It is the case in the United States as well as to some extent, the UK, that being party political leaves one with very limited options. I’ve always considerd myself a bit ‘left’ politically, not centrist, not right-wing (although there are some charitable things about being politically conservative in the old fashioned sense). I was vaguely left, that entailed to me things like:
i. Belief in social egalitarianism
ii. Preference of government intervention and authority in issues such as education, healthcare, emergency services, transport and the military.
iii. Belief in regulation of the financial system and a limitation to ‘laissez faire’ attitudes to capital.
I would say its not a caricature, I would also say it is a pretty vague set of beliefs. I was never really political. I mean, I did go on a few protests against the Iraq war. But now I think why bother. My sociology tutor was against the notion of donating to charities and NGOs. Charities, for him, dealt with problems that were too big for charities to solve it. Do you really think, for instance, that giving a bit of shrapnel in your wallet will cure cancer? will it stop child abuse? will it irrigate for all of Sudan? I don’t deny that NGOs do make a difference, but there is something fundamental that causes these things. No, I don’t mean to expose some kind of Spinoza caricature of determinism to state the metaphysical necessity of suffering (although that is true, too). But pressuring the proverbial man with a red button is better.
Petition to your local MP, I’ve done it, if they get enough letters, they listen. Anyway, I digress. There are so many causes that are political: climate change, missing people, world debt (for the MDCs as well as LDCs). Recently, I’ve found that the political left in Britain is a bit undesirable; either they did not stick to their values, or their values were no good in the first place. I’m not naturally averse to conservatism so where does one go? Giddens once spoke of a political ‘third way’, other authors appeal to this notion as the nebulous alternative. Frankly, between the two political parties is a whole world of positions. It is in this strangling obsession with two-party politics that both leads people apathetic to political issues, and also to more extreme views. Socialism has always been small, but I’m sure they’ve picked up a few people recently. It’s a perennial worry that unstable times have long term political (and thus) human consequences.