Sunday, September 14, 2003

America's Political Matrix

I try to avoid politics like the plague. For one thing, espousing a political view is bound to alienate a significant number of people with alternate views. For another, I have no desire to reach into my wallet, which is the only effective way to play politics in the United States.

On the other hand, even politics can be analyzed using the same strategic frameworks as any other human endeavor, and that's what I feel like doing this morning.

In America, we tend to think of politics as a continuum from left (pinko commie) to right (gun-toting, fundamentalist zealot). Yet this left-wing/right-wing approach fails to capture the true flavor of politics.

In actuality, America has a political matrix. One axis is the standard liberal/conservative continuum. The other is what I call the idealist/pragmatist continuum.

An idealist believes that his/her ideology is correct, and refuses to compromise them. A pragmatist believes that his/her goals are worthy, and does whatever is practical to achieve them.

Thus, we end up with four quadrants:

Quadrant I: Conservative Idealist
Quadrant II: Liberal Idealist
Quadrant III: Liberal Pragmatist
Quadrant IV: Conservative Pragmatist

I believe that the majority of Americans, like me, fall into the two pragmatic quadrants. Unfortunately, because we view politics principally through the lens of the left/right axis, politics ends up dominated by idealists. Here's why:

As long as Americans identify themselves as liberal or conservative, a pragmatist candidate, can, at best, appeal to one Quadrant. A Conservative Pragmatist will generally not appeal to Liberal Pragmatists, who already have an unwritten rule in their minds that they will only support Liberals.

On the other hand, a Conservative Idealist can appeal to both Conservative Idealists (the true believers) and Conservative Pragmatists (who would rather hold their noses and support Conservative Idealists than vote for a Liberal Idealist).

Until we recognize that political parties can be organized along idealistic and pragmatic lines, rather than liberal and conservative, the American political matrix will continue to be dominated by the Idealist Quadrants, to the detriment of the silent majority of pragmatists.

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