Monthly Archives: July 2020

Graphic: The American Political Spectrum, 2020

There exists a sort of consensus among Americans about “left” and “right” and “moderate,” but this narrow view fails to account for global and longitudinal contexts. In short:

The US is significantly more conservative than the rest of the industrialized West and we have shifted dramatically to the right over the past 50 years.

This abstracted illustration describes the US spectrum at present, visualized against a longer historical and broader global view.

US Political Spectrum

The chart displays today’s primary factions – Democratic Mainsteam and Left, GOP Mainstream/Conservative and Moderates – in gray. Other entities – individuals, organizations, movements, current and historical – are also noted for reference.

Assumptions and Caveats

Political positions are charted along a simple left/right continuum, although an accurate understanding of political beliefs is far more nuanced. The Political Compass, for instance, rates respondents with a 2×2 matrix scoring for both social and economic factors. Even this is unsatisfying, though. I can imagine several other dimensions that would be useful in helping understand political positions in depth (including, for example, hawkishness [personal tolerance for violence as well as geopolitical] and empathy).

The mission, though, is to tackle the country’s left/right mindset head-on. The lack of sophistication is therefore intentional.

There are certainly arguments to be had that I’ve misplaced organizations and individuals. For instance, John F Kennedy is regarded as a liberal icon. He was extremely hawkish, however (Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam), and folding that into the equation moves him further right than some may expect. Elizabeth Warren may also be positioned further right than some think she should be. Among current progressive figures, though, she’s one who has been vocal in asserting her commitment to capitalism. Others, like Bernie Sanders, is more avowedly Socialist-leaning.

Finally, my assessment of Sanders and the Greens is necessarily limited by their position outside of power. Sanders, for example, has never had the opportunity to be a major leader in policy and development. His tenure has been marked instead by his stance as an outlying critic. We know what his proposals are, but we cannot say for sure what his actual policy record would look like once subjected to the realities of partisan negotiations.


Qualitative “connoisseurship” (aka studied, informed opinion).

This is a topic I’ve been fascinated by for several decades, during which I’ve read, discussed and debated extensively with people from across the spectrum, focusing on both rhetorical platforms and actual policy.

Additionally, my personal political journey began with me as a vocal young Reaganite and has progressed, through the years, to a place in the neighborhood of Social Democracy on the spectrum above. As such, my study has been informed by an unusually broad range of personal perspectives.

I also invited comment from a number of friends and colleagues, and made some adjustments in light of their insights.

What conclusions would I draw about you if I didn’t know you?


Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? – Matthew 7:16

Let’s say I don’t know you personally. All I have are your social media feeds.

I start on Facebook and read everything you’ve posted since early May, along with your interactions in the comment threads.

I find zero posts about the Police killings of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. I find nothing at all expressing concern for the challenges facing any minority in our country, or even an awareness that they have challenges.

I find things encouraging me to support the Police, though.

I read further. As demonstrations sweep the country you express alarm over acts of vandalism. I find no mention at all of the times violent rioters are revealed to be white supremacists posing as demonstrators.

Oddly, I see no comment anywhere on the Boogaloo Bois, an organization that’s explicitly committed to killing cops and that has actually done so.

This is what I’d know of you…if I didn’t know you.

“You” aren’t one specific person, although you may recognize yourself in my words. I’m describing something that’s happening again and again and again. And I’m having a hard time with it. With you.

When you say things like “people dying is unfortunate, but this destruction of property is unacceptable” instead of “property damage is unfortunate, but the killing of innocent people is unacceptable…”

What conclusions would you draw about you if you didn’t know you?

Defund the Police? Good Cops, Bad Cops…


The individual tells you nothing about the system. The system tells you nothing about the individual.

The issue isn’t whether you respect Black Lives Matter. It isn’t whether you respect the Police. It’s whether the Police believe all are equal under the law. Recent weeks and months (and years) have set before our eyes a wealth of evidence answering that question. Read more

I Hope Kanye West Gets Help


This whole Kanye thing is hard to watch.

I’ve had a couple brushes with bipolar folks – one of them terrifying enough that I started carrying a gun out of fear for my well-being – and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like living with it.

I hope he gets help. I also hope that people watching are motivated by his case to educate themselves more on mental health. And maybe the stigma lessens a bit.

If you’re struggling with mental health issues or know someone who is, you can get help at

Stop Saying “Cancel Culture”


I’m getting a little tired of this “cancel culture” nonsense.

The term originated with the #MeToo movement, which targeted the likes of Bill Cosby and Louis CK, men whose history of misogynistic behavior led people to (justly) withdraw their support for the offenders’ careers. But while the term is newish, the tactics it describes aren’t. Canceling is another word for boycotting, which has been around forever. Read more

If We Shouldn’t Judge the Founders by Our Values, Should We Live by Theirs?

Philadelphia Union honors those killed by police.

Philadelphia Union honors those killed by police.Our recent protests, sparked mainly by the Minneapolis PD’s nonchalant murder of George Floyd – with the cameras rolling, even – are roiling American society. Institutions are challenged. Assumptions are ravaged. The whole of the American metanarrative is seemingly up for review. Read more

Why Am I So Cynical About Mississippi? Consider Georgia.

Recently the Rev. Dickie and I devoted a little time to clowning Mississippi and its decision to remove the Confederate battle jack from its flag. It has since been suggested to me, privately, that I shouldn’t hassle people who are doing the right thing.

Maybe. I mean, better 150 years late than never, right?

But there are reasons to reserve judgment. Consider Mississippi’s friend and neighbor, Georgia. Read more