold opinions that would today make me a conservative. I will always be a liberal because I’ve thought about it a lot. And that’s true of people who are conservative or liberal. In general, I don’t like hearing that people have changed ideologies because it just reminds me that they had no political ideology to begin with.

But I might very well stop being a Democrat. There’s no telling what the Democratic party will become. I already like the Democratic Party far less then I did 40 years ago. It’s possible that the Republican Party will start living up to its propaganda. And it’s possible that the Republican party will become populist. It’s even possible that the Republican party will become the party of working people, instead of the party of the rich.

I can easily change parties because parties change. But I’m afraid that changing my political ideology in a substantial way is out of the question.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

8 thoughts on “Changing Political Ideology — Why Some Do and Why Mine Won’t

  1. I’ve come to see the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives as being determined by whether they value mercy or justice more.

    If this was true, social justice would be a conservative issue.

    My read is that liberals optimize for exploration, and conservatives optimize for competition. In this view, liberals value diversity as a source of new approaches, and conservatives value conformity as helpful to organization and economies of scale. Which works best depends on the environment.

    In Jane Jacobs’s terms, liberals favor traders’ morality and conservatives favor guardians’ morality.

    • I think you’re largely right, if we apply these to personality types instead of party labels. Obviously, a great many modern Republicans have no respect whatsoever for established norms (they love companies which violate every rule, blow up international finance, etc.) and many Democrats are terrified of outsiders who threaten to change what the party’s been doing (unsuccessfully) for 30+ years.

      As for mercy and justice, consider that most American conservatives would be for social justice if they believed it was necessary. It’s not that they think the senseless murder by police of unarmed Black citizens is just; it’s that they refuse to believe the victim’s side of the story. The same goes for their hatred of the social safety net; the poor people who they believe are treated unfairly (themselves) deserve government help, those whose poverty is their own fault (everyone else) shouldn’t get a penny. They aren’t against social justice; they don’t think social injustice exists.

      Meanwhile a liberal would say (and by no means are all Democrats liberals!) that the unarmed person should never be shot, no matter what they did or didn’t do, and a poor person should never suffer, no matter if poverty is their “fault” or not. Mercy.

      • the unarmed person should never be shot

        I mostly agree with that, but it takes about half a second to figure out whether what somebody is holding is a gun. It takes about 0.2 seconds to shoot somebody. By the time a cop is sure that somebody isn’t armed, he has already bet his life on the outcome.

        People just aren’t capable of navigating life-threatening, confusing situations very well. By the time they understand what’s happening, it’s over.

        • It sounds like you’ve been in “life-threatening, confusing situations” before. As have I. And you’re completely correct; we don’t do well in them, unless we’ve been trained in those specific situations so thoroughly that reacting to them is mere motor memory.

          When it comes to cops and shootings, though, I would argue that most criminals willing to shoot a cop aren’t particularly skilled at it. These aren’t trained assassins like in the movies. They’ll have to fumble around to get the gun out, then point it, and handguns aren’t especially accurate to begin with. This would provide most cops with enough time to duck down and/or run away. (A crazy person with a knife is far more dangerous at close range than a crazy person with a gun.)

          Where we come back to your original comment and Frank’s original post is, diversity v. conformity. Mercy v. justice. I am not willing to accept people being shot by cops because they were reaching for a wallet. Others may accept that risk, as it is quite unlikely to happen to them, and they consider it a necessary evil. Catching the bad guys means an occasional good guy gets killed. That’s justice, in a limited sense of the word, and that’s conformity, supporting an institution of lethal authority because it’s been around forever.

          As a liberal, though, I prefer diversity and mercy. American cops since forever have been trained to shoot first when scared; I’d rather new ideas about training were used. As would you, if a family member or friend was shot while reaching for their wallet.

  2. The problem being, of course, that the “first-past-the-post” electoral system pretty much always give you two parties, as witnessed by the fact that there have pretty much ALWAYS been two parties in the United States – two parties that have any actual political heft, anyway – and the only exceptions being times like the elevtion of 1860 when one of the two, in that case, the Whigs, was dying and being replaced by another (the GOP).

    I’d love to think the the current GOP would sicken and die of it’s own massive dysfunction, but, as you point out, the 30% of Americans that would vote for the Monster Raving Looney Party are already there, and there’s another 10-15% of fringe looneys as well as the wealthy who are perfectly happy to give the looneys their guns and God so long as the looneys are willing to let the wealthy pick their pockets and break their legs in return. The GOP cannot change; it is entirely beholden to the rentier donors and the unhinged base. There WERE rational conservatives, remember? The “Rockefeller Republicans” were driven out of the party as “RINOs” because they weren’t sufficiently insane on guns, abortion, and the need to funnel largesse to the wealthy. How on Earth do you suggest that is going to reverse itself?

    So there’s really IS no alternative. Sadly, you’re either all in with plutocratic theocracy…or not.

    • I have to agree with you. I’d like to think that in a few decades, the utter policy bankruptcy of the GOP would eventually turn enough voters away. However, I don’t know if we have a few decades left. The societal damage being done right now (including the “tax bill,” which is strictly a long-game plan to eventually cut Social Security/Medicare) will last long enough to stir up much more unfocused rage. And people filled with unfocused rage are particularly susceptible to demagogues / propaganda outlets which give them a target for this rage.

      I see hopeful signs of genuine grassroots movements which could truly give people hope and faith in their ability to make their voices heard. These things take time to build and learn strategy, though. How much time do we have? We’ll see…

    • My guess is that within a decade we get a “man on horseback”; essentially Trump but smarter and less of a dysfunctional human being; a Caesar, more or less. This demagogue/dictator carefully preserves the forms of democracy while continuing the sort of erosion of the functions of the state that the Trumpkins are busily engaged in. The U.S. becomes a fascist state (in the sense of “government by and for the socially and economically powerful”) in fact while pretending to be a republic.

      And my reasoning is that in 2008 we had what should have been another 1929. The bankster cratering of the economy should have driven them and their political enablers – both the GOP (as a party) and the DLC/corporate Democrats that ran on triangulation with the GOP – into the wilderness. It didn’t, and not just because Obama and his administration refused to hang some bankers “pour les encouragement les autres”. There was no real outcry for that; OWS turned out to be a ridiculous piece of street theater, and the Sanders movement (now “Our Revolution”) still hasn’t bothered to get down in the trenches and organize, burrow itself inside the Democratic Party the way the teabaggering Birchers did the GOP.

      So we had our chance to show that a really populist anti-corporate-capitalist movement could retake the public square, and unless something really changes in 2018 I’m not seeing that.

      We the People seem to be happy to wait around for a Savior, and we know how that usually ends…

      • We don’t have to get rid of democracy. What Republicans have long understood is that they can maintain power in a democracy, even though they are very unpopular by controlling who votes. This has always been the case. In general, the trend in the US has been toward more democracy: blacks got the right to vote, women got the right to vote, and so on. But when blacks and women and non-property owning whites didn’t have the right to vote, we still called our country a democracy. So even when the US becomes a complete autocracy, we will claim it is a democracy — just like all other autocracies.

        But I don’t see a sudden change. I just see us losing our rights inch by inch. This tax bill is a great example: taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. Yet a good 30% of the people are convinced that the government is working for its interests. And we have always had a government that was anti-democratic. The electoral college was anti-democratic, and it has become far more so over the years. The Senate is an offense to the very idea of democracy.

        You are right, however: if 2008 didn’t get people motivated, what will? But let’s not forget, revolutions are almost always the middle class turning on the upper class. The US is getting to the point where it has no middle class. This tax bill will certainly help that along. I recommend reading Death of the Liberal Class. It’s really depressing. But I think it is exactly correct.

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