The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Why do we lack ideology?

In the contemporary United States, I believe we live in an issue-based society where ideologies, by and large, are outside of the system. We have liberals unwilling to support anything other than what they have been supporting for the past twenty years or more, and that sounds startlingly like conservatism. We have conservatives calling for all sorts of reforms that make them seem quite liberal. We have DINOs (Democrats In Name Only) and RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) and all sorts of political anomalies.

There are now a number of parties we call “third parties” which is odd because that means there are more than three. The only thing we seem to not have any of is what used to make up the majority: moderates. Nothing seems to fit the nice little categories society created sometime before we were born. Nobody seems to coincide with their supposed ideology anymore.

Certainly, ideologies change. But in my mind, ideological change should be like macro evolution. It should be something that changes over generations and millennia. I cannot understand how an ideology can change within a person. Now, a person can switch ideologies, realizing he or she truly prefers one over another. But can an ideology really mutate within a term of office or even a career? We are talking about concepts that have been spelled out for hundreds of years, arguably thousands, and yet someone claims that liberalism or conservatism is changing? I think it is impossible for the changes within an ideology to be noticed while they are in progress. Changes of such great magnitude are the ones historians look back on fifty or one hundred years later and say, “Oh…so this is what happened.”

When it comes down to it, I think the modern political “ideology” is simply selfishness. Individualism might be a politically correct term for it. Our politicians appear to have an “it’s all about me” approach. Personal agendas are rampant. All politicians care about is reaching the Senate or the White House. (Or, as we have seen recently, make a few thousand dollars in the form of bribes.)

Politicians frequently change their minds and make split-second decisions when it comes time to vote or act. They then claim that those decisions or actions were not based on party lines or public opinion, that they were not part of a political ploy to gain votes or attention. They say one thing and then vote another way, claiming to be ideological. That just doesn’t make sense.

I do not see any real political consistency in today’s political system. Modern voters, on the whole, seem to look to their party not for ideology but for voting conformity. They want to be able to brag when they voted for someone who does something “good.” Or, they want to be able to say, “Well I didn’t vote for him” when something goes wrong. Basically, they want to be able to say, “I told you so.”

These days, people often vote against a candidate rather than for his opponent. I cannot tell you how many election commercials I have seen that basically said, “Vote for me because my opponent sucks.” Along the same lines, many “supporters” of a novel candidate are often “antis” of the incumbent. We always have people calling for a president diametrically opposed to the current one because of the slightest discontentment. We rarely look at actual candidates. We can be two years away from a presidential election and already know who we are going to vote for. I cannot see that as ideological. That seems partisan and prejudiced more than anything else. What happened to the days when two candidates hashed it out in a debate and people voted because of what the candidates said? What happened to the times when people would vote for a candidate because of character and integrity?

I’m not saying that there are not people who truly vote for candidates anymore. It is just that this simply does not seem to be very prevalent. Common voting trends rarely have anything to do with ideology but seem to have everything to do with issues. Though one could argue that issues are ideological, the fact that many people support Issue A but not Issue B. while the ideological foundation for both is the same seems to prove differently. I am not saying that voting by issues is a bad thing. I am merely pointing out all of this in an effort to suggest that maybe our politicians are not as ideological as they claim.

Quite frankly, a number of people in the United States cannot spell ideology. And even though I have been formally educated in the areas of political theory and political philosophy, I cannot define the word “ideology” for you. I honestly have yet to hear a definition I really understand. It seems to be a word almost beyond definition. How can we claim to belong to something we do not fully understand and can hardly describe?

Matt Brumit is a junior Humanities major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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