Labelling is limiting political viewpoints

Published by adviser, Author: Dylan Vamosi - Contributor, Date: October 22, 2015

Labels are easy. Labels are organized. Labels are useful because they bring ideas together and describe them in meaningful ways. It would be unrealistic, futile and silly to “remove” labels. Indeed, our entire language is tailored to fit the model of labels. We cannot describe reality any other way.
When we apply labels to politics, however, we enter dangerous territory. It is too easy to reduce complex issues to vague political ideologies. Matters of race, for example, seemingly cannot be raised without invoking a liberal and conservative orientation. Many make it seem as if these ideologies have a monopoly on all political ideas. If I think racism is a serious problem, that makes me liberal on this issue. This artificial superposition of a label cheapens “racism” and “liberal”: “racism” is compressed to fit into an ideological framework, “liberal” becomes a static position. Neither term is that simple. Therefore, labeling topics in such a way can undermine unique complexities and lead to one-dimensional thinking. Racism is either a serious problem or it is not. Resist the ideological labels not just because they are simple, but because they are often peripheral to their historical explanations. Arguments regarding gender, for example, go far beyond mere ideology; segregation is too complex to be contained to the conservative/liberal binary; the Great Recession requires rigorous financial and economic knowledge to understand. Though these issues are spun in ideological ways, the realities and disciplines exist independently of such a framework. Furthermore, the invocation of these labels can allow conversations to devolve into general or unrelated topics. You believe that the bailout was unfair? That is exactly what I would expect from a rich, austere conservative. Essentially, what we think of as “political” does not have to be thought of as liberal, conservative, or even ideological; the application of such terms can be unnecessary, distracting, or periphery. Thus, it is more meaningful to isolate each topic (housing, gender, race, the Great Recession, etc.) as its own spectrum of complicated debates.
This is not to say, however, that these labels can be removed from political divisions. The left-right spectrum has far-reaching implications: especially as it applies to policy and identity. However, it is important for college students to not use the ideological spectrum as the only lens through which to view political issues. Rather, we can view matters historically, sociologically, scientifically – through any field. For college students, political issues should be handled individually – detached from ideological labels – because it promotes interdisciplinary consideration rather than a reliance on broad ideological platforms.
It is okay to identify as a liberal or a conservative. It is encouraged to relate political issues to ideological platforms. There exists an appropriate time and place to apply these political labels. However, it is especially important for college students to not rely too heavily on these labels because is it our duty to understand topics in an interdisciplinary – rather than a purely ideological – way. Let us not be restricted by political labels as the only way to understand complicated political, power-driven realities.


  1. I should have used quotation marks for a few lines:
    “If I think racism is a serious problem, that makes me liberal on this issue”
    “You believe the bailout was a mistake? That is exactly…”


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