Confusing Approach with Objective
Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
A common mistake that many people make when thinking about politics is to confuse approaches taken to solve problems with the objective of the problem solvers.
This confusion is not helped at all by the political process in the United States (or possibly anywhere else), as politicians and pundits seek to muddy the political waters instead of clarify them.
The problem has gotten so bad in America that it seems even the politicians and many so-called experts have become confused.
The very first distinction of any political platform should be its goals
. What does the political platform hope to achieve?
There are two major reasons why political objectives are not made clear:
- The party in favor of the objective does not want to state the objective because they feel it is not popular
- The opponent to the objective wants to derail the discussion onto process because they feel the objective is popular
One of the biggest failures of the so-called "Left" for the past 50 years has been a focus on approach, while forgetting the overall objectives and failing to develop and support a clear set of goals. Instead, "Liberals" and "Leftists" (really two very different groups by the way) have become bogged down the defense of specific programs and laws, while losing sight of the big picture. This has been true all over the world, especially since World War II. The major exception to this in America was the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
The American "Right", or at least the Neoconservatives and the Christian Right, on the other hand, have developed a highly ideologically charged political platform over the past 30 years that focuses on the big picture and on overall objectives. In the process, over the past 30 years, American Liberals and Leftists have allowed themselves to be defined, not by ideology, but instead by specific laws, programs and procedures. Indeed, many on the "Left" have fallen into the trap themselves, of feeling as though they need to defend specific pieces of legislation simply because it was introduced by a Democrat at some point in history or because it was a political victory for Liberals or Leftists at some time in the past.
This, of course, is nonsense.
Laws and processes do not define political positions, objectives do
An example can easily demonstrate this point:
Let's say that a car is stuck in the snow. Jim and Bob see the car and Jim says that they should help get the car out, while Bob says to just ignore it and forget about it. The objective here is getting the car out of the snow, and Jim is in favor, while Bob is opposed.
Jim goes over to the car and talks to the owner, who is stuck. Jim, then, proposes putting a piece of wood under the tires and trying to drive the car out. Putting wood under the tires is not an objective; it's just a means to an end.
So Jim puts wood under the tires and they try to get the car out. It gets a little ways, but then it fails. Even though Jim's plan on how to get the car out failed, his objective is still the same.
It would not be correct here to call Jim a "wood user", and then for Bob to insult Jim and say that his whole ideology is a failure because the steps he took to try and reach his goal failed. Just because the approach that he took failed to achieve the ultimate goal does not mean that his objective isn't a good objective, and it does not mean that Bob was right not to care about the car in the ditch, simply because one method that was tried to free the car failed to accomplish the task.
There are always at least two debates on every issue: what should be done, and how to do it.
This is the difference between an objective and an approach and it is important to distinguish these differences in politics. What ultimately defines our politics is not the approach that we take, but rather the goals that we have.
Objectives are long term goals, whereas approaches regularly need to be changed and adapted based on the conditions, and some approaches may simply fail to produce the intended results.
This is where the Republican Party has been able to significantly undermine the Democratic Party in America, because: #1 the Republican Party has defined the Democrats by their approaches, and #2 the Democratic Party has allowed itself to be defined as such. In addition to that, Republicans have defined the Democratic Party as representative of all "Leftist" ideology, even though that is extremely far from the truth, and if there are unforeseen negative results from specific approaches that have been taken by Leftists or Liberals then it is claimed that those results were intentional objectives.
The consequence of this is that many Leftists and Liberals have, over the years, ended up defending policy that fails to meet even their own objectives, simply because they feel that they need to defend approaches that were taken in the name of goals that they believe in.
If your objective is to get the car out of the ditch, and putting pieces of wood behind the tires doesn't work, then propose a new solution. Instead, in many cases, what has happened is that instead of looking for a new way to get the car out of the ditch, Jim gets bogged down in a discussion with Bob about the merits of using woods behind the tires. Bob then begins telling the onlookers that Jim intended to prevent the car from getting out of the ditch and the Jim simply gets more and more defensive about the approach he used, while neglecting the fact that Bob never intended to help get the car out in the first place.
Political ideology is not defined by approach. "Leftists" and "Liberals" are not inherently in favor of government programs and government spending, and "Conservatives" and "Rightists" are not inherently opposed to government programs and government spending. In fact, in the traditional sense of the terminology, both Conservatives and the Right are the most pro-government of all political ideologies. When the Left vs. Right political spectrum was developed it was the conservative Right that was in favor of preserving the aristocracy and the rule of Church and State over the masses. It was the Right that declared that laws were not determined by the consent of the governed, but instead by the Divine Right of Kings and Popes. It was the Right that said that the State had the authority to regulate all trade and taxation without representation. All of that is exactly what the "Liberals" and "Leftists" rebelled against in Europe and America.
The "Left" needs a return to ideology and a return to a platform defined by objectives, not by specific laws, policies, or programs.
Indeed, I submit that the Republican Party in America is now using "Leftist" ideology to appeal to voters. Any platform that claims to hold the interests of the working-class and the common man at its heart is, as far as I am concerned, using Leftist appeals. Ultimately, that is what "Leftism" is, it is the struggle for the rights and interests of the common man, without exclusion based on race, gender, or other means. Many may claim that the "Right" does not really have the interests of the common man at heart, but what is significant is that the "Right" is appealing to the working-class successfully, and in many cases doing so with what would traditionally be considered "Leftist" rhetoric.
"Leftists" must stop allowing themselves to be defined by things such as "big government", which is simply an approach to problem solving, and start defining the problems and outlining objectives, with an open mind about how
the objectives can be reached.