Those of you who are like me, understand the significance of the above political spectrum. I teach this in all of my courses. Moreover, one of the key components to fully understanding this spectrum is understanding the role of pluralism in the American polity. In pluralism, the polity for which we all are a part of is made up of competing fashions in which not one is strong enough to dominate. Advocates such as my self for this system contends that it allows for diverse views. Thus, being a self-subscribed advocate of liberalism, I believe that it is paramount that views and constructs are not censored… even those that are not popular. However, critics of pluralism usually make two arguments:
- They argue that pluralism represents a cynical view towards values with the exception of manipulating power. According to such, supporters of pluralism are chiefly concerned with their view(s) being most reflected in society.
- They also believe this form of liberalism is too dogmatic and not as progressive as once believed.
The reality of course is that the vast majority of Americans are liberal. Thus, they land to the left of center. However, some might contend that nationalism is a threat to liberalism in that it espouses a notion of right-wing contention in which freedom of thought, views, and expression are deemed anti-state. Nation states such as Iran and Fascist Germany are the best examples in that the former believes in a state religion, whereas the latter supports state glory. I do think that most Americans see nationalism as good, however, there is much danger in the ideological spectrum above when one is too nationalistic (jingoism) and loyal to the state; he or she shifts too far to the right and desires a “sense” of uniformity in that there should be a society of “absolute” shared values. People will disagree with me here, but even within the confines of a nation-state, there cannot be a “sense” of shared values if pluralism is valued. It is safe to say that I know or have encountered members that land on each of the above ideological points charted, with the exception of an anarchist.
I do not believe anarchy exists. Of late, two students of mine — Reid Bishop and Emma Brown have taken up the cause of exploring the extent to which Thoreau was an anarchist in his values and teachings. According to Bishop, “Thoreau was a theoretical anarchist but not a pragmatic one.” Bishop got this one right in that the notion of being an anarchist is close to impossible. Though Thoreau and other 19th century transcendentalist attempted to be pragmatic, the inevitability of such failed due a human desire for political organization and structure.
As for conservatives, those that claim to be such are so because they believe the home, family, and religion should be at the core of all values. This means there is a place for women which is in the home, a strong opposition to abortion, and support for required prayer in schools, opposition to the teaching of sex education in schools as well as evolution. Conservatives hold to such social views but tend to hold even stronger views on political and economic issues, too. Case in point: A nation should hold to having a large and dominant military, and thus should use force if deemed necessary. Moreover, action against ideologies deemed “un-American” should be addressed. Though much of this seems good, however, it does counter pluralism in that there is a sizable population of Americans that see little value in using war as an instrument when diplomacy is good. Or, the values of religious faith dictating the private lives of individuals. Here, pluralism contends that acts of gay marriage or abortion are 9th amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution.Those in opposition to matters such as gay marriage will tell you that they are conservative in their opposition to this institution, but liberal in that they do not want to see the Constitution amended to define marriage. There is a fear social conservatives hold in that the government should not legislate a 9th amendment issue. Social conservatives do find value in the 10th amendment as a body to legislate such acts. Again, case in point: During the election of 2004, the state of Texas voted via referendum to define marriage between a man and a woman in Texas, but many of those people might not do so at the national level. Keep in mind I am speaking in the form of conjecture here.
After reading the latter paragraph, many might state that most Americans are not liberal but conservative; I say “NO” in that many Americans favor the right for one to believe in God or not without the state dictating a belief as found in Iran or the former USSR. Furthermore, the right to vote (or not), speech, press, gather, and expression are values deemed liberal but can be expressed differently. Liberals, including myself, believe people should be helped if needed so that they can live a more productive life and reach their potential. This help, through the operation of the government, promotes the goal of an organized polity.