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Mark Axelrod Headshot

Political Nomenclature; Or, Who Am I, Anyway?

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Truth be told, I'm a progressive. Or am I a liberal? Or am I a socialist? I know I'm not a neocon or a conservative, but, on some issues I'm more conservative than others, so am I a progressive neocon or a social democrat or a democratic socialist with conservative leanings or what? Clearly, I'm not a neoliberal nor a libertarian, but I am liberal. So what am I? These labels get me so confused. Is there a slot for people like me? If I wear an American flag lapel pin, what does that make me? Reagan didn't wear one. Neither did Ike. Roosevelt didn't wear one either, but George W did. It's so confusing. Sometimes I wish I lived in Scandinavia which would make things politically a lot easier.

I rarely watch Fox (though their coverage of the Haitian earthquake was fairly well done), but read what they say. I've written too much already on Beck and Limbaugh and Palin and get tired of repeating myself. On the other hand, I watch CSNBC all the time. Matthews and Olberman and Maddow, but sometimes they piss me off. Of course, Matthews doesn't let anyone finish a sentence. It's a bit like not allowing the batter to swing at the hardball after the ball's been caught. You know, the batter is constantly check-swinging as Matthews answers his own question while waiting for the guest to answer the question he's already answered. What's the point? Just walk the batter and move on. It took me a long time before I could appreciate Olbermann as a political analyst and not a sports broadcaster. When that was finally accomplished, what tends to annoy me now is that he constantly brings the same people on his show. The Friends of Countdown. If I hear him pitch Richard Wolffe's book, Renegade: The Making of a President, one more time, I'll puke. Okay, I got it the 35th time and if I want to buy the book, I will. After all, it's been over a year since it came out. Then there's Chris Cillizzi who every time he's introduced gives a rather sheepish smile as if to say, "Look, mom, I'm on TV." Lawrence O'Donnell is more than an adequate replacement for Olbermann, especially when he gets indignant and you can see his jaw tighten as if he has a TMJ problem. I'm a big fan of Eugene Robinson, but I wish they'd quit introducing him as the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the Washington Post. It's almost as if they're pronouncing the fact that, "Look African-Americans can win Pulitzer Prizes too." Maddow is terrific except when she morphs into that schoolgirl giggle and declares she doesn't have an agenda (wink, wink, nod, nod) since everyone has an agenda even if they don't have one.

But what I find most disconcerting, puzzling actually, is the fact that if one listens closely to any of these shows one hears the same buzzwords and many of them are used synonymously. Words like: Radicals, Leftists, Progressives, Liberals, Centrists, Rightists, Libertarians, Conservatives, Neocons, Teabaggers, Reactionaries. In order to alleviate any misunderstandings about where people stand politically, I suggest the government should look into the possibility of issuing armbands to all US citizens in an attempt to clarify their respective political positions. These arm bands could be color-coded so everyone will know what everyone else's political position is. Failing that, I'm sure private corporations could advocate producing them on their own suggesting that government is too big already. And how does one "shrink government" with a population that's over 300 million?

So, where does all of this end? I get to the point that I have no notion of what I am politically. The "right" always clamors for "limited government" which is a shibboleth for minimal government intervention in personal liberties (there's that "L" word again) which is linked to free market libertarianism (there's that "L" word again) which is linked to classical liberalism (there's that "L" word again) which is associated with neoliberalism (there's that "L" word again) none of which, apparently, have anything to do with being a liberal (there's that "L" word again). According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "right libertarians hold that resources may be appropriated by the first person who discovers them, mixes labor with them, or merely claims them -- without the consent of others, and with little or no payment to them..." Left-libertarians hold "that unappropriated natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner." So, in addition to having "leftists" and "rightists" we can also have "left libertarians" and "right libertarians" just as we can have "liberals" and "Neoliberals." Damn confusing if you ask me.

Clearly, the Teabaggers are against any kind of liberalism (which becomes mind boggling when one thinks about it) and are dead set against Socialism, decrying that that's where Obama is taking us. But since Socialists agree that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among the few, one wonders what they're angry about. In an article written by G. William Domhoff, Wealth, Income, and Power, updated February, 2010, "In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%." Isn't that capitalism running amok? Are these people really angry at the government or is the government the easiest scapegoat? I mean, I don't see them picketing Citi Bank and they've been mute about British Petroleum. In the end, I think I'll have to make up a political term for myself. Maybe, "libidoterian" since everything is about sex anyway. Just ask Governor Sanford or just about any other male politician.