OPINION: America Needs To Move Past Flawed Two-Party Ideology

Created: 21 August, 2015
Updated: 16 October, 2022
6 min read

Many Americans are uneasy about and opposed to the direction, tone, and nature of two-party politics. That comes despite America’s wealth, dynamic economy, and prospects for future prosperity.

Polling data shows widespread public discontent with both major parties and distrust of the federal government. The open contempt that the two parties and their politicians and partisans have for each other fosters some of the unease. Under the circumstances, it is easy to argue that something is fundamentally wrong with American two-party politics.

Social science sees American politics, rhetoric, and policy choices as largely a reflection of subjective personal values, principles, beliefs, morality or ideology. Accumulating evidence shows that Americans generally arrive at their beliefs based not primarily on fact and logic, but instead “based on their underlying political values and ideology.” This leads to beliefs that are “often poorly connected to objective facts.” Political ideology and opinion that flows from it is mostly subjective-empirical, not objective-rational.

Two-party political rhetoric is mostly meaningless and/or unresolvable, because it is based on a combination of spin (lies, deceit, misinformation, subjective perceptions of reality, flawed logic, etc.) and undefined terms of debate that are understood in the mind of the speaker and like-minded supporters, but not in the minds of others.

Profound disagreements between the left and right over reality (fact) and sound logic or common sense is the norm, not the exception. The vast gulfs between competing perceptions of reality and common sense is part of the basis for public unease, mistrust, and polarization.

Although people can disagree, the dominance of politics by intuition-subjectivity is a fact grounded in science and empirical data - not an opinion.

American political ideology is fundamentally subjective, usually conservative, liberal, or centrist, but with notable variants that are also subjective, e.g., libertarian ideology. It is reasonable to ask if subjective ideologies afford the only intellectual frameworks that can succeed in the real world. Assuming such a thing can even exist, could a fundamentally objective ideology even exist and be any better? Why should anyone care?

Americans should care about this because subjective ideologies, particularly liberal and conservative ideologies, made American politics what it is today. Subjective political ideologies, i.e., ideologies based mostly on subjective principles, values, or morals, are undeniably central to both whatever government did or failed to do. Many people are unhappy about this and the irreconcilable subjectivity and emotion that dominates politics are arguably factors.

If a broad definition of ideology is used, having an ideology of some sort is unavoidable. However, what a political ideology can be is wide open. There is no logical reason or legal authority that compels any political ideology to be as grounded in subjectivity, or based on distorted fact and flawed logic, as U.S. ideologies now are.

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An objective ideology can be based on the “moral” or principle of fidelity to fact and logic in service to something other than the highest liberal, centrist, or conservative values. One candidate for what that something, i.e., the highest value in politics, should be is the public interest as defined objectively, not subjectively.

A new ideology for American politics can be one that relies on the core values of (i) objective, unspun fact and (ii) objective, unbiased logic that are focused on (iii) objectively defined service to the public interest. - Dissident Politics

Such an objective ideology fundamentally differs from all other mainstream ideologies in U.S. politics.

Although social science conceived of objective political ideology long ago, there is no mainstream American political group that expressly relies on a truly objective political ideology. Even centrists tend to look to liberal and/or conservative values or ideologies as reference points that shape and guide their own facts, logic, values, common sense, and policy choices.

No mainstream American political group explicitly acknowledges and explicitly works to reduce subjectivity based on interaction between the biology of human cognition and biases with political values or ideology. There are a few Americans, e.g., Michelle Flournoy and Leon Panetta, who apply a mostly objective ideology or framework to how they see and think about the world and politics. Unfortunately, people like that are few and far between.

Blowback and Counter-Blowback

Most partisans on the left and right probably will strongly criticize any proposed “objective ideology” as nonsense at best. How most centrists and independents would react to the concept is unclear.

People can simply argue that liberal, conservative, or other mainstream ideologies are not subjective. Critics can also argue that their own ideology, values, perceptions of reality, and common sense are based on undistorted fact and logic much more than fact and logic distorted by their faith, morals, or common sense.

Ideologues will claim that their own ideology, values and policy choices represent the very best there can be for the public interest. Despite that, policy choices from competing ideologies usually conflict, which means that one or more conflicting choices has to be wrong.

There are other criticisms that one could level at an objective ideology claiming to be based on unspun fact, unbiased logic, and service to the public interest.

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First, liberals, conservatives, and most everyone else will never question, much less change, their own common sense and morals or values - proposing an objective ideology is an academic curiosity at best. Second, objective politics ignores and cannot affect the power of special interests with money to corrupt politics for their own interests - any ideology is beside the point.

As discussed elsewhere, there are compelling arguments that refute the criticisms, in part because true political objectivism has never been tested in modern American politics and thus it cannot be evaluated.

At worst, if objective politics is tested and fails, then extremely valuable lessons will have been learned. One of them will be that American society cannot or is not ready to begin replacing its normally subjective, intuitive way of doing politics with the far less comforting subjectivity that now dominates.

Accepting objectivity requires moral courage because fact and logic have an unpleasant knack of undermining or directly contradicting one’s perceptions of reality and one’s political ideology. To say the least, that isn’t infotaining. It is disquieting.

But if the experiment succeeds, there are good reasons to believe it will eventually create a better political and social situation for America. It is irrational to argue that fact, logic, and the public interest are not important factors for intelligent governance. With two-party politics being the unacceptable thing it is, there is nothing to be lost by experimenting with political objectivity.

However, there is potentially a great deal to be gained.

The concept of objective politics can be part of an intellectual political framework around which political independents and/or discontented Americans can coalesce. Objectivity can be an idea for independents and discontents to believe in as a viable alternative to the unhealthy political menu the two parties offer.

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Photo Credit:  Shutter_M / Shutterstock

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