Thursday, June 19, 2014
Whenever I examine someone's facebook page for the first time I always check the "About" section so as to view his political and religious views. In regards to the former, I find the common practice of inserting the name of a political party, usually Republican or Democrat, to be rather annoying. This is not because I find the parties distasteful, though I certainly do, but rather because a political party is not a political philosophy. If someone tells you that they are a member of a particular political party, you can make a good guess as to his policy preferences, but party membership says relatively little about core political views.
This is because party platforms are not philosophical statements in any useful sense, but are rather a set of policy proposals that most party members wish to pursue for their own philosophical reasons. There are of course exceptions to this; after all, if someone identifies himself as a member of a Communist party, it is entirely reasonable to assume that he is in fact a Communist. For everyone who does not identify himself with a self-referentially complete party/philosophy such as Communism*, simple party affiliation does not offer a good representation of his true political views.
For example, Republicans, like most Americans, tend to be some kind of liberal. They can be placed on the right side of the liberal spectrum. However, important differences exist between say, a neo-con, and a libertarian Republican, even if the two often favor some of the same policies. Both of those factions have substantially different ideas about the purpose of the state. Furthermore, there are even a few Burkean classical conservatives hiding in the ranks of the GOP, and they (or rather we) view government and society in very different terms than most Republicans. Party affiliation or even general descriptors such as "conservative" are simply insufficient for delineating exactly where one falls on the political spectrum. This is not to say that party labels are useless, but rather that they cannot be expected to substitute for a comprehensive political philosophy.
One might accuse me of asking far too much from a line or two on a facebook profile, and that accusation would certainly have merit. The real problem I see is not facebook politics but rather that much political self-labeling does not advance beyond the level of facebook. National democracy is rather absurd, but so long as everyone is allowed to vote, all voters have a responsibility to critically examine their political ideas and should be able to explain exactly what type of Republican, Democrat, Tory, or Labour supporter they actually are, rather than simply limiting their political identification to a party name.
*Yeah I know there are a gajillion different shades of Marxism. I don't care.