Jason Kottke linked to a post by David Roberts on Vox today:
This is a great article on nerds and politics, or their lack of interest therein. It addresses a lot of the misconceptions that cloud our understanding of the political landscape in America.
But even as it tears apart the false dichotomy between the two major parties (i.e. they are not “mirror images” of each other), it falls prey to that exact line of thinking with one example it gives.
A voter with one extreme conservative opinion (round up and expel all illegal immigrants immediately) and one extreme liberal opinion (institute a 100 percent tax on wealth over a million dollars) will be marked, for the purposes of polling, as a moderate.
OK, that’s a helpful illustration. Except. There really are people on the right (*ah-hem* Donald Trump) saying we should round up and expel all “illegal immigrants” (don’t use that term) immediately. But there is no one on the left proposing anything even close to a 100% tax on wealth over a million dollars.
It’s hard, even for people trying to expose the lack of a parallel on the left to the extremism on the far-right, to avoid thinking the far-left is populated by crackpots with ludicrously draconian, totalitarian ambitions. But those people do not exist. There is no “far-left” in American politics, equivalent to the far-right.
Even Bernie Sanders, who self-identifies as a socialist — in America! gasp! get me my clutchin’ pearls! — isn’t proposing things like that. The ideas coming out of the left are reasonable and rational, benefitting the vast majority of Americans (at the expense only of those who can easily afford it) while pursuing a progressive goal of greater equality and opportunity for all. They only seem “extreme” because they are so radically different from the course we’ve been traveling on for the past 30ish years.
The real fault of logic here is in assuming that the “center” of current American political thinking is anywhere near the true center of the spectrum of possibilities.
Confession: I wrote this as soon as I hit that “100% tax” line because it aggravated me so much. The rest of the article furthers most of the ideas I’m expressing here, and is far more detailed and well-researched. It is absolutely worth reading, above my rants, but I still think it’s worth calling out this particular example.
In a future post I’ll take on the other big issue I see with nerds and politics: that nerds’ general disdain for politics leads them into a superficial alignment with libertarianism. But that very disdain is also the reason why they don’t explore deeply enough to realize how problematic libertarianism is, and how much it really doesn’t represent their values.