So, the Washington Post Opinion section has decided to sort its contributors into categories marked "right" or "left." This is certainly not new–I remember the L.A. Times having "Column Left" and "Column Right" for much of the '90s, and probably some of the Naughties–but what is kind of fresh is the immediate derision with which the move is being greeted, including by people you might consider as resting comfortably within one of the two tents. A quick trawl through my Twitter feed picks up raspberries from Matthew Yglesias, Adam L. Penenberg, Steve Silberman, Hamilton Nolan, and many others. As Penenberg says, "Shouldn't we reject binary labels like left + right?…Many of us embrace positions that veer all over the political map." More from Nolan:
Goodbye, nuance. Adios, iconoclasts. Sayonara, free thinkers. WaPo columnists are now assigned one box or the other, and that's where they'll stay. […] Anyone whose beliefs fall anywhere outside of these boxes is simply not to be taken seriously.
I think there's something more interesting going on here than just the usual I-am-too-a-snowflake special pleading. For one thing, well, we are special snowflakes, each and every one of us, with rapidly hyphenating identities in every other realm, from music to the workplace to sexuality to socal media. There is no natural reason that politics as experienced and expressed on the individual level would or should be immune to this happy speciation of modern life. It's no wonder that the non-affiliated are now a larger bloc than either Democrat- or Republican-leaners and growing by the minute. This is a major theme of Nick Gillespie's and my upcoming book, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, which you can pre-order today!
Libertarians, of course, have a special relationship with this pigeonholing. Was a time when I used to expend energy trying to correct people's mislabelings and agitate for a more multitudinous framework to describe individuals. But now I think the battle has been won, or at least the onus of getting it right has shifted from us marginalized weirdos to them institutional crust-buckets. Insisting on a binary left/right framework in political journalism in the year 2011 is like entering your own name in the newspaper death pool.