Political Ideologies as Metanarratives

A few months ago I wrote about the problem with political ideologies. I explained that each political ideology – whatever that ideology is – simplify political issues to fit them into their ideology. Essentially these ideologies become lenses or worldviews in which their proponents filter the world through. This has become painfully obvious throughout the current election cycle. Each of the four candidates, excluding Kasich, that stayed in the race longest – Trump, Clinton, Sanders, and Cruz (though he has since dropped out) – have framed their campaigns around a specific ideology. While they certainly are not 100% ideologically pure, especially Sanders, they in general remain inside the lines of their particular ideology. For Trump it is nationalism. For Clinton it is liberalism. For Sanders it is socialism, and for Cruz it was conservatism. Each of these four ideologies have genuine concerns to bring to the table, but they are all insufficient as an all inclusive worldview. In Political Visions & Illusions, David T. Koyzis writes,

“Ideologies attempt to offer a total explanation for the world and its history and are thus ‘all ideologies contain totalitarian elements.’ The read the whole of reality through a single idea and deny the possibility that any genuine knowledge can be attained through experience In contemporary parlance they exempt themselves from a ‘reality check.’ It is a short step from ideology to totalitarianism, which not only interprets the world through a single idea, but attempts to mold it in accordance with its inexorable logic.”

Because we are a profoundly religious and storytelling people, these ideologies form narratives of salvation, which are all “based on a specific soteriology, that is, on a worked out-theory  promising deliverance to human beings from some fundamental evil that is viewed as the source of a broad range of human ills.”


So in the case of liberalism, we have Hillary Clinton. The “fundamental evil” is the Republican Party. Salvation is found in individual autonomy, particularly along the lines of sex, sexuality and gender. Individual autonomy trumps any sort of institutional or community rights. I must be allowed to choose what is good for myself and I don;t want anyone to stop me.


Ted Cruz represents the conservative ideology. For Cruz and conservatives, the enemy is change. Salvation is found in returning to a mythical golden age. Anything that is seen as “progressive” in any sort of the word must be stopped and redirected. Cruz is a perfect example of this because he tries to get in the way of any sort of semi-liberal policy no matter what the costs.


Donald Trump’s campaign up to this point (because who know how much he will change in the general election) demonstrates the ideology of nationalism. National autonomy is seen as the greatest good. Preserving an American way of life and promoting American flourishing no matter the cost is seen as the goal. China and Mexico and other countries become the “fundamental evil.” We must save America from the world.


Though he certainly is not a perfect socialist, Bernie Sanders espouses a moderate socialist ideology. Wall Street, the “billionaire class”, and the political establishment are seen as evil and superficial equality is seen as redemption.


Each of these ideologies has something important to say. There are certain human freedoms we all deserve. There are institutions and traditions that should be preserved. Promoting the good of our country is a good thing. So to are alleviating poverty and stopping unethical business practices. None of these however are complete solutions or comprehensive views of how to create a just and flourishing society. There is no perfect political thought system today and there will never be one, but the best of political thought will come outside of specific ideological orthodoxy.



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