By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: You take your chances when applying political labels

Political labels are overused, misunderstood and often the bane of productive political debate. Related conversations quickly get complicated.

BYU-Idaho Professor Hyrum Lewis wrote in 2022: “Our society is under the mass delusion that … everyone can be placed on a left-right spectrum depending upon where they stand on a given issue … Since our dominant political paradigm is erroneous, the labels and concepts we use to discuss and think about politics are misleading as well, causing widespread misunderstanding and hostility.”

Here’s Jer Clifton, writing last year in Scientific American: “Conservatives tend to believe that strict divisions are an inherent part of life. Liberals do not … The main difference between the left and the right is whether people believe the world is inherently hierarchical. Conservatives tend to believe more strongly than liberals in a hierarchical world, which is essentially the view that the universe is a place where the lines between categories or concepts matter. A clearer understanding of that difference could help society better bridge political divides.”

“Conservatives vs Progressives” headlined Daniela Kirova’s article for The Values Institute: “While conservatives believe in limited government intervention and a free market system, progressives believe in a strong role for government in addressing social and economic issues. Additionally, conservatives place a strong emphasis on personal responsibility, while progressives believe in ensuring that everyone has access to the resources they need to succeed.”

Pamela Paul muddied those waters in “Progressives Aren’t Liberal,” a New York Times commentary: “Liberal values include individual liberty, freedom of speech, scientific inquiry, separation of church and state, due process, racial equality, women’s rights, human rights and democracy. In an increasingly prominent version of the progressive vision, capitalism isn’t something to be regulated or balanced, but is itself the problem. White supremacy doesn’t describe an extremist fringe of racists and anti-Semites, but is instead the inherent character of the nation.”

Winslow, Maine, citizen Dennis Perkins wrote to his local newspaper in 2016: “All democracies have been progressive from their beginnings. In America, politics has progressed from only white men with land being able to vote to eventually the inclusion of black men in decision-making, and finally to all men and women regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, level of income or anything else. Democracy is clearly progressive … The opposite of progressive is not conservative, but ‘regressive’ … Conservatism is the political orientation that slows down the rate of change within a democracy so that democracy’s natural inclination to progress doesn’t get ahead of itself.”

Applying political labels, it seems, is a risky business.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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