Wednesday, March 05, 2003

The Spectrum: A lot of people claim to be lower-case libertarians, but many seem to be confused about what that means. Dennis Miller and Chris Rock are pretty clearly of the liberal Republican/conservative Democrat stripe: fairly conservative on the size, scope, and expense of the state, but socially liberal. Being fiscally conservative and socially liberal is often mistaken for libertarian, but ask a libertarian and a moderate about, say, cloning and you'll get very different answers. Bill Maher is without a doubt a modern liberal Democrat who thinks that being pro-legalization makes him a libertarian. (Hello, Bill? National Review is pro-legalization!) Part of the confound is the hipness of late that surrounds being an "independent" on matters political, even when independent just means that you don't like everything the Democrats stand for but you reliably vote for them. For example, some of the polling in 2000 indicated that almost a third of likely voters self-identify as independent, but only a sliver of actual voters chose an independent candidate. Pragmatism in the face of a wasted vote? Perhaps. But I think that most independents, if pushed, will admit to being, for example, pro-choice Republicans or pro-life Democrats at heart. In the end, the Political Compass is the test that really matters. Democrat/Republican and right/left distinctions mean little when the Democratic party can host such figures as Maxine Waters and Zell Miller, one of whom is essentially a socialist, the other essentially a conservative.

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