I was recently “evicted” from a closed political group on Facebook. It was both amusing and sad, because it was a group I belonged to for years, a group where I had made a good number of Internet friends, and a group born of the foundational site of my political blogging “career,” such as it is. The reasons given for my eviction did not hold up to any sort of scrutiny, but it wasn’t hard to suss out the real reason: that I remained Trump-skeptical as the group coalesced and homogenized around Trump the Candidate and became a full-throated pro-Trump echo chamber. I was one of several evicted, without any prior warning or notice, in the middle of the night, after a great big hullaballoo over the eviction of another long-time member of the group.

I’ve already given that incident more words here than it deserves, but I present it as an introduction to an interesting phenomenon fostered by the Internet and social media: spontaneous political sorting along a new spectrum.

Political analysts have strived for decades to categorize people by political preferences and ideologies, in order to more easily identify, label, and understand us. We have the traditional Left-Right scale, whether writ narrow (Democrats vs Republicans) or wide (communism to anarchy). Or, rather, we have the traditional American Left-Right scale, as opposed to the Europeans’ version, where “right” carries a different meaning than it does here. We also have variants of the single-axis scale, as well as two-axis charts (the Nolan chart being among the more noteworthy).

The two-axis charts arose because of pretty clear inadequacies in pegging people on a single axis, but they are mostly the playground of wonks and analysts, since the rest can’t be bothered talking in two dimensions. Still, it remains that the Left-Right axis is inadequate, and that’s clearly so today, under a polarizing President (aren’t they all, though?).

Arguments about the fidelity of Trump’s agenda to traditional Republicanism or conservatism are substantial and on-going, as I recently blogged, and serve to validate the inadequacy of “Left-Right” in today’s climate. Indeed, while it’s pretty clear that to call one’s self Left-leaning today essentially requires opposition to Trump’s agenda (and dislike for the man himself), what qualifies as “Right” cannot be agreed upon. Many who have been easily labeled as Right-leaning their whole lives are all-in on Trump’s agenda. Many stand resolutely opposed to him and much or all of what he does, and many find themselves somewhere in between these two poles.

Still, all would argue that they are “right-leaning,” rather than “left-leaning.” This would suggest a new two-axis chart, with Trump-affinity as a vertical component. Since that Trump-affinity is on the Right, we might even envision such a chart drawn as the letter T, rotated ninety degrees clockwise.

But, as I noted, two-dimensional political charts are snoozers for most people, which leaves us with the problem of reducing this element of political difference to the single axis. We might think that, since some of Trump’s policies aren’t actually conservative, we could place the pro-Trump Right somewhat to the left of the anti-Trump Right. This would certainly appeal to the latter, because it establishes them in a position of greater purity and, presumably, grant some sort of superiority-of-principle to their arguments.

Still, it doesn’t feel right.

The solution, which you’ve probably guessed at this point, is to simply chart people based on their affinity and fealty for Trump and his policies. Given that Congress has done a splendid job of abdicating its legislative/policy-making role (and not just under Trump), it is accurate to say that, in practice, policy and political philosophy today is driven by the President.

So, there we have it, a political scale that’s useful and relevant for today’s climate: Call it (obviously) the T-Scale, and peg people on it by their level of support or opposition to Trump and his policies. Yes, it lumps hard-line right-wing NeverTrumpers with the TDS-inflicted sky-screamers of the Left, and that association is an unsavory one for both, I’m sure. But, it also sorts the practical zero-sum tacticians who don’t like Trump but feel that they must support him lest the “enemy” gain any ground with the folks who think he’s getting everything right and/or is a gift from God (yes, I have witnessed many people write, unironically, “Thank God for President Trump),” and that association likely rankles both.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, and the T-Scale re-proves that age-old adage.

The T-Scale also explains social media, where closed groups homogenize around particular bands on the scale. My aforementioned “eviction” was almost certainly tied to my position outside the increasingly narrowing band that the group deemed acceptable. And, anyone who spends any time in the Internet politics sand box can easily figure out where a particular social media aggregation (whether it be closed groups or open groups on Facebook, comments sections on news sites, or clusters on other social media platforms) stands by judging the group’s response to pro- or anti-Trump postings and comments. Watch how the dogs pile, and you’ll find the center of the group’s T-Scale band. From there, you can figure out what your reception and what their acceptance/tolerance/rejection of you will be.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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