Jeffery Robin’s article, “Radical Conservative Challenges Parties’ Adherence to Status Quo” (Daily Nexus, Nov. 4, 2009), delivers an important point: “Conservatives” such as Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner do not actually adhere to traditional conservative principles. While true conservatives advo¬cate fiscal restraint and limited government, these men stood behind Bush-era expansion of government and towering spending deficits. They are not conserva¬tives at all, but nevertheless this is how they have been defined.

This is the essential problem that Robin brings to light: The restrictive labeling we use to define political ideology simplifies and even distorts peoples’ political views; that anyone who disagrees with the “liberal” president must be a conservative, that if you’re not a Republican you must be a Democrat, that if you support higher taxes you must be a socialist. This way of think¬ing lumps people into categories and reduces complex political worldviews into simply the left and the right, and for this there are multiple people to blame.

For example, Robin is wrong in suggesting that the Obama administration is solely to blame for distort¬ing the meaning of “conservatism.” Yes, Obama refers to O’Reilly as a conservative, but partly because A) this is how O’Reilly defines himself, and B) Obama is simply continuing a tradition of simplification and distortion. Bush divided Americans into Democrats and Republicans, and so did Clinton, and so does every congressperson. The media has been instrumental in encouraging this misleading labeling, always distin¬guishing between “liberals” and “conservatives” and failing to account for any views that fall somewhere in between. Limbaugh does it, Glenn Beck does it, Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann do it… and this news¬paper does it. The “Left Said, Right Said” column in the Nexus takes important debates and boils them down to yelling matches between two columnists with rigid political viewpoints, forcing us to side with one or the other and thus define ourselves as “liberal” or “conserva¬tive.”

The American two-party system makes it hard to think for oneself and take a stand other than the Democrat/liberal view or the Republican/con¬servative outlook, but do so we must. Take what you like from liberalism, conservatism, populism, liber¬tarianism, socialism or any other ideology, and go your own way. What could be more American than maintaining a healthy mistrust in authority, resisting propaganda and making up your own damn mind?

Andrew Dunn is a fourth-year Spanish major.