Earlier this week Kamel and I had a discussion about how we stand politically. We talk about specific issues all of the time, we talk about how we wish things would go, who we think is a moron, which fox-n-friends ass hat is being more inflammatory, how we would fix the immigration issue, what we think about gun control, etc etc etc. But, identifying as a liberal, a democrat, a conservative, a republican, etc etc and on what level each of us stands is a much more complicated conversation.

As I talked about in this post, everything surrounding politics and policy is incredibly divisive. Everything is an extreme, even to proclaim yourself  to be leaning in one direction or another. In my mind you can be liberal, but not wholly a democrat, you can be republican leaning but not necessarily socially conservative. Who I vote for doesn’t necessarily equal the full scope of what I believe is the right way to function socially or politically.

So, I’m curious – how do you identify? Does it make you uncomfortable to place a political label on yourself? Does one way of talking about this seem easier than the other? Do you feel like declaring yourself to be with one political party over another is more or less stressful nowadays than in the past? And – are you politically aligned with your partner? Your family? What does that mean for your relationships?

28 thoughts on “Identifier”

  1. I am a socialist at heart, my partner is (and comes from a family of very poor and deeply) communist, my family and my friends represent most of the under-currents in french left-winged politics. I’ve always been surrounded by like-minded people, I work in very lefty environment (education, libraries, public services). So I’ve never considered political identity a problem. It’s more of a given. And I was very appalled, during last elections, to see all of those young people on tv, who were supporting our ex-president Sarkozy, or saying that they would vote for the far right candidate who was basing her campaign on racism and xenophobia. I couldn’t fathom who those people were. It felt like we were living in a whole different country…
    French working class and middle class have always been strong supporters of socialism and communism and I’m very proud to be a part of it. Though, there is a very strong division with the upper class and the poor countryside people who are traditionally very conservative. But this division, most of the time, is also clearly seen within the geographical space (be it at the level of the regions or within the parts of a town), which explains that we can all go through our lives without meeting each other… mostly.
    Does it also work that way in the US or is there more mixing… and clashing?

    1. Yes exactly that´s how I feel. I align mostly with the left (and the growth of xenophobia and right-wing ideas in Europe makes me so so sad. I am in The Netherlands, but there is a party whose ideas are very similar to those of the French party you mention). And like you say, who are these people? How can they not even be curious about meeting, getting to know each other.
      But not all of my family has the same views on all the issues.
      Neither do I fully identify with 1 party or 1 candidate. It’s more like having ideas on issues and then looking at which party is closer to your beliefs.
      I think that as soon as you dogmatically start to follow 1 person, 1 party, 1 fixed set of ideas, as soon as you stop questioning… there lay the grounds for the worse things in mankind to come out. Every ideology taken to an extreme where everyone has to follow and no other opinions are allowed is against humanity…

  2. My husband is a loosely-identified libertarian and I’m too socially liberal to fit in with the Dems, so I don’t identify with anything really. We will have conversations about specific issues, sometimes we argue, sometimes we agree. Before we got serious, there was a series of Hard Conversations about marriage equality — I was unwilling to move forward in the relationship without being on the same page with that one. But virtually everything else is up for debate. We generally avoid talking politics unless we’re feeling feisty.

  3. I identify as Progressive, rather than with a particular party (although I am a registered Democrat, that’s not the word I would use to describe myself). I feel comfortable with political labels, but then I think I’m just a labels person, plus I live in DC, so I’m surrounded by politics.

  4. When I was younger, I was very conservative and very Republican. I would have said I agreed with 100% of the platform issues. As I’ve become older and more educated (ha, I’m such a statistic), I’ve become more liberal and have become disenchanted with the major political parties. When I lived in the South, I was considered a bit more liberal. Now that I live in the Bay Area, I think I’m probably one of the most conservative people that some folks out here have met. I’m still me, and have many of the same beliefs, but my political temperature is relative to the geographic area I live in. If you were to pin me down and demand that I describe myself today, I would say that I’m fiscally conservative, socially liberal, a constitutionalist, and a registered libertarian (with a caveat of believing strongly in personal philanthropy). Ha! I think the many definitions points to my discomfort with just one label.

    I used to be very divisive about it and would often fight about politics. I think that now I value dialogue and consensus building more. Part of that is the young ideologue in me wearing off in favor of pragmatism. This has been overall one of the most steps in regards to strengthening rather than weakening relationships with friends/family across the political spectrum.

  5. Oh man. I don’t even know. Social liberal fiscal moderate?

    I also LOVE LOVE LOVE talking politics–provided the person I’m talking to has a brain they can use to explain to me why they disagree with me. Almost NEVER does someone change their mind but I find that a good discussion forces me to ask important questions about my own philosophies. I’m too opinionated to talk to someone who is so opinionated they don’t hear me either.

    My husband HATES all this. He mostly agrees with my political views but really dislikes talking politics–to him it seems like arguing.

    1. I would also say that I am social liberal, fiscal moderate.

      I’ve never been comfortable identifying with a particular party, so for a long time I was registered as an independent. But then I couldn’t vote in primaries, so I re-registered as a Democrat because I felt like my views were more (but not entirely) aligned with that party.

      Most of the rest of my family is Republican. (My partner is a Democrat, so we keep peace at home when it comes to politics). That means that if politics ever comes up, we get into screaming matches. I made the mistake of going to visit my family on election day this year. Never again!

    2. Like Forrest, I also feel like most of the political talking I do turns into arguing, and so I generally try to avoid it, except with a few very close friends. I also generally feel a bit disenfranchised by the whole thing (sorry to use such a loaded term there, but I think it gets at what I mean), and generally without control, so mostly I’d rather just live my life the best I can, and work with what I’m given.

      But, Lauren, as far as how I identify, I suppose I’d consider myself a socialist, and a would-be-communist if we lived in a perfect society (because I don’t believe a perfect society could exist without being communist). I agreed most with Jill Stein in the past election, but I’m a registered democrat and voted Obama (see above about working with what I’m given), and I do agree with a lot of what he’s done.

      1. I think I’m argumentative by nature and that with certain people politics is one of those things that is (sorta) appropriate to debate. 🙂

  6. This is such an interesting perspective to me, because in my relationship it’s the opposite. Identifying ourselves (we’re liberals/progressive/democrats) is the easy part. Talking about specific issues is where it gets complicated. I suspect this is because two people can identify the same way and then be surprised to learn they have very different views on a specific issues. For example, my husband and I argue about application of the death penalty and very specific aspects of criminal justice so passionately you’d forget we agree on 99% of other issues. I suspect this is also because in some circles, the labels become a shorthand that we sometimes use to save ourselves from doing real intellectual work. For example, most of my friends are liberal democrats. Yay! We can talk about how much we hate ____. But talking about immigration reform is harder, because even though we’re good liberals, we haven’t all actually spent much time thinking about what makes good immigration policy.

    But, to respond to the overall tone of your post, I agree that identifiers do cause friction, and sometimes unnecessarily (because, as you implied, people might identify differently, but maybe share values or views). I am very aware of the my political identity and the fact that it has consequences because I come from a very conservative family and culture. It can be highly stressful. I have to be wary when discussing current events and other issues, because discussions about political issues can sneak up on you, and before you know it you’re having an unpleasant conversation that’s entirely about identity and conservatives versus liberals, no matter how good your intentions going into the conversation were. Interactions like these make me seek out political “safe spaces” (with my partner, online) where I can openly discuss issues without worrying that I’ll be maligned just because of how I identify.

    1. I think the “short hand” you speak of is exactly where the complications arise. If I say republican – it MEANS something in our world. A very specific thing. Yet, the facets of that label are so complicated and there could be many nooks and crannies of disagreement/agreement/interpretation. I think it is similar to religion and ethnicity. The world feels more comfortable (or at least the american social climate) with neat and tidy boxes, when the reality is incredibly messy.

  7. Ooooooh. Well, I love this conversation, whether people have this conversation alone to themselves, or out-loud to their family, friends, and partners – I think this conversation is so so so so helpful and important. And politics is really an extension of our lives and values – which is probably part of the reason why some people find it hard to talk about. Mainly, I am keenly aware that my politics and my values/life-living-way, although connected, are not the same. I try my best to vote for the policies and the candidates that best represent my values – but that is not always possible. I am very very liberal at heart. Very socialist in terms of how we treat each-other, in my generosity with money/taxes, and so generally I vote democrat. But the either-or of our political system and the money behind it all really makes me angry and frankly, freaks me out a bit. Even the democratic side. So it’s limiting. But since I live here and engage in the political system to the best of my ability, I am generally okay with the labels, and know that other people view them as limiting like I do, and that those who know me, well they know me! And so won’t put me too far into a box.

    Also – I was lucky enough (in my view) to be raised in a very liberal and educated family, so it was a given. There was discussions at dinner parties and in the car and we watched debates and tom brokaw! So I was surrounded by values based in human dignity and inclusiveness – but my extended family is rather traditional, republican, and old school catholic. This forced circumstance…. of sometimes walking on eggshells, sometimes keeping my mouth shut, and other times being very clear = is a skill that I had my childhood to practice. It was GREAT practice for the real world – and is something I value!

    Overall: my political brain is a “both-and” type of thing, instead of “either/or” and I really try to use that tool when tackling issues and discussing things!

  8. I identify as an open-minded, intelligent woman, who tends to lean toward the left, but I don’t necessarily “identify” as a Liberal or a Democrat.

    I have this idea in my head that I want to vote for the candidate who will best represent “We the People”. Who I feel understands the matters of the majority and has the right plans to make real change. No matter what party they are. Perhaps I am extremely naïve. 😛

    I realize that is not how things work in the political world and so I’ve grown to really hate politics and I will go the extra mile to avoid any political discussion.

    First of all, a philosophy I always try to keep in mind is: “if you don’t have a solution, don’t bitch about the problem”. And I feel like most of the time, that’s all politics is. People of opposing views screaming at each other how their opponent’s opinion is wrong, and their own opinion is right and that’s it. End of story. No intellectual debating. Nothing that encourages real thinking or discussion. Just people talking over one another forcing opinions down the other person’s throat.

    Take my family for example. My parents are very conservative. As I’ve gotten older I have moved farther left (though again, I don’t really like to label myself). This past election, on Election Day, my dad texted me: “if you vote for Obama you’re not getting any of my Sinatra records when I die”. Granted this was meant as a joke, but I still found it hurtful and it really pissed me off. Like I wasn’t allowed to form my own opinions unless they were the “right” (no pun intended) ones.

    It’s numerous experiences like this that have further developed my disdain for politics.

    Also, kind of like your other post talked about, I feel like my government cares nothing about me and what is truly in my and the nation’s best interest. I feel very disheartened when I think/talk about politics. I feel powerless to change anything.

  9. For me, having my partner agree with me on political issues was as important to me as some couples needing to be with people who share their religious beliefs. I have spent so much time working on campaigns, I need to be able to come home to someone who appreciates what I do, who I do not have to debate with, who (in the best cases) will help and support me. My husband and I agree on pretty much everything we talked about so far. We each have our own “favorite” issues, but our stances are basically the same. We met in politics so it has been part of our shared lives together from the beginning.

    I am a Democrat. I am a liberal. I don’t talk about it much at work, and I don’t volunteer the information to acquaintances. I have, however ran for (and won) an election for party leadership here in MN – so it’s not really a secret where I stand. I don’t agree with all Democrats on all issues, of course, but I try to always be part of the conversation. When people ask how my husband and I met, the answer is always, “In politics.” Usually that’s followed by a chuckle, and a slightly awkward pause while the curious questioner wonders exactly what that means and what party we might belong to.

    The other time it comes up with strangers is through my resume. I was the campaign manager on a very successful State Representative campaign in 2010 and was the Secretary of the State Democratic (DFL) party. Both high achievements so I list them on my resume. It used to make me nervous, but then I realized two things: one, if someone won’t hire me because of that, I do not want to work for them anyway; and two, not many people share that experience. It helps me stand out as a candidate.

    As for your question about it being easier now or in the past…when I was in high school, my best friend (I think you know her!) was very politically outspoken. She wore a t-shirt that had a picture of George W. Bush on it with the declaration “NOT MY PRESIDENT.” I told her and my mom (a strong liberal) that I would never wear anything like that, EVER. At some point during 12th grade or freshman year in college, I stated (very embarrassingly – since Britney Speares said the same thing) that we should trust the President because he has more information than we do. I was afraid that I would alienate current, or even potential, friends. I didn’t want to cause anyone discomfort or disagreement. Several things happened during my freshman year in college that made me change my mind. (For the record, I want to be clear that I was not a conservative before that – I just didn’t want to talk about it.) Now I talk about it.

    Now, I’m a Democrat. Now, I knock on strangers doors in my neighborhood during election years to discuss politics. Now, I am so happy that I can complain about people and policies that I don’t agree with to my husband and he vehemently agrees and then tells me how much he loves me for it.

    Sorry this is so long Lauren! I have been working on an email response to you on your other post about politics, once we move into the house I just bought and have a chance to settle in, I will send it to you. Promise.

    (I get nervous posting on your blog because of typos and spelling/grammar errors…please forgive any that you see here!)

  10. Confusingly in Australia, the socially conservative and big-business-focused party are (big L) Liberals in coalition with the National (read: country people) party. The more (little l) liberal party are Labor, currently in power with a coalition of Greens (environmental and ethics focused) and independents (all splitters from Liberal/National coalition). Our Prime Minister (a woman – yay!) just set the date for our federal election so we’re about to have the longest election campaign in history.

    Political conversations around here are rarely divisive. We agree the opposition leader is a complete smarmy, sexist, budgie-smuggling ass-hat and want to leave the country if he gets into power. Honestly, we wouldn’t even care if the opposition got in – just as long as he wasn’t our leader *shudder*. We vote (small l) liberally but live in one of the safest conservative seats in the entire country, so our vote doesn’t really count for much.

    We believe businesses that earn super profits should pay super taxes. We believe if you profit from national/natural resources such as coal and gas and airwaves, then you have a responsibility to pay more back to the nation. We believe in socialised medicine and public education. We believe in publically subsidised universities. We believe in admitting wrongs committed against the indigenous population and making amends where possible. I believe in publically subsidised culture, cultural production and cultural conservation (although my Lovely Husband is ambivalent in this area). Luckily for us, we have all of these things – but the conservative government wants to cut and curtail or deny pretty much all of it. Our current government introduced a carbon tax for companies and individuals; they raised the tax-free threshold from $6000 to $18000; they introduced 18 weeks paid parental leave (either parent can take it) and two weeks paid paternity leave (if the father hasn’t taken the parental leave); they’ve revamped the cultural policy. Bless their cotton socks and fiery red heads.

    Things we think could be done better: closing the literacy and health gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous populations; aged care and mental health services.

    1. Is this the opposition leader that the prime minister did that rather kick-ass takedown of in the video that went viral recently? I don’t know that much about Australian politics but hot damn that was one amazing smackdown!

      1. Yes! It was one of those heart-swelling, bursting with pride moments. Although I’d rather they not get all personal in parliament (and I think he’s more sexist than misogynist), calling out Tony Abbott (leader of the opposition) with the now infamous misogyny speech was a beloved moment in this house. Check it out if you haven’t seen it:

  11. In a perfect world I would support complete socialism, but I’ve yet to see a socialist government work and when it fails it fails pretty hard.

    As far as politics here (in Canada) goes, I indentify somewhere between Liberal and NDP. Given that we are a capitalist economy I have to work with that reality fiscally, but at the end of the day I vote on social policy. I won’t vote for a government that’s going to reopen the abortion debate, or wants to cut social programming, or isn’t a fan of marriage equality. I’m not a fan of how our current government is going about criminal reform and trying to put all their changes into omnibus bills where it’s an all or nothing package.

    Mostly I’m frustrated that a multiparty system really doesn’t work significantly better than a two party system. The ideological divides that exist are getting bigger by the year, and it’s really been exemplified in the move from centrist parties to parties that lean farther left and farther right.

  12. At the moment I tend to agree more with the Democrats than with the Republicans, but I’ve been astounded by people making the assumption that I am “a Democrat” based on statements I’ve made in discussions. I wouldn’t call myself a Democrat. I certainly don’t vote along party lines, and I try not to make blanket assumptions about Republican candidates or voters who consider themselves Republican. I honestly don’t see the point in aligning myself with one party over another, at least not at this point. People stop listening to you and dismiss your opinions because “you’re a Democrat,” or, “Obviously you’re wrong because you’re a Republican.” Gag me.

    1. “People stop listening to you and dismiss your opinions because “you’re a Democrat,” or, “Obviously you’re wrong because you’re a Republican.” Gag me.”

      THIS. Just drives me nuts. We NEED to listen to people who disagree with us. It’s the only way to get new information/sides of an issue. You don’t necessarily have to agree, but you have to listen.

  13. Great discussion. I’ve always labeled myself as an Independent — and I mean, technically, that’s true. I’m not registered with any political party. I think I’ll always describe myself as an Independent. I grew up in a conservative household in a liberal enclave, and the political divisiveness just KILLED me. And mine wasn’t even a particularly political household! But going to school, and knowing that all my friends would think my parents “bad” because they voted Republican — and vice versa, knowing my dad would dismiss many ideas for being too Democrat — just drove me up a wall. So I decided I’d never sign up for either political party, and just vote based on my beliefs and ideals.

    That said — I definitely tend more liberal. My husband…well, he’s liberal, but would probably label himself as a libertarian. We don’t always agree on political issues, but I appreciate that we can ALWAYS have a polite, intelligent discussion about politics without bashing one another.

  14. My dad is a member of the Sparticist League, and a ridiculously well read historian. My mom is generally liberal, and never particularly defined herself to me. So, I grew up with half historical lectures and marching in strikes and supporting unions, and half just-be-damn-nice-to-people-goodness-gracious. I voted for Jill Stein in the last election because I liked her best (one of the super involved really interesting online quizzes put me at 95% agreement with her, and 88% with Obama) and I would really love to break out of this 2 party system, and I’m in New York which I knew would go to Obama and therefore my vote didn’t really count so much.
    My boyfriend grew up with conservative parents who leave conservative radio on in the background a lot of the time. Argh. He’s smart, and formed his own opinions, and has definitely deviated from that upbringing, but we still clash on a lot of things, to the point where I just shut down any discussion, because it’s going to end with me being upset.
    In general, I dislike and avoid politics, especially in the current polarization trend. I think a lot of politicians are saying things they don’t particularly believe, but they’re being backed into it by pressure to “define their positions” and I think meaningful discussion can’t happen in that environment, and it makes me crazy. I think too much of politics is about winning, rather than making things work and making them better. This also makes me crazy. I like when I don’t feel rage-ful, so I avoid most goings on.

    1. I agree with your last paragraph so hard. So much of politics this day is about “being right” or “not letting the other side win” and then nothing gets done and politicians forget that the other politicians are all just people too. Ugh.

  15. I am pretty dang liberal/progressive. I am registered as a Democrat and vote that way the majority of the time. I love what others said about being liberal in the way we treat each other and believing in kindness, and at the end of the day, so, so much about politics can be boiled down to that, including fiscal issues and how they impact all of our lives.

    My husband used to identify as a moderate Republican, but after we started dating realized how socially liberal he was, especially compared to the how far right the Republican party has moved in the last 8 years. He is registered as an Independent. We both agree on most things, but neither of us is big on debate or too ultra passionate about politics so don’t talk about it all that often, other than to express our frustration with the political process these days.

    My family also doesn’t talk about politics too often, although I’ve garnered that my mom is an apathetic Democrat, my dad would probably be best described as a Libertarian, my brother is a redneck Republican, and my sister is I don’t know what because she’s a strange mix of being a union supporter (she’s a teacher) and having some abhorrent conservative social views picked up since college.

  16. As much as I used to say I was “independent”, every time I take one of those “where do your politics lie” quizzes, I fall pretty squarely left-of-center democrat. I support socialist policies (such as education, welfare, financial aid, municipal services, etc.), but also support a free market system within reason (*shakes fist at those who thought it a good idea to repeal Glass-Steagall*). I am extremely socially liberal, and I also support a single payer socialized medical model.

    I’ve studied government and work in the public sector. I’ve worked in the private sector, too, and nothing makes me angrier than when people say “government should be run like a business.” Government CANNOT run like a business. A business has profits. Even “Not-for-profits” have money coming in to pay the bills (it’s a little different, but nonprofits are more like private businesses than public entities), and if that money runs out, that’s it. Done. A public entity’s bottom line is to serve the public and carry out the laws of the municipality is is a part of (local, state, federal), and if the money runs out they’re In Trouble. They can’t just “close down.” (Well, OK, I guess you CAN … but government shut downs aren’t exactly the same thing, now.)

    It is complex and sometimes a pain in the ass, sometimes with more red tape than is necessary, but really government run entities aren’t less efficient than private entities. They just don’t generate revenue. (Some actually do, but overall that’s not the endgame.)


  17. In dating and then marrying my husband, we realized that while we both more identified with opposite parties, we had pretty much the same political views. I came from a part of the country where one party was the moderate and the opposite party was the more radical one, and he came from a part of the country where the opposite was true–and I think a lot of people don’t realize how that is the case that parties mean different things in different places. That said, I am frustrated that there seems to be no party for the fiscal conservative. Neither major party is. There is also no party for small government–traditionally a viewpoint of the Republican party, but no longer, not when there are so many from that side trying to legislate morality. And there are too many crazies in politics. I feel like I know tons of people who are much smarter and would do a much better job in Washington than those who are there now… too often my vote has to go to the less-bad candidate, rather than a good candidate. I also feel torn between wanting the government to stay out of my personal life (like my marriage, or anyone’s marriage) and wanting to live in a place like Norway where there is affordable higher education and maternity leave.

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