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Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of September 12, 2011

Readers write about the flaws of old-fashioned political labels ('left' and 'right') and demand a new pledge from lawmakers: No more pledges.

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Labels don't match beliefs

The worth of the Aug. 1 Focus story ("America's right turn") on the United States becoming more conservative lost considerable value by glossing over the difference between people identifying themselves as "conservative" and the beliefs they actually hold.

People can self-identify any way they want, of course, but after years of Fox News propaganda and the denigration of the term "liberal," labels mean little without definitions or deeper issues being considered. And many surveys in recent years show that Americans who classify themselves as conservatives or moderates actually espouse progressive preferences.

Asked about eliminating tax cuts for wealthy Americans, 59 percent supported it (Gallup 2010); asked about imposing a tax on Wall Street profits, 70 percent supported it (Bloomberg 2010). And on the flip side, the left can be just as frustrated with government and just as concerned with fiscal matters as the right claims to be. "Left" and "right" have become meaningless labels.

 

This piece's attempt to fit events into a rigid, old-fashioned, left-right model is its biggest error. Yes, budget deficits are a major concern to most Americans, but this is hardly a surprise less than two years after the near meltdown of the US financial system. When polls ask about specific cuts in programs, a very different picture of Americans' political views emerges than the one this piece portrays.

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