Ideology vs. Policy
Most of the American public is ignorant in matters of policy implementation. Sure we have our news shows and blogs to explain legislation and some parts of implementation, but even political experts are only experts in their particular fields. This lack of knowledge must inform our voting habits. Ideology must be the supreme informant of how we vote. Ignore policy promises!
There are a number of factors that make an ideological vote much superior to a policy vote. Just to define terms, ideology is a person’s foundational political philosophy. Policy is how that ideology is implemented. In a few short months, President Obama and Mitt Romney will engage in a series of ‘debates’ to help the public decide who the superior candidate is. I put scare quotes around debate because it really will function as a platform for each candidate to present his own plan and ridicule the other’s. Policy will be discussed; ideology will barely be touched, much less debated. At this point in the political cycle, there is an ideological war being waged with little discussion of policy. This is where the real meat of the campaign is. Currently, President Obama believes that the top income earners are not paying enough income tax, so he is out urging people to vote for him so he can make them pay their “fair share.” Mitt Romney is promising to end Obamacare (barring a Supreme Court decision) stating that the American public should not be forced by the government to purchase health insurance. Both these ideas are ideological in nature. In his heart, President Obama believes that a strong Federal government can fix the ails of this nation. Romney believes that limiting some aspects of the Federal government, especially in its interaction with business, makes for a stronger America.
The primary reason we must ignore campaign promises to a large degree is that they are mostly unrealistic. Every candidate trots out promises to change the economy and improve the lives of Americans, but there are many steps that must be taken to actually implement those. During the ‘debates,’ we will hear the President say that his plan for the economy will work. Romney will criticize it and say that his plan is superior and vice-versa. But how can the public really know? Each will have his own economists, experts, think-tanks, interest groups, and supporters tell you how much better his plan is over the other. This is precisely why America must vote on ideology. Do you favor a stronger Federal government or weaker one? Do you want a government that taxes the business owners at a higher rate or a lower rate? Do you want to vote for a party that wants to fund and expand abortion or a party that wants to limit and defund it? These are all ideological issues.
What about Independents? Many Americans call themselves Independents or Moderates because they are dissatisfied with both Democrats and Republicans. Their dissatisfaction is much understood considering how each party behaves most of the time. To all the Moderates out there, I want to plea with you on ideology. Being a balanced person in politics means nothing. Our task as Christians is to identify what is true and good and act on it accordingly. Christ never called us to live a balanced life. Additionally, our voting system dominated by the two parties does not allow for a Moderate (mainly due to fundraising). Moderates are fundamentally confused about their own ideology and are in a precarious position when it comes to consistency. Perhaps the only redeeming quality of the two parties is that it’s easy to identify where Democrats and Republicans stand on issues like abortion, economic freedom, taxation, and many other important concerns.
Does policy ever trump ideology? Well in some cases, truth requires us to enact policy that may extend beyond our own systems of ideology. Ideologies are somewhat malleable as well. But, the truth must always underpin our ideology, not popular opinion. Abortion is a personal example. I believe that abortion is morally wrong, so I advocate the federal government stepping in to combat this evil. This goes against my preference for a limited federal government, but represents the truth that killing the unborn is wrong.
Pay attention to the next election. Be an informed voter and determine the ideologies each candidate trots out. Understand that candidates will make many campaign promises, but in the end, they will revert to their political ideology most of the time. If a candidate makes a promise that defies their obvious ideology, just know that it most likely will not turn out the way he claims.