Are you Left or Right Wing? Me Neither!

In todays apparently super polarized world more and more people are rejecting the left right axis as their measure of political positioning.  Personally I gave up on political parties and the left right designation in the late 2000’s.   Many times have I had to argue that their “I’m a Conservative” or “I’m a Democrat” branding is likely no longer accurate or even particularly meaningful.

In his recent book, Do Something, Preston Manning, explains that he and his Manning Centre for Building Democracy has been demonstrating for 20 years that most people hold views espoused by different parties and that they are increasingly rejecting the “left” “right” branding.

percentage of citizens on left right spectrum

According to the Centers 2016 research:

“…a plurality of (millennial age) respondents took a bifurcated position, defining themselves as fiscally conservative but socially liberal”.  (Page 29)

He goes on to say that political activity by these next generation voters is substantially hampered but such labels:

“…it appears that such discourse actually tends to discourage rather than encourage next-generation Canadians from engaging at all in Canadian democratic processes” (Page 29)

Instead Mr. Manning suggests that there are many axis on which citizens divide themselves.  Below are 10 of the 12 that are common to most:

Decentralized Auth Citizens & Elected Officials
Democracy Axis
Centralized Authority Appointed Experts
Governments, Regulated Markets
Economy Axis
Individuals Entrepreneurs, Free Markets
Established Principles, Traditions
Values Axis
Pragmatism, Accommodations
Mixed Public & Private System
Health Axis
Primarily Public Taxpayer Funded System
Public System
Education Axis
Mixed Public & Private System
Improved Distribution of the Tools of Wealth Creation
Poverty Alleviation Axis
Redistribution of Income Through Progressive Tax
Government
Responsibility Axis
Individuals/Families
Individuals, Market Mechanisms
Environment Axis
Government Regulation
Yourself, Small Businesses
Trust Axis
Government, Corporations, Unions
Building on Shared Values / Traditions
Identity Axis
Promoting Increased Diversity

 

Because many nations have only two or three sizable political parties that need to be “big tent” to succeed, such nuances are not easily recognized.  It is normal for parties to push a brand identity to their supporters who may not share all or even most of the parties positions but none-the-less will defend those values, because they support “their” party.  This works, until it doesn’t; that time may be now.

Millennials and other new voters are increasingly turned off by the narrow positioning of two big parties like the Conservatives and the Liberals or the Republicans and the Democrats.  When that happens voters tune out.  The problem is that those who do not engage (vote) and ruled by those who do engage (vote) and an ever widening disconnect will occur.  The end result can be social strife or, if left to fester long enough, civil war.

If political parties want to run successful countries they are going to have to take into account the widening perspectives of their citizens.  They MUST adapt and understand that environmental concerns, masks to protect against COVID-19 and offering a good education to all, are not a “left” or “right” issues.  The notion that one party must take the opposite position of another party is outdated, foolish and sometimes dangerous.

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