How Democrats and Republicans are in Essential Agreement.
The Triumph of the Left_James Leroy Wilson-How Democrats and Republicans are in Essential Agreement.
For all of my adult life, I've been fascinated by the uses of the words "Left" and "Right" in political discussion. What does it mean to be on "The Left," or on "The Right?" Some figure that left and right have to do with "liberalism" and "conservatism," but when all is said and done, liberalism and conservatism are but states of mind that have little to do with actual society. A liberal is more open to reason and logic, i.e., the judgment of scientifically-discovered facts and theories and independent thought; the conservative is more deferent to religious faith and received teaching by authority. Liberalism "tilts" left, and conservatism "leans" right. But the truth is, every good defender of conservatism actually had a "liberal" mind, and every good defender of liberalism had an understanding of and appreciation for the conservative point of view - otherwise they would not have been liberal. Conservative and Liberal aren't any more aligned with the Right and Left, than are Republicans and Democrats. Regarding the two parties, they've only been concerned with power; the Democrats of the 1930's, 40's, and 50's were both to the left and
to the right of Republicans. This is a hard thing to pin down, what it is exactly we are talking about, when we speak of left and right.
Some ten years ago my professor in graduate school at Loyola University of Chicago, Robert Mayer, clarified the issue instantly by saying that Left and Right was about equality. He hardly elaborated on it, and didn't need to for the discussion at hand, but the Left was committed to human equality; equality was what distinguished left from right.
I don't recall him saying that the Right was against equality. You could say, however, that to be on the Right means to explicitly deny that civil government or The State can or should make humans equal, and that the further Right you go, the more against equality you are. That the most right-wing government would be a State that enforced and ensured differences in legislatively-enforced social rank, and of wealth. But the Right can go in various different paths to that conclusion, each of which may be morally intolerable to a Rightist of a different persuasion. A feudal structure is right-wing, and extremely so, but in a different way
than is Nationalist Socialism, or Nazism. The slave states of the antebellum United States were on the right, but in a different way than Franco's Spain or Pinochet's Chile.
But before the Right can even be defined or understood, we must define the Left, or this commitment to equality. There are five features of the Leftist ideal:
1. Legal equality, where all are equal before the law. In any dispute or case to be decided by a court, no one would be given preferential treatment, or the "benefit of the doubt" on account of wealth, ethnic origin, religion, sex, or any other social category which may distinguish individuals from each other. And legislation by the State would not recognize such social differences when determining laws that protect life, liberty, and property.
2. Political equality, or democracy. The State, however large or small it may be, is controlled by the adult population under the principle of one person, one vote. Virtually every voting citizen is qualified for every office.
3. Social equality. Beyond protecting life, liberty, and property, the State can enforce "fair" treatment of all sorts of people, in order to prevent discrimination by prejudiced and bigoted people, especially business owners, that may ostracize or alienate minorities of various kinds, whether they be of race, religion, physical handicap, sexual orientation, or some other identity-group category the State decides is necessary to define.
4. Economic equality. The State has the power to alleviate economic want through a "safety net" and structure tax codes so that those who gain the most in the market economy must pay more, proportionally, to the State so that the State can take care of people in poverty, a condition that the State blames on the wealthy.
5. Internationalist revolution on behalf of democracy and equality. The State must engage in economic "sanctions," or trade embargoes, against other States not sufficiently committed to equality. The State has the moral right, if not always the practical ability, to work to conquer and overthrow any undemocratic State's regime and install one committed to democracy.
To move "Left" was once a movement for greater liberty and was genuinely liberal. Those who resisted imperialism, and sought freedom in speech, religion, and trade in England from the late-17th to mid-19th centuries were considered liberals in comparison to the Tories who sought to preserve social distinctions and protectionism. The American Revolution, though tainted by a leadership that craved profiteering from western land speculation, was itself a movement against monarchy and toward de-centralized power - a "liberal" movement leftward.
But liberalism stops being liberal when it begins attacking liberty, which the march toward total equality does. Democracy is fine if the people are jealous of their liberty, but when they fall prey to feelings of envy, then liberty in the hands of democracy is no more safe than liberty in the hands of monarchy or aristocracy. Probably less so. The Left's project is comprehensive: legal equality plus democracy plus social equality ("civil rights" for every conceivable or possible "minority") plus economic redistribution plus perpetual international hostilities.
What we see is that the Left already has an administration in Washington; it is in complete
control of the federal government. The differences between the Republican and Democrats, between the "FDR was one of our Greatest Presidents" Neo-Conservative Republicans and the "[ditto]" progressive Democrats are merely tactical, with very few ideological differences at all. They are much like Communists and Fascists of the early part of the century; fascism being but a more sophisticated form of Communism. Communism ended up making everyone a nationalist; Fascism ended uniting people of all classes. Two sides of the same coin, just like today's American progressives (Democrats) and neo-cons (Republicans).
Both Parties, like Lenin and the former Communist Mussolini did, dream of a class-less utopia in which the enlightened manage policy and administer the affairs of the ignorant masses. Yes, the neo-cons are more "socially conservative" in that they say things to please the Christian fundamentalists, the bourgeois "Babbits" and on rare occasion, the free-marketer. And Progressives put in a good word for "diversity." But the end-game for both is the same, to gain and exercise power in order to influence average Americans to be committed to the "American" virtues of equality, democracy, and internationalism.
I am therefore baffled by the venomous hatred Democrats pour on President Bush, just as I am by the neo-con Republicans who hated President Clinton. The ideological differences are miniscule, for both believe in the triumph of the imperial Leftist State.
Yes, neo-cons want the Supreme Court to further diminish state's rights by abolishing
all forms of affirmative action, whereas Progs would abolish state's rights by imposing
quotas on state-owned and private universities through the Civil Rights division of the DoE. Both visions are nationalistic, and both honestly think that the federal State can and should "do something" to make things fair and equal for all. They just disagree on how to fulfill Martin Luther King's vision, and both believe in federal Civil Rights Acts which invade freedom of association and private property.
Sure, neo-cons are open to "school choice" (if only for children in the very worst schools) -forcing people without children to pay for the education of other people's children, whereas progressives want to "preserve the Public School," and, well, force people without children to pay for the education of other people's children. And even then the neo-con record is to capitulate. Both parties believe in national testing, and that it is the government's responsibility to see that everyone gets a good education.
Yes, the neo-cons' vision of "National Greatness" may include drafting - enslaving - our young people for military service. And putting out of business those who relied on cheap foreign materials now made more expensive due to protective tariffs. But Progressives often applaud these very steps, and would add to them expensive burdens on businesses for greater health coverage for employees, workplace protections, and higher income taxes. Neo-cons are so bereft of principle or of compassion for the struggling individual, that it is impossible to say when the neo-con will pretend to be a free-marketer, and when he will actually endorse, and perhaps take credit for, the ideas of his Progressive Democrat "enemies."
Neo-cons believe in spending our way out of a recession through greater deficits and inflationary monetary policy by the Fed. Progressives disagree only that they believe the deficit spending should have been achieved by even more government spending instead of any (however miniscule) tax cuts.
Neo-cons interfere in the affairs of other countries when it serves their religious understanding of the destiny of the world; progressives would do the same for ideological purposes, which amounts to exactly the same thing. There is sharp disagreement whether this process should be "unilateral" or "multilateral," but that's just a difference in means, not of ends. Either way, the USA has an obligation to reject "isolationism" and to make the world safe for democracy.
Where it matters most, there is no practical difference between the Democrats and Republicans anymore. Both are firmly, ideologically, on the Left, hoping to impose a quasi-religious program hostile towards personal liberty. Yes, there may be differences on "cultural" issues, and the Republicans still get support from genuine right-wing types, but these would have been the same issues that would have divided the Left even in FDR's generation. The genuine Right has been silenced by both parties:
- skepticism towards democracy makes you un-American;
- skepticism over Civil Rights laws makes you racist;
- skepticism over government welfare and Social Security means you have no compassion;
- preference for non-intervention makes you an apologist for Hitler.
One party must either be transformed into one favoring liberty, or a new, powerful Right wing party will spring up and one of these two leftist parties will die.