What is it about the American voter which makes it impossible for us to select an ideology and stick to it?
Now, if you are asking yourself what the hell is an “ideology” – slowdown because you are making my point for me before we even begin. An ideology, as defined by dictionary.com, is “a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy”. In other words, an ideology is the basis of your core beliefs which naturally transfers to your outlook on life and the principles that you believe should guide society.
While there are many different ideologies which exist throughout the spectrum of social philosophy, there are two main ideologies which have served as the bedrock to modern day popular political philosophy. These two ideologies have formed the basis of what we know today as Progressivism and Conservativism. Traditionally speaking, Democrats tend to espouse Progressive points of view while Republicans tend to espouse more Conservative views. That being said, the values professed by Progressivism and Conservativism are inexplicably connected to two main ideologies: 1) Progressivism connects to Altruism & 2) Conservativism connects to Egoism.
Egoist are people who believe that, for the most part, individuals should be self-interested and concerned with one’s own security, wellbeing and advancement in life. This philosophy stems from a “survival of the fittest” mentality where the strong survive and the weak…. well the weak unfortunately die off. Egoist believe that society is advanced and made better for all when individuals embrace their own self-interest and do well for themselves. The idea is that by doing so, eventually the benefits of their hard work will trickledown and uplift others.
On the opposite side of the spectrum there is an alternative ideology which is called Altruism. People who consider themselves Altruistic believe in the concepts of communal responsibility in society where we all have a responsibility to lookout for one another and support one another when possible. Altruism maintains that one person cannot do it alone. It takes people working together and caring for one another to advance society. Altruism derives from Judeo-Christian values of “being your brother’s keeper” and loving your neighbor as Christ loves you.
As you can see, these are two drastically different ideologies which are nothing alike and bare little to no resembles to one another. However, throughout the course of modern day political history in this country, American voters have jumped from one ideological camp of supporting the Altruistic values of working together to help each other, to hopping to the other end of the ideological spectrum of Egoism where people are out for themselves and could care less about the wellbeing of their neighbor. Voters have made these jumps back and forth without taking into consideration the ramifications of their choices. For years, the American voter has been sending mix messages to the political establishment as to which ideology they truly support. Interestingly enough, while voters don’t seem to know what they want or where they stand, voters also seem to forget the issues they supported just a few years ago and now seem to be against.
Perfect example. Previous polls show that most American voters want their elected officials to work together and compromise for the betterment of the country. Most people surveyed say they are frustrated with the gridlock in Washington and the fact that nothing seems to be able to get done.
However, it was only a few years ago that these same voters who are now crying over the gridlock in Washington, voted to elect Tea Party members of Congress whose only objective at the time was to stand in the way of President Obama accomplishing anything. Days after President Obama was elected Republican leaders were meeting to devise plans as to how they would derail any possible semblance of compromise. This essentially represented the Republican party delivering on what they promised to voters – to create gridlock. However, after voting for gridlock these same voters are now frustrated that we had 6 years of gridlock in Washington during most President Obama’s time in office. In other words, they are frustrated by the gridlock that they themselves voted for (???).
The same could be said for the current situation surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or ObamaCare. Donald Trump spent his entire campaign railing against the ACA and promising to end it on his first day in the White House. Knowing this, many rural Trump voters who depended on the ACA are now concerned that they will soon lose their insurance coverage under the newly created TrumpCare. So… they voted for a person who told them he would end their insurance program and now they are upset that the program could end (???).
The question is, what is causing this disconnect? What’s causing this schizophrenic behavior where voters appear to support an issue or ideology one minute, only to switch and take a different stance the next minute? I think the answer can be found where we first started with this post. In reading the beginning of this post, I would imagine that most people would not immediately have known what the definition of ideology was. If you are honest with yourself, you are probably one of those people. And this, I submit, is the problem. In order to have an ideology you first must know what an ideology is. You must be aware of the philosophy which drives that ideology. Then, and only then, will you be able to correctly identify which camp you belong in. Are you a Progressive or are you a Conservative? Do you believe in limited government or do you believe that government has a role to play in the lives of Americans?
These, unfortunately, are questions that cannot be answered by most American voters and I believe the reason why is clear. Most American voters don’t know the basics of civics, don’t have a clear understanding of history and don’t understand how government works. Yet, when it comes to selecting how our government is run or who will run it, most Americans want to play a role in this process, but don’t want to take the time to learn critical information which would assist them in making a better-informed decision. This is exactly the reason why we have political chaos in this country, and why this chaos will continue until we the people make a conscious decision to learn more, research more, read more, and pay attention more. Only then will the schizophrenic nature of our voting patterns change and begin to make sense. Understanding issues and where you stand on those issues is critically important. However, understanding why those issues are important to you in the first place can only be known once you secure an ideology. This is what’s missing in the American voter and this is what we have to fix.