Robert B. Jordan
“I have opinions of my own – strong opinions – but I don’t always agree with them.” George W. Bush
I Robert B. Jordan do not like labels. I don’t like being labeled. Labels are confining, and restrictive. In the recent election year one could not avoid hearing labels. The Republican primaries, which we all tolerated for what seemed like a decade, were comedic. One candidate accused the other of being too Moderate, another was not Conservative enough, and the folks in the other party are Liberal and Radical.
I started to wonder about the four labels that crop up the most; Conservative, Liberal, Moderate, and Radical so I went to my Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus residing on the corner of my desk to see just exactly what each of those labels mean. Here is what I found:
Conservative – is averse to rapid change; avoids extremes; unprogressive; traditional; cautious.
Liberal – gives freely; open-minded; generous; profuse; free; fair.
Moderate – is temperate in conduct or expression; medium strength; calm; reasonable; rational.
Radical – advocating through reform; holding extreme political views.
In reading through the definitions, and looking at the synonyms, I was struck with the realization that no one can be exclusive to any of these four labels all the time. I, for example, am generally Moderate, but at times Conservative depending on the subject, or Liberal on a different subject. I can instantly become Radical when I hear, or read about the two sides not being able to reach a decision.
I really don’t believe that a declared Conservative is in fact Conservative on every issue every time. Neither do I believe the same is true with the other labels. I hold this belief as regards politics. In personal life this belief is unchallenged. Example; when my daughters were teenagers I held extremely Conservative views on their activities, their friends, and most particularly their boyfriends. With my grand kids I am Liberal at the ice cream parlor, but Moderate with their choice of music. I become Radical at their lack of manners.
We live in a world of enhancements and exaggerations. Let me give you a football example. I cringe when I hear the announcer say “He’s wide open”! What does that mean? Isn’t a receiver either open or he’s not? Is being “wide open” better than just being open? This is an enhancement, an exaggeration. Another example: In my city we have an interstate highway that runs north and south through the city. To expedite traffic they have HOV lanes, which mean “High Occupancy Vehicle”. In order to drive in the HOV lane there must be three or more people in the vehicle. Oh really? Three people are high occupancy? Isn’t “High Occupancy Vehicle” a bit enhanced and exaggerated? How about renaming that lane a TOM lane – “Three or More” – plain, simple and self explained.
Applying political labels to candidates, as well as people already in office seems to me an enhancement or an exaggeration. Of course if one is labeled it is so much easier to find fault, and criticize, if their label differs from what the other’s perceived label is. Truth is that if one declares he/she is exclusively a Conservative, a Moderate, a Liberal, or a Radical they are being a bit hypocritical, don’t you think?
We, the voting public, are so easily taken in by political rhetoric. Each election we listen to, and believe, the candidate with the best ideas. The candidate that will make the best changes, has the most logical ideas, and pledges to make everything warm and fuzzy. The political speeches and promises today vary only slightly from those speeches and promises from years past. Election after election we vote for a candidate with the label most like ours, only to be disappointed by not receiving the warm and fuzzy we were counting on.
How about those negative ads during the campaigns, local and national? How we enjoy hearing the bad about the other guy – any chance those ads contain enhancements and exaggerations? Of course they do. All the experts tell us that negative is what sells. Being negative is the best strategy, the best tactic. And, we all fall for it. As consumers don’t we like to hear the benefits of a product? Don’t we want to know the positives of the automobile we want to buy? Don’t we want to know the advantages of the vacuum cleaner? Or, do we seek a negative sales pitch about the other brand of automobile, and the other store’s vacuum cleaner? I believe that we all want to know the positives so we can make our own comparison. I seriously doubt that a salesman in one automobile dealership would be successful if his entire sales pitch was criticizing the other brand. It’s sad that it works in politics.
So my friends tell me why we love negative political ads, or do we? Are the experts correct in their opinions? Is he/she with the most money to spend the best candidate? Should our President be the one that out spends the other candidate, the one that claims the best and most negative ads? Is that the criteria? Is that okay with you?
My mind would be more at ease if candidates owned up to practicing the characteristics of the different labels at different times on different subjects. I am not comfortable with anyone who professes to be totally dedicated to one of the labels, all the time, on all issues political and personal. I don’t want my elected officials to be restricted and confined. I just want them to be “open”.
I close with a question. Has anyone ever been accused of being Radically Moderate? Is that a conundrum? It’s sort of like having too much fun, or plastic glass, or military intelligence.
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Groucho Marx