iSideWith Let’s You Look at Mainstream Issues

iSideWithI came upon the website iSideWith yesterday. It’s been around since 2012 and it allows you to answer a bunch a questions and then see how well you agree with the different political parties and presidential candidates. Well, you know me: I love tests that tell me that I am who I think I am. So I answered the roughly 90 questions and got my results. And as should come as a shock to no one, I agreed most with Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party.

The test provides much more than that, however. It gets more interesting as you drill down. The people behind iSideWith clearly like this kind of stuff as much as I do, so they provide a lot of information. For example, they have a whole section of “polls.” These are basically just the results of particular questions on the iSideWith quiz. For me, this was the most depressing part of the whole thing.

iSideWith Polls

For example, 81% of the people who have taken the iSideWith test think that people should have to show photo ID to vote. Another 86% want term limits on Congress. And 73% think people on “welfare” should be drug tested. I picked these three issues because they are ones where facts really matter. There is no in-person voter fraud; term limits tend to make politics more corrupt; and people on “welfare” are less likely to do drugs than people who aren’t. (Also: why don’t we drug test the people on the mortgage interest deduction welfare program?)

After you take the iSideWith test, you can compare your positions with those of the candidates and the parties. I didn’t find that very useful because I know where the candidates stand. But I think this would be very helpful for people who don’t follow politics all that closely. And I think Bernie Sanders supporters could be helped a lot because they are likely to get results that are very similar to mine:

iSideWith Presidential Ratings

Now, I know: this is an imperfect way to determine who you ought to vote for. For one thing, iSideWith has me siding much more strongly with the Democratic Party than with the Socialist Party. I suspect that if we got into a serious discussion of capitalism, we would find that I was actually much more in line with the socialists. But the quiz does a good job of including those issues that are inside our Overton window. And in that context, I think the quiz is quite useful.

Bernie or Bust?

So it shows I most agree with Bernie Sanders. No surprise there. But I agree with Hillary Clinton almost as much as I do Sanders. And I agree with her as much as I do Jill Stein. And I wonder how many of my fellow Sanders supporters will actually vote for Stein over Clinton? People are wrong when they say a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump; it isn’t; it is a half vote for Trump. And I think that most Sanders supporters will come out something like me. The question is: with Clinton at 95% and Trump at 24%, is this really an election that you should sit out?

It’s funny. Even that 24% agreement with Trump is something of a myth. For example, on the question of whether labor unions help or hurt the economy, I said they help it. (I don’t think this is open to debate.) But according to iSideWith, Trump agrees with me, because Trump says labor unions, “Help, in theory but have recently become corrupt and should have their powers limited.” To me, that says he thinks they hurt the economy. They are already powerless and he wants to limit them even more?

Regardless, go over to iSideWith. You can take the quick test (Clinton was above Stein in that one, and Trump was only at 10%), or you can take the longer test by answering the optional questions. Let me know how you come out. If history is any guide, yours will look a lot like mine.

Afterword: Parties

Here is how I scored on parties:

  1. Democratic: 96%
  2. Green: 92%
  3. Socialist: 86%
  4. Libertarian: 51%
  5. Constitution: 9%
  6. Republican: 5%

Of Course Obama Was for the Grand Bargain

Barack Obama - Grand BargainYesterday, I saw that Scott Lemieux wrote an article, Neoliberal Stooge Proves Democratic Party Needs to Be Blown Up. I didn’t finish reading it. Partly, that is just because I don’t think Lemieux does a very good job of sarcasm. But mostly, it was the line where he said that Obama was “proposing Social Security cuts attached to conditions Republicans would never accept.” Oh my! Grand Bargain apologetics again!

Then this morning, at New Republic, he wrote a similar article, Why Obama Turned Left on Social Security. It even uses the same words, “Tying ‘chained-CPI’ Social Security cuts to upper-class tax cuts no Republican Congress was ever going to pass was an indication that Obama was not actually trying to cut Social Security.” So Obama wasn’t for the Grand Bargain. He wanted to leave Social Security alone. But now he is in favor of increasing Social Security benefits because the party has moved to the left. Uh, not really.

But what really set me off was a follow-up article by Martin Longman, Obama Gamed the Grand Bargain Correctly. He wrote:

I get that there was some brand damage and lost opportunities to attack Republicans that resulted from pretending to be serious about using Social Security cuts to address the debt, but I think they were outweighed by Obama’s ability to say that he was bending over backwards, defying his base, and acting like the only adult in the room, and the Republicans simply would not reciprocate in any reasonable way.

There’s another chestnut of Obama apologists everywhere. You see, Obama never fails; he is only failed by the political environment. Everyone knows that Obama was always for same sex marriage. It was just that he couldn’t come out in favor of it until it was politically safe because Obama is such a courageous political leader! And in this case, he had to act like the “adult in the room” with the Grand Bargain or else his friends in the mainstream media would have thought that he was just another politician with, you know, principles.

This was supposedly Obama’s cunning plan — or as Lemieux puts it, his “twenty-billion-dimensional-chess.” But what did he actually get? Did the media turn on the Republicans? Maybe I wan’t paying attention, but I didn’t see the media change its coverage in the least. It is always the same thing: there are the Democrats, there are the Republicans, and there is the truth, smack dab in the middle. As it is, the media is running to normalize Donald Trump. The truth is not something that the mainstream media uncover; it is something they define based upon where the two parties stand at any point. And Obama knows that.

What really bugs me is all this business of trying to find reasons why Obama’s policies are so much more conservative than liberals thought they ought to be. One of Obama’s more compelling personal traits is his honesty. When he said he was basically a Blue Dog Democrat, he wasn’t saying it to trick people; he was saying it because it was the truth. And when he pushed the Grand Bargain for years, it wasn’t because he knew that the Republicans wouldn’t take it. It was because he thought it would make him a bipartisan hero in the same way that welfare “reform” did for Bill Clinton.

Lemieux claims that Obama’s recent change is an indication that political change comes from the bottom up. Then why did Obama push for the Grand Bargain? There was no pressure for that — even among Republican voters. That’s why Lemieux and Longman have to make this ridiculous argument that Obama wasn’t really for the Grand Bargain. And had Bill Clinton’s welfare “reform” fallen through, they would say the same thing about that.

But there is extra pressure on Obama regarding Social Security — it comes from Hillary Clinton’s campaign. And good for her! But I give Obama no credit at all. When it comes to the Grand Bargain, Obama would have gladly sold us down the river in exchange for the cheers of the Thomas Friedman crowd.