There’s this neat website I found around a decade ago called the Political Compass. It’s basically a short test with a number of rather generic questions about your views on various economic and social issues. It’s short – takes about five minutes – and it gives you an X/Y axis position for your political views. The X axis represents your economic views, from left to right, and the Y axis represents your social views, from the extremes of Authoritarian to Libertarian.
The test forces you to answer all of the questions, and gives you four options: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree and Strongly Agree, which prevents hedging. It forces you to take a stance. The best part is that after it’s done asking you its analysis questions, it gives you your results! That’s right, no entering your email or a ton of demographic questions. It’s just a test to give you a result.
I take this test every year in May. It happens in May because that’s the first time I took it, and just happened to take it again almost exactly a year later. Now, I take it once a year in May, kind of as a benchmark for where I’m at. Spoiler alert: there are only minor fluctuations in my numbers after 2005.
Here are my results for 2013:
That’s -9.00 Economic, -8.05 Social. Basically, I’m a left libertarian. Waaaay left libertarian.
Now, the fun comes with the analysis of where I measure up compared to the various 2012 Presidential candidates. You might be surprised to see Barack Obama hanging out within one point of his “ideological opposite” Mitt Romney up in right-wing authoritarian land, but if you are, that means you really haven’t been paying attention.
Here are my previous nine results:
May 2012: -9.62 / -7.38
May 2011: -9.12 / -8.21
May 2010: -8.12 / -8.67
May 2009: -7.88 / -7.44
May 2008: -7.50 / -6.97
May 2007: -7.75 / -7.49
May 2006: -8.50 / -7.33
May 2005: -7.25 / -8.51
May 2004t: -8.00 / -5.79
So go take the test! I love seeing where other people place on the spectrum.
I’m a big fan of editorial cartoons, both as an artform and as a medium for political commentary. I would have to point to a number of political cartoonists that, in 1, 3, 4 or even 8 panels, have helped shape my political ideology. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and for editorial cartoons, that maxim is incredibly on-point. A single-panel cartoon can often convey an entire editorial’s worth of ideas. Usually, those ideas are condensed or refined, but that’s the point.
I first “discovered” political cartoons in 2000, when I would see them in the old Pittsburgh Weekly. I honestly don’t remember the cartoonists featured, though I’m fairly certain that Ted Rall was in there, and I remember eagerly awaiting the next issue largely for the cartoons. Rall was my “in” to the medium, which now seems a bit strange to me. I consider myself very far left-wing these days, but not what I would consider a radical. Rall, however, is a radical, and proud of it. His work started me on the leftward path, and while we have many issues in common, there’s a lot of disconnect between the two of us as to how to accomplish those ideas. Anyway, I digress. It wasn’t until around 2002 that I really started reading cartoons regularly. I found Daryl Cagle’s Political Cartoonist Index, which is a clearinghouse for most of the professional editorial cartoonists in America and a number abroad. I checked it daily for years before having to step back and focus on just a few. In that time I found favorites, fell out with some of those favorites, and then found new favorites.
I also found bugbears, which was a large part of my whittling down my consumption of editorial cartoons. I try not to live in an echo chamber, but that’s what we tend to do. I don’t read the likes of Michael Ramirez and Chuck Asay anymore, because they tell me nothing that interests me, but often infuriates me. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I do read them over at A Good Cartoon, which makes them manageable.
While I’m a hard-boiled leftie, I’m not a big fan of hyper-partisans and their associated news outlets like Daily Kos. This is mainly because while there are a number of people close to me ideologically there, most of them are quite willing – eager, even – to sell that ideology out to put yet another moderate-to-right wing Democrat into office, and scream at me for not doing the same. The exception I make concerning Kos, however, is Comics at Daily Kos, which was launched and is curated by another one of my favorites, Tom Tomorrow. Comics at Daily Kos is practically a clearinghouse of my favorites: Matt Bors, Jen Sorensen, and Brian McFadden, just to name a few. What’s interesting about most of the cartoonists featured on Kos is that they share my “ideology first, party very second” approach (which has earned more than one of them the ire of the group mind there).
These cartoonists have created succinct messages that have in turn lead me to discover larger points about issues that I previously was uneducated about or simply didn’t realize I should have an opinion on, which has lead me to nailing down where I stand. That has been immeasurably helpful, because my world view is very important to me. Understanding how I see the world and what I believe is allows me to not just float along, being pushed and pulled by whatever currents I happen to be in. The first election I ever voted in was 2004, because prior to that, I didn’t see the point. Cartoonists like Rall, Kirk Anderson, and David Horsey, just to name a few, helped me shape my first truly political thoughts. Heck, even the right-wing cartoonists helped by giving me a counterpoint to look at and understand that I vehemently disagreed with. Since then, I’ve voted in every primary and general since then, twice a year every year. I help out my state representative on election day. I’ve stood in the rain passing out literature for insurgent candidates who drew less than 1% of the vote.
Editorial cartooning has become a dying art, though. Newspapers are dropping cartoons, and the alt-weeklies, long the cash-cow for modern cartoonists, have begun slashing costs wherever they can, starting with their cartoon syndication. Cartoonists are turning more and more to new forms of revenue to continue doing what they do, from merchandising their websites to running Kickstarter campaigns to put out book collections. So when you see a Kickstarter for a cartoonist that you like, kick in a few dollars. If your local newspaper runs editorial cartoons, let them that you appreciate them running editorial cartoons and ask them to get a few more. If they don’t, tell them that they should get one. If you come across an editorial cartoon that you like and want to post it to social media, find out who drew it and link to their website. But most of all, keep reading them!
*Disclosure (which makes me appear cooler than I actually am): I coded www.mattbors.com and www.jensorensen.com.
Back just before the election (October 26th, to be exact), one of my favorite political cartoonists, Matt Bors, published this cartoon:
Matt was running a Kickstarter to raise money for an upcoming book at the time, and one of the donors, someone he considered a friend, retracted his $250 donation and cut off contact over this. $250 is a big chunk of change to fork over for a book. It’s also a big chunk of change to take back over an opinion, especially when you consider that Matt was no stranger to taking Obama to task for drone warfare.
Now that we’ve established that, according to the Democratic base, criticizing Obama was off-limits in the run-up to the election (not to mention strongly frowned-upon for the entirety of the past four years), when is it acceptable? Now that we no longer have to worry about electing or re-electing the first Black president (or any of the other insane justifications I’ve heard), can we criticize him for what his administration has done?
Back in 2008, I put a lot of thought into the candidate I was backing from among the initially crowded Democratic field. I examined my priorities and weighed them against the stated positions of the candidates, and came up with Bill Richardson, who agreed with all of my deal-breakers except capital punishment. He dropped out early, so I shifted to John Edwards who agreed with me slightly less than than Richardson. Once Edwards bowed out, I grudgingly moved my support to Obama. I did not donate to the campaign, and I did not volunteer for the campaign. I voted for him, but I wasn’t going any further than that.
Fast-forward to 2012, by which time I was so disgusted with the administration that I refused to repeat that vote (I voted for Jill Stein). I had a host of reasons – Indefinite detention, drone warfare, milquetoast healthcare “reform,” repeated capitulation in the face of an increasingly shrill and out-of-touch minority, especially when he had the mandate and numbers to quash their obstruction, and the ever-increasing seizure of power by the executive. When I voted for Obama in 2008, there was one thing that made it all OK – he was a Constitutional scholar, a professor who intimately understood the document and promised to return to its precepts after the eight years of shredding it took. That lasted all of a few months. Nearly all of the Bush-era abuses of Constitutional authority remained, and a number were expanded. I was not about to vote in favor of that.
Now, I was told by many people (including my State Senator, who described my position as “masturbatory”) that a vote for “Not Obama” was exactly the same as a vote for Romney. I viewed this as the height of flawed logic. I understand that we’re kind of stuck with our first-past-the-post system, but that doesn’t put the onus on me to vote for one of the two major parties simply based on a blind taste test, especially when there were three other parties on the ballot. The onus is on those parties themselves to make themselves palatable. Just because one party took positions favorable to rape and murder is not enough, should not be enough, to compel me to vote for the other party – which, incidentally, itself took a favorable position on murder, as long as the murderees were brown and in other countries.
So, getting back to the question – is it safe to come out now? Can I openly criticize the President and his horrifying policies, or is that setting up Democrats for failure in 2014 and 2016? And if not, will it ever be safe to express an opinion out of lockstep with the party and not be branded as a country-destroying lunatic by people I who might otherwise agree with me if the President doing these things was a Republican?
Something Bad Has Happened, and therefore, the Westboro Baptist Church has announced that they will picket the funerals of those who died. This is what they do these days, their entire purpose. Exploit tragedy in the crassest way possible. They travel the country to use any tragedy to blast their message that their god most certainly hates homosexuals, because he let Tragedies Like This happen. Great guy, that god of theirs. The best part about WBC’s methods is that they get people all worked up. Their latest announcement that they will picket the funerals of the Newtown shooting victims has triggered a call on the White House’s petition site to have WBC legally recognized as a hate group. The petition has gathered over 90,000 signatures at this point.
This is, of course, a Bad Idea. It’s wrong, and it’s reactionary. WBC spews hatred on a daily basis, but they have committed no actual hate crimes. Do you who else spews hate on a daily basis? The American Family Association. The Catholic League. The National Organization for Marriage. All three of those groups have done far and away more to actually deny people civil rights than Westboro Baptist has ever done, yet none of those groups has managed to get 90,000 people to demand that the White House declare them a hate group. Let’s be clear here: WBC has never called for people to rise to violence. They have never done the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Like it or not, their message is entirely and utterly protected by the First Amendment, and they are smart enough to never stray from that. 90,000 people didn’t just ask Barack Obama to label them a hate group, they asked him to violate a group’s freedom of speech.
Fred Phelps is a free man, so if you think your freedom is going to be restricted, you must be planning to outdo Fred Phelps.
So there’s the two-word answer for every Tony Perkins or James Dobson or Damon Owens who makes up some dubious claim about being persecuted or punished or threatened or jailed or whatever for their anti-gay beliefs.
Fred Phelps is the canary in the coal mine of our democracy. He and his followers say terrible things out loud in public places that common decency balks at, but they do it legally. The moment we start curbing that, the moment we try to legislate away this type of expression, that is the moment we prove the AFA and NOM right. That is the moment that we say “we disagree with your message, therefore, it is illegal for you to say it.” That is the moment we actually try to take away the rights of religious people to be complete hate-filled Neanderthals, and once we’ve crossed that Rubicon, we are really not far from legislating away whatever speech the majority disagrees with. We’re not far from criminalizing condemnation of, say, the Catholic church for any reason. Because, hey! That might be hate speech, and that would be illegal!
But in the mean time, notes Clark:
So when the folks at NOM insist that their opposition to same-sex marriage is a matter of “religious liberty,” the liberty they’re talking about has to be the liberty to exceed the Fred Phelps standard — the liberty not just to restrict membership on religious grounds, or just to preach against homosexuality as a sin, or to condemn and denounce homosexuals as people hated by God, but the liberty, apparently, to go beyond all that, beyond anything even Fred Phelps has imagined.
Attempting to label Westboro Baptist as a hate group, when their only “crime” so far is saying things that you don’t agree with, means that you are willing to legislate any speech with which you disagree. Think about that for a while. Think long and hard before you demand that we violate someone’s civil rights because you don’t like what they have to say. Because that’s what legally labeling WBC as a hate group boils down to. Violating their First Amendment right to be complete idiots.
Edit: Something I completely missed in the writing of this – there is no legal classification for a ‘hate group.’ There’s the Southern Poverty Law Center’s classification, but WBC has been on their list for some time now. This petition is asking the government to create a brand new class simply to persecute a bunch of people who say things we don’t like.