Our “Most Liberal Senator” is Now Our “Most Liberal President”

Political positions of 2008 Primary candidates

(All graphics from Political Compass)

One of the talking points that the right-wing propagandists pounded into our heads very hard during the 2007–2008 election season was that Barack Obama was the “most liberal” member of the Senate.

Even if it were true, it wouldn’t make him a liberal. And even if he were a liberal, that is far from a bad thing.

The chart above is an analysis done last year of the candidates running during the primaries. As you can see, Obama is anything but liberal. He is, at best, a moderate Republican.

This shows just how massively far to the right this country has slid when a moderate right-winger is branded as “radical” by his own ideological compatriots.

Remember how rabidly fearful the right-wing nutjobs were of Hillary? She’s to the right of Obama! They should have preferred her! She’s so right wing, she should be running the RNC.

To you non-Americans out there who are reading this, please forgive us. We know not what we do.

But don’t get too smug, you filthy foreigners. You aren’t too much better. Here are some current world leaders, to give you some perspective:

Political positions of some world leaders

It looks like George Bush’s massage buddy, Angela Merkel, is roughly equivalent to Hillary Clinton.

The organization that put these together is called Political Compass. They have a fun quiz you can take yourself to find out where you fit. I took it, and here is my result:

My political position

I’m really ashamed that I’m that much of a libertarian. I thought I had more sense than that. I really do believe in the social safety net and society’s responsibility to all its members, so I don’t know how I ended up that low.

Ever wonder why some people get conservative and stupid when they get old? Maybe they have latent tendencies that eventually get expressed. Maybe this test detected my secret shame, and it’s in danger of taking over my personality if I’m ever mugged by an entitlement.

26 Responses to “Our “Most Liberal Senator” is Now Our “Most Liberal President””

  1. freddies_dead Says:

    Your political compass
    Economic Left/Right: -2.50
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.15

    I’m fairly happy with that.

  2. kevin Says:

    Your political compass
    Economic Left/Right: -4.88
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82

    wow. i was expecting to be more moderate than that. oh well. i’m good with what i got.

  3. Geoff Says:

    Economic Left/Right: -7.38
    I always felt myself middle-of-the-road! I normally vote UK Liberal, which used to be in the middle until the Blair clique hijacked our Labour party and took it to the middle right.
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.23
    I expected lower (larger negative); I now know I’m starting to get old and crotchety (big six-oh coming far too soon).

  4. Charles Says:

    Feel better about the libertarian thing: the test bases your North/South axis on things like freedom of speech positions and the like. Your social safety net views are to what pulled you to the left. So you end up in the bottom left quadrant if you believe in social welfare programs and freedom of speech…

    Oh, and
    Economic: -8.5
    Social: -7.54

  5. Brian Says:

    Economic Left/Right: -5.75
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.90

    While I felt a couple of the questions were a little too vague for me to have answered more accurately, this was enlightening. I’d be willing to bet that most people who think of themselves as being right-of-center would be surprised to find that they’re really not so conservative after all. It would be fascinating to see this test administered to everyone so we can put the foolish idea that we’re a “conservative” nation to rest for good.

  6. Luke Says:

    Your political compass
    Economic Left/Right: -5.38
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.82

    I would have liked a neutral option for many of the questions.

  7. arkonbey Says:

    Economic Left/Right: -6.25
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.90

    Funny, I always considered myself very liberal socially and rather conservative fiscally. Go figure…

    I, myself, was well aware of Mr. Obama’s moderate leanings and that was part of his attraction for me.

    I also am suspect of Libertarianism. Ever since the This American Life episode where they interviewed Libertairians in our hometown and they talked about ho0w the town parks and state forests would have to go up for sale to private owners because there should be no state property. That coupled with no environmental regulations makes them a bit like non-religious neo-cons.

  8. J. A. Baker Says:

    I suspect that the “Libertarian/Authoritarian” axis refers more to whether or not you want things like the right to smoke pot and have as much sex as you want (within reason), while the “Left/Right” axis refers to whether or not you think there should be a social safety net and the feasibility/appropriateness of uploading your consciousness into a robot.

  9. cognitive dissident Says:

    I’m with you about the “latent tendencies,” although moving toward conservatism seems to be more the exception than the rule. Although older people tend to be more conservative than younger ones, it’s not because they get more conservative with age–it’s because their age group started out far more conservative.

    This recent study observed that liberalism is something that one grows into rather than grows out of:

    “[N]ew research has debunked the myth that people become more conservative as they age. By comparing surveys of various age groups taken over a span of more than 30 years, sociologists found that in general, Americans’ opinions veer toward the liberal as they grow older.”

  10. Ron Britton Says:

    Charles said:

    Feel better about the libertarian thing: the test bases your North/South axis on things like freedom of speech positions and the like. Your social safety net views are to what pulled you to the left. So you end up in the bottom left quadrant if you believe in social welfare programs and freedom of speech…

    I’m very proud to be in the lower left quadrant. I’m aware that my “do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone or any critter (or ecosystem)” attitude is what shoved me toward libertarianism. I’ve always felt that libertarianism had some good ideas. The problem is that many libertarian ideas are both social and economic. For example, some Libertarians (e.g., Penn Jillette) don’t believe in public education. I’m sure he’s also opposed to the other social benefits, such as publicly-financed health care. Since I’m in favor of those, you’d think that would have kept me from getting as close to the bottom as I did.

    Brian said:

    I’d be willing to bet that most people who think of themselves as being right-of-center would be surprised to find that they’re really not so conservative after all. It would be fascinating to see this test administered to everyone so we can put the foolish idea that we’re a “conservative” nation to rest for good.

    When Americans are polled about what specifically they want out of government, they come out fairly liberal. When they’re polled about candidates, they come out conservative. I think there’s a lot of people out there who are influenced by the spin-meisters. The right has always been way better at packaging their ideas in shiny boxes with a pretty bow on top than the left has. Sometimes I even feel like falling for it, except I usually know the facts behind the issues and know that what the rethuglicans are saying in many of those cases has absolutely no relationship to those facts. They’re brilliant marketers, though. That’s also what makes politics so immensely frustrating for me. I see millions of people who enthusiastically are voting against their own self interest.

    Luke said:

    I would have liked a neutral option for many of the questions.

    That probably skewed your results a little. I’m sure they do it that way to force you to reveal your underlying leanings.

    Arkonbey said:

    That coupled with no environmental regulations makes them a bit like non-religious neo-cons.

    If it weren’t for that extremism, I think the Libertarians would be very good for this country. If we had a Democratic/Libertarian duality here, then the Democrats could be trying to improve our lot, and the Libertarians could be there to keep them from spending too much money. But the Democrats would have to be like Dennis Kucinich. Authoritarian Democrats are not allowed in my utopia.

    J. A. Baker said:

    I suspect that the “Libertarian/Authoritarian” axis refers more to whether or not you want things like the right to smoke pot and have as much sex as you want (within reason)…

    Who needs a reason to have sex?

    …while the “Left/Right” axis refers to whether or not you think there should be a social safety net…

    As I mentioned above, I think the quiz weights the social/economic questions more on the left/right axis and ignores their effect on up/down.

    …and the feasibility/appropriateness of uploading your consciousness into a robot.

    What about uploading it into a sex robot?

    Cognitive Dissident said:

    Although older people tend to be more conservative than younger ones, it’s not because they get more conservative with age–it’s because their age group started out far more conservative.

    I’m sure there is a lot of truth to that. A lot of liberal ideas, such as gay marriage, were unthinkable 40 years ago. The strongest opponents to the idea are old people. Young people tend not to see a problem with it. If you don’t have decades of comfort in things being a certain way, there is less inertia keeping you from seeing the wisdom of other ways.

    Nonetheless, I know lots of people who seem to be more conservative now that they’re older. I think a lot of people become less flexible, so maybe it’s not conservatism from an ideological perspective. They just can’t help it. Their brains have seized.

    This recent study observed that liberalism is something that one grows into rather than grows out of:

    That’s encouraging. I think some of that is because when you force a new idea on people (i.e., by outvoting them) and once they’ve had time to live with the new situation for a while, they realize that the world didn’t end after all. That’s one reason the Prop. 8 thing in California was so important. If we can get 10% of the country to live with gay marriage for a few years, the rest of the country will be less scared of it.

  11. Barbara Says:

    Economic Left/Right: -5.62
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.05

    I can live with it.

  12. Lindsay Says:

    Economic Left/Right: -5.62
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.46

    Hmmm…I didn’t really see myself as much of a libertarian. I suppose that their definition might be different from the definition of the “Libertarian Party” gives unto themselves.

    Also, I don’t smoke enough pot or own enough guns to be libertarian.

  13. Lindsay Says:

    Hey, Obama gave out a shout out to the non-believers! At least we got some recognition…that would have never happened under a Republican!

  14. Lilyana Says:

    Your political compass
    Economic Left/Right: -5.88
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.12

    Not particularly far removed from your numbers.

    From what I can tell, especially since it’s referred to as “social” libertarian, people are winding up on the libertarian side as the result of being in favor of more social freedoms, as opposed to economic issues that are the parts of libertarianism that tend to be more highlighted in political media.

    I voted for Obama and was ok with the choice cause I figured we could at least make some social and technological progress I consider important like healthcare, energy, and making science an important part of the government again. I’ll just have to deal with the lack of GLBT consideration. Kucinich was totally my choice though in the primaries.

  15. Parrotlover77 Says:

    L/R: -8
    Lib/Auth: -7.13

    I think the “should government control our sex lives” questions is what throws us all into the Libertarian column. And on that note, I don’t think that test is too accurate. Because it puts the better part of the Democratic party in the authoritarian column. Now, I know I’m different from the USA’s majority liberal party, but I’m more of a moon bat than Ralph Nader and more glib than Ron Paul?!?! I just don’t buy it.

    I think either the test’s calibration is off or the candidates themselves are not placed correctly. I just don’t see how my “government out of the bedroom” beliefs could override things like “government should own parks and pay for the arts” which I answered “Strongly Agree” on in every case.

  16. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I saw Obama’s shout-out to non-believers too. That was… unexpected. I was quite happy about it. Also, that fundie dude that did the open prayer thing — he wasn’t so bad. Overly religious for a state function, yes. But, well, that’s the tradition here.

    Yea, where was the gun control questions in the quiz? That would have knocked me the hell out of libertarian land, for sure… ;-)

    As for growing into being a liberal. That’s me. I was born a Good Little Conservative in a conservative family. Look at me now. My bleeding heart bleeds bleeding hearts. I began to think for myself in my early twenties and decided .. hey — I kinda like this Al Gore guy even though he’s not republican. Then I became a Democrat officially.

    Now, I thank W for making me go waaaay off the deep end into Moon Bat territory.

    Finally, Ron, I agree. No authoritarian Dems in my Utopia either.

  17. Andrew Says:

    Your political compass
    Economic Left/Right: -6.88
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.18

  18. J.R. "Bob" Dobbs Says:

    Your political compass
    Economic Left/Right: -3.62
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.77

  19. OtherRob Says:

    Looks like I’m just about the most rightward leaning person here. Not that the really surprises me.

    The problem with tests like this is that it doesn’t allow you to “explain” your answers. For example, I strongly agreed with this statement: “It’s natural for children to keep some secrets from their parents” because I believe that sentence to be true. Children will try to keep things from their parents. It is an inborn “natural” trait.

    But that doesn’t mean I think it’s right. Nor do I think that children have some sort of “right” to keep secrets from their parents. I wonder what my score would’ve been had I changed the answer to strongly disagree. Because while I do believe the sentence is true, I disagree with what I believe the spirit of that sentence to be.

    And there are, or course, other questions that I could’ve answered in pretty much the opposite way to what I did. But for what it’s worth, here’s my score:

    Economic Left/Right: -1.75
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.90

  20. Thomas Says:

    I’ve always been skeptical of these kind of tests. Right and Left are relative ideas based on the political climate of a particular era.

    I’ve seen another such graph that charts conservative and liberal as two quadrants of a circular spectrum that seems more functional but that still creates a number of false dichotomies.

  21. ericsan Says:

    Economic Left/Right: -5.88
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.95

    So, what does this mean? I’m more libertarian than you, but not as far left? Ha.

  22. mayhempix Says:

    Interesting. I ended up at about the same place as you did and am definitely not a LIbertarian with a capital “L”.

    Economic Left/Right: -7.00
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.49

    In this case it seems libertarian is used as the antithesis of authoritarian so we ended on the left side of it because we believe that government has no business controlling our personal and social lives.

    Libertarians with a capital “L” would have ended up on the right side because of their worship of the Free Market God.

  23. Dan Says:

    Just as a fyi the “libertarian” part is just how much you think the government should control socially (i.e. surveillance) it’s not the Libertarian Party type libertarian.

    In fact the libertarian party is just extremely right-wing and not necessarily “libertarian” I mean the socialist party candidate was more libertarian then Ron Paul.

  24. Kenny C Says:

    A point here – the entire ‘right / left’ spectrum is messed up. Pournelle did an article on it a while back where he pointed ou that the ‘right / left’ spectrum is basically based on a several-hundred-year-old set of political alliances. The dichotomy was reinforced by the counter-culture in the 60′s and 70′s, which aggressively lumped social conservatism, financial conservatism, and anything else which could be considered conservative’ into one big pile, but I digress.

    The idea of a two axis political map is a fairly good one, but each axis has to be a meaningful one, something that tries to objectively see what’s out there, rather than trying to fit what’s out there into a mold formed just after the French Revolution.

    I’m actually not saying it as well as he did. His original article is here:
    http://www.baen.com/chapters/axes.htm

  25. Parrotlover77 Says:

    The two-axis system is pretty accurate because there are very few people who actually divide up individual social issues between “left/right” or “authoritarian/libertarian.” I have known only one person who did. He was very libertarian (political axis, not party) but very pro-death penalty.

  26. Overmind Says:

    -4.25
    -4.15
    Social-libertarian/ Autoritarian

    Im happy with my result:)it is fairly accurate