Political Packages and Ultimatums

(Blog) Expand Beyond “Left and Right” to include “Up and Down”

If w candidate was Pro-Choice but supported every other issue you supported, while candidate z was Pro-Life but was against every other issue you supported, would you vote for w instead of z?

If x candidate was a racist but supported every other issue you supported, while candidate y wasn’t a racist but was against every other issue you supported, would you vote for x or y?

Is there an “ultimatum issue” in your worldview?

Only you can know, but if so, for good or for bad, it may do your voting for you.

Democratic Republics force us to vote for “packages of positions”: we don’t get to choose one position at a time. If we want to save the environment, we can’t just vote for saving the environment: we will, at the same time, also have to vote for a certain position on prison reform, abortion, tax rates, and so on. As a result, elections can leave us feeling awful.

The more the government does and bigger it becomes, the bigger the package of issues that we have to vote for (while we perhaps try to just vote on one issue). If we want to lower corporate tax rates but also want to stop sex trafficking, but one candidate favors the tax rate we like but not the strong positions needed to stop trafficking, and vice-versa for the other candidate, we can feel like we are not represented. I think that’s what a lot of people feel today — like they aren’t represented. But that’s the nature of large Republics.

Additionally, if there are “ultimatum issues” that we under no circumstance can compromise on, and in every election there are always ultimatum issues, then these issues will “practically” decide our “package vote” every time. Generally, for Conservatives, this could be abortion, while for Liberals, it could be racism (and do note both sides probably think the “ultimatum issues” of the other side shouldn’t in fact be ultimatum issues — in fact, they almost have to think that way, for otherwise their vote would be shaped by those issues too).

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“Homeland Security” by Frozen Glory Photography

(Now, I don’t mean to suggest that no issue can ever be “a deal breaker,” but I do want to suggest that if x is an ultimatum issue for us, then we better triple check a few times a year our view on it and be completely sure that we understand how politicians stand on x. If one issue is going to “practically” do our voting for us, then we need to make sure our understanding on that issue is rock solid — and I’m willing to bet that we probably think most of our positions are more thought-out then they actually are.)

So what should we do? Return to a focus on local issues and local government? We certainly have a better chance of feeling represented on a local level, but unfortunately local government is so weak today, that unless the Federal Government shrinks and gives up some of it’s power, returning to the local level may not do much good (and certainly won’t feel like it does much good).

Today, people often talk in terms of “Left” and “Right,” but we may want to start introducing “Up” and “Down.” Do we want to upsize government and its systems or downsize it? There’s such thing as “Upsizing Liberalism” and “Upsizing Conservatism” — Republicans today claim to be in favor of small government, but I frankly don’t see it under Mitch McConnell. Additionally, a person can be concerned about social justice and precisely on those terms be in favor of “downsizing government” to end the drug war (for example). It is a mistake to think someone like Leopold Kohr, who wrote the terrific Breakdown of Nations, has to be Conservative. Additionally, Liberalism can entail movements like “Social Anarchism,” which favor smaller systems but social and State action. There’s also communitarianism.

To capture the feeling of voting…

Unfortunately, though there are more political options beyond “Right” and “Left,” in addition to the two-party system limiting our thinking, we are also limited by “ultimatum issues” that keep us from exploring other political possibilities due to a fear of contributing to an injustice or immorality. But as long as we live in an oversized Republic, it will be impossible for us to vote for issues, only packages. In this circumstance, it will probably prove often difficult for us to ever feel “totally great” about whoever we vote for. But accepting that this feeling is inevitable, we will not be quick to assume feeling it means we are doing something wrong: the problem could instead rest with the system.

In conclusion, think about Up and Down, not just Left and Right, and if you feel bad about it, don’t take that as a sign that you’re in the wrong. Until the system shrinks and we feel better represented, all of us probably feel the same way.

2020 UNO Prize Finalist. The Write Launch. Iowa Review. Allegory Ridge. Streetlight. Ponder. Pidgeonholes. W&M Review. Poydras. www.ogrose.com

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