Martin: Do ideological nuances matter?


Last week I happened upon a social media conversation that got me wondering how much anyone cares about the nuances separating the various camps on the other side of the ideological divide.

The conversation was framed around a picture of a collection of America’s late-night, funny guy talk show hosts. There were 10 of them, bedecked in nicely tailored suits, sipping cocktails and smiling for the camera. I’m not sure where the picture originated, but it definitely had a GQ feel to it.

The full roster included Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore, Bill Maher, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon.

Here’s the verbiage coupled with that Twitter picture:

Every person in this photo:

» same political party

» endorsed same candidate

» same stance on every issue

Ladies and gentlemen, “comedy.”

As I’m writing this column, that tweet has been retweeted (that means “shared” for those unfamiliar with Twitter speak) more than 15,900 times.

It was one of those many retweets that introduced the post to my eyeballs. I laughed when I saw it, because at first blush it offered a perfect visual for the political slant of America’s comedic landscape.

The person whose retweet brought that picture into my own feed is a well-known Republican in this area. He added, “Haha, good point,” to the original post. In response, a long time local Democratic operative responded, “No, it’s not,” and noted “they all have wildly different political views.”

OK, I’ll stop there with the blow-by-blow Twitter conversation. But my first reaction to the Democratic rebuttal was something akin to “yeah, right.” Possibly, that’s due to the use of the word “wildly.” And though that adverb seemed over the top to me, the overarching point is what got me pondering the title of this piece: Do ideological nuances matter?

Adding this qualifier: to anyone on the other side of the political aisle.

I’d argue those nuances most certainly matter to the various camps coexisting on the same side of the divide. Just ask the free-spending, big-government House Republicans their thoughts on the matter the next time they’re having to deal with members of the House Freedom Caucus on a piece of legislation.

Yet, if you’re on the left, there’s a good chance that you lump all conservative-leaning folks together and vice versa, of course.

In thinking on this, I’m tempted to assume this is the case thanks to our long-entrenched — and federally subsidized — major party duopoly. Because no matter the differences between the camps on each side of the political chasm, most of us resort to an us-versus-them tribal commitment when push comes to shove.

That’s how free-market, anti-war libertarians end up casting ballots with empire-building, crony-capitalist moderates. Odd bedfellows, no doubt.

That’s also how I can look at a picture of 10 dandies in dapper suits and immediately think they’re all the same, ideologically speaking, when in reality there’s probably quite a bit differentiating the worldviews of Bill Maher and Jimmy Fallon.

The upshot of all this is that in cattle-herding most Americans into two corrals, we strip each other of any unique value. We dumb down intricate conversations, and we flatten debate. Worse, we prioritize allegiance to party over an appreciation of ideals and individualism.

There is nothing lazier or more intellectually damaging than living in a zero-sum, black-and-white world.

It would be a worthwhile exercise to explore ideological differences, not just on our own side, but also across the divide. Yes, because ideological nuances do matter. And we’d be doing ourselves a favor to understand them better, as well as the people who maintain them.

Contact David Allen Martin at davidallenmartin423@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DMart423.

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