Monday, October 18, 2010

A Picture of US Politics

Not infrequently do I comment that there is no left wing in USian party politics to speak of. Not infrequently, people argue about this fact with me. The website The Political Compass has given me the means to illustrate what I'm talking about. Instead of placing people on a simple left-right spectrum, the political compass maps people's economic positions along a left-right axis, and people's social positions along an authoritarian-libertarian axis. Here is where US Senators fell as of 2008:

Blue is democrat, grey is independent, orange is republican. Not much variety, is there? Here is where presidential candidates fell that same year:

I have a feeling that Obama has shifted up and to the right since then.

US politics is heavily skewed to the right and towards authoritarianism. All those orange republicans? Are extremists. They're so extreme, that centre-right looks like socialism to them. US politics is skewed, because it does not represent the full range of political views in that country. For example, Resist Racism has plotted out where his readers fall, and it is not in the quadrant dominated by US politicians.

So, yeah. US politics is skewed and extremist, and there is no representation of the left to speak of. End of argument.

You can take the quiz to see where you're situated on the political compass.

Here is where I fell:


  1. I am somewhere near you too. Actually one square lower. If I go anywhere further, I'll be officially off the compass!

  2. i seem to have become one square more libertarian and one square more right wing than last time i did this test! (i am now on the same row as you, a column-ish to the right.)

  3. That is from 2008 though. It would be very interesting to see the tea party influence in 2010…

  4. According to that site, Canada, UK and various other countries are quite right-wing as well.

  5. Canada has political parties that are actually in the left quadrant, though. Political parties that get elected, unlike Nader and Kucinich.

  6. True, we do have the choice of NDP and they do get MPs elected. Still, I was surprised how close the liberals and conservatives are to the republicans and democrats on the map. However, I suppose this is a map of political beliefs and not political actions? I feel like if Stephen Harper were the same person but president of the States he would do more right-wing actions.

  7. They explain how they make the charts somewhere on the site. I think it's based mostly on public statements.

  8. Also, the Liberal Party is a bigger tent than the Democrats.

  9. Took the test and I am a left libertarian. A Mom of three

  10. I hate the use of 'libertarian' on these scales, because, first of all, even 'classic libertarians' are rather centrist, not anarchist (as in an anarchist-totalitarian spectrum). The term libertarian applies to a far right rather authoritarian in many senses group these days. The notion of being a leftist and being a 'libertarian' in the modern US sense is flat out absurd. I think that the term's meaning is a bit different in the UK, but I really can't make myself take any test from someone who tries to unthinkingly apply the term 'libertarian' in reference to US politics without realizing the right-wing, pro-militarism conotation.

    PS, I do appreciate the shout out to the fact that democrats aren't 'the left'. Still, there are many leftist third parties in the US, they just are on the smaller side these days. They do, however, exist.

  11. To be fair to the people who designed the political compass, it wasn't designed to be applied just to the US. They've plotted Canadian and European politicians on the graph as well. I'm not sure that "anarchist" would have been a better word choice. It's hard to imagine someone who's "a bit of an anarchist."

    I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with using "libertarian" in its original sense. It's like "liberalism" - its original meaning is quite different from what people mean when they refer to "liberals" today, but that doesn't mean that I'm not going use the world "liberal" to describe Enlightenment philosophy.

    I agree with you that it's problematic, I just don't think that another word would have served their purpose.

    It's good to know that leftist parties exist in the US; I hope they can break through the two-party system.

  12. TBH, I've never been able to take that test seriously. What does '""from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a fundamentally good idea.' even supposed to mean? A good portion of the ideas I don't even understand. A gov should either control inflation or control unemployment? What about both or neither? What political issue is that even supposed to represent?

    Then there's this one:
    "It is a waste of time to try to rehabilitate some criminals."

    Strongly agree. Many of them don't need to be "rehabilitated" at all since they haven't even done anything wrong! But who knows what score it will give me for THAT.

  13. This crap it is made of fail and aids


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