January 04, 2004

Liberals and Leftists

Several times in this space Iíve said that liberals are not leftists. Each time I received at least one email from a reader asking me to explain myself. And each time I promised to answer online.

So here it is, the explanation Iíve put off for too long.

First of all, I want to get the traditional definition of liberal out of the way.

Broadly defined, a liberal is a person who believes in social, political, and economic freedom. In the United States, both major parties are liberal. Most members of both support democracy, civil and human rights, and a market economy.

Each party is more liberal than the other in certain ways. Today the Republicans are more likely to defend the rights of individuals to make stupid bigoted comments otherwise known as "hate speech," customers to smoke cigarettes in restaurants, citizens to carry hand guns, and proprietors to operate businesses with minimal regulation. Democrats are more likely to champion the right of gays to marry, individuals to grow marijuana, criminals not to be executed, consenting adults to do as they please in their homes, and suspected terrorists to have an attorney.

Not all these positions are popular. Some arenít popular at all. But that isnít the point. Both parties champion freedom in different ways, and they do it on principle. Both parties have different liberal priorities, but theyíre both generally liberal.

In conventional political terminology, liberal is often used as a stand-in for Democrat, just as conservative is often used as a stand-in for Republican. But liberal still has that traditional meaning so, as Steven Den Beste likes to point out, it is possible to be both a liberal and a conservative at the same time.

To be sure, there are liberal Republicans like Arnold Schwarznegger and there are conservative Democrats like Zell Miller. But for the most part, in the conventional sense, liberal means Democrat. And these are the liberals I have in mind when I say that liberals are not leftists.

The liberal agenda, or the platform of the Democratic Party, changes over time, as does the character of people we refer to as leftists. But the line which divides liberals from leftists remains mostly unchanged. And it is this:

A liberal (substitute with Democrat if you want to) believes in reform. And a leftist supports revolution. Liberals (Democrats) are the left-wing of the Establishment. Leftists are radicals who seek to overthrow the Establishment (either through violence or the ballot box) and replace it with something else.

Winston Churchill once outlined some differences between liberalism and socialism, socialism being leftist. Though his words date back to the early part of the 20th Century, theyíre as true today as they were then.

Liberalism is not Socialism, and never will be. There is a great gulf fixed. It is not a gulf of method, it is a gulf of principle. [Ö] Socialism seeks to pull down wealth. Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely by reconciling them with public right. Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference [Ö] Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man. Socialism attacks capital; Liberalism attacks monopoly.
Liberals and leftists are still, as ever, broadly separated as reformers versus revolutionaries and radicals. In todayís American political landscape, liberals and leftists differ in more specific and easier-to-recognize ways.

Liberals fly the American flag. Leftists burn it.

Liberals see America as the land of opportunity and freedom. Leftists see America as the bastion of Imperialism, Racism, and Oppression.

Liberals want higher taxes on the rich because itís fairer to the middle and working classes. Leftists want to soak the rich out of class hatred.

Liberals want universal access to health care while leaving the system as market-driven as possible. Leftists would destroy the health care industry altogether and replace it with a state-run monopoly.

Liberals want to ban clear-cutting. Leftists want to ban the logging industry.

Liberals support globalization and trade and see it as an opportunity for economic growth and also as an opportunity to boost labor and environmental standards in the Third World. Leftists hate trade because they think itís all about the West raping the rest.

Liberals blame the September 11 attacks on religious and political extremism in the Middle East. Leftists blame the September 11 attacks on America.

Liberals root for success in Iraq whether they supported the invasion or not. Leftists hope (either publicly or secretly) that America will lose and ďlearn a lesson.Ē

Liberals support the right of Israel to defend itself. Leftists support the Palestinian intifada.

Liberals support the troops. Leftists support the Iraqi Baathist resistance and put ďterrorismĒ in sneer quotes.

Liberals support mainstream Democratic Party candidates in primary elections. Leftists support fringe candidates or a third party (Communists, Socialists, or Greens) to the left of the Democrats.

Liberals who marched against the Iraq war are disturbed by the Stalinism of the rally organizers in International ANSWER. Leftists view ANSWER as comrades or are unmoved by its agenda.

Some of todayís prominent leftists include Dennis Kucinich, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Ted Rall, and Gore Vidal. The range of prominent leftist publications includes Z Magazine, Counterpunch, Adbusters, and The Nation.

Some of todayís prominent liberals include Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Al Franken, and Salman Rushdie. The range of prominent liberal publications includes The American Prospect, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, Salon, and The New Republic.

Whenever Iíve mentioned that liberals are not leftists, I did so in one of two contexts. I was either criticizing leftists at the exclusion of liberals, or I was defending liberals against attacks by conservatives who lumped them in with leftists.

Iím sure plenty of people will disagree with me about specifics. I donít think this ought to be the last word on the subject. But even a polemicist like Ann Coulter must know, on some level, that the views of Noam Chomsky and Tom Daschle don't differ in degree, but in kind. The interesting argument is about where, not whether, to draw the line.


UPDATE: Matthew Stinson has more on this theme.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing comments, too.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2004 07:45 PM
Comments

Well stated.
Get ready for the bombardment from the "those folks are really moderates" brigade to begin.

Posted by: Ricky at January 4, 2004 08:19 PM

While I agree that Howard Dean is at heart liberal, based on the definition Michael provides, it upsets me tremendously that he would pander in a rather shameless way to those described as leftists. Hopefully if elected, he'll do an about face on many of the stands he has taken and do the right thing.

Posted by: Daniel at January 4, 2004 08:24 PM

That's why the term "liberal" isn't very useful. I prefer 'Leftist' or 'Leftwing'; and to all the Liberals out there, if the shoe doesn't fit then no need to take offense. Besides, Liberals, as we now know them, are generally more annoying than harmful. Nothing more. While Leftists and Leftwingers on the other hand are both annoying and possibly dangerous, and should be opposed at every turn.

Posted by: David at January 4, 2004 08:29 PM

Daniel,

Regarding Dean, many people have already stated the very real possibility that Dean will have to do just what you say. I don't think Dean's "pandering" as you put it is any more shameless than any politician. I consider it on the same level as Bush pandering to Christian conservatives to shore up his based. Many have said that Dean will have to veer left to get the Democratic nomination and then veer back to the middle if he runs against Dubya. I personally think that is going to be a real feat if he can pull it off. I don't know how you do that without alienating the people on the left. However, they may vote for anyone as long as it's not Bush so although he may kick some of them to the curb, they will probably still vote Dean. Regardless, he isn't going to about face on the Iraq war.

Posted by: Graham at January 4, 2004 08:34 PM

First of all: was Churchill a member of the Tory (Conservative) Party when he said that, or was he a Liberal? He swapped parties twice, so it's not always clear. But if he was a Tory, his claims are political invective, not political theory analysis, so need to be examined with some caution.

Secondly: what do you call the people who have views between your liberals and leftists? Because there are clearly people with those views, and you appear to have deprived them of a label.

I'd like to relabel the people who have the views that you ascribe to "leftists", as communists or proto-communists. After all, socialist parties in Europe (who call themselves social-democrats in some countries) support the market economy and private enterprise, so they sound like the sort of people who would have beliefs between liberals and leftists.

That then frees up the label "leftist" for more moderate centrist to socialist viewpoints, which is useful as we didn't have a word for them previously.

I can't comment about individuals named, because I haven't read enough of their stuff - although I'd agree that Michael Moore, while a good director, is not someone I'd necessarily vote for. But I think that, particularly in the US, there's room for a good solid definition of people whose beliefs fall between your liberals and your leftists.

Posted by: Sam Kington at January 4, 2004 08:34 PM

But I think that, particularly in the US, there's room for a good solid definition of people whose beliefs fall between your liberals and your leftists.

I agree, and would put Ralph Nader in that category. And some people can have one foot in one camp and another foot in the other.

One thing I've been trying to do with this blog is convince liberals (those who need convincing) to stop aligning themselves with leftists for tactical reasons. I think it hurts them more than it helps them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2004 09:02 PM

Graham-

While most politicians have some unsavory group they have to pander to, in times like these I find it shameless when any politician panders to the Bush=Hitler crowd (aka Moveon.org). As much as I loathe the Robertson/Fallwell crowd, the Bush=Hitler types really piss me off. Although I understood the point he was trying to make, I consider it shameless pandering when Dean couldn't bring himself to unequivocally call those who believe Bush had prior warning of 9/11 complete idiots who have no proper place in the political discourse. (Let me know if Bush responded at all to the Fallwell comment that gays and company were responsible for 9/11). Admittedly it's just a gut reaction... I guess it's the conservative/liberal side of me, as Michael would put it.

While no one could possibly know how Dean will act should he be elected, on the "about-face" issue, I would point out that Bush's Iraq policy is unrecognizable when compared with his campaign platform. In this case Dean has it even easier as he can claim, a la Nixon, that it was a war started by the past administration and he has to clean up the mess yet not "cut and run."

Posted by: Daniel at January 4, 2004 09:05 PM

Michael, that wasn't my point. My point is you're taking a perfectly good distinction - liberals vs leftists - and stretching it so nobody in the US would ever be a leftist.

But there are people in the US who call themselves leftist or left-wing, and aren't prepared to destroy the state and smash corporate whores.

If you're going to go on about more left-wing factions, then use social-democrat, socialist, communist, anti-mondialist or whatever the existing labels are that already exist. Please don't re-use a perfectly good label in a different context, then complain that no Democrats are sane.

Posted by: Sam Kington at January 4, 2004 09:13 PM

Sam: My point is you're taking a perfectly good distinction - liberals vs leftists - and stretching it so nobody in the US would ever be a leftist.

I didn't do that. I cited a list of American liberals, and a list of American leftists.

Please don't re-use a perfectly good label in a different context, then complain that no Democrats are sane.

I have never complained that no Democrats are sane, and I plan to vote for a Democratic Congress next year.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2004 10:21 PM

Right, it's not Democrats who are insane, it's liberals who didn't support the war.

I wouldn't use the health care thing as a dividing line, though -- there is a lot of opinion that goes all over the place on that one. My mom, who's a moderate RN, is pretty adamant that the only thing that can fix medicine is for the government to first take it over and then publicly flog anyone who was even vaguely associated with an insurance company.

What if I neither support Israel nor the intifada, because neither of them are particularly moral, but I want the conflict to end, because people killing one another is always bad?

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 4, 2004 10:34 PM

What if I neither support Israel nor the intifada, because neither of them are particularly moral, but I want the conflict to end, because people killing one another is always bad?

I guess you're somewhere in between then.

I don't expect people to fit neatly into one of the two categories. Binary labels break down pretty easily, I know. Even my list of specific individuals fails on some of the points. ("Liberal" and "conservative" don't always work so well either.) They're just rough examples meant to be used as a guide.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2004 10:40 PM

Michael,

Doesn't your dichotomy place leftists outside of the Democratic Party? You say that leftists support "fringe" parties but I would suggest that by your definition a fair number of Kucinich, Sharpton and perhaps even Dean supporters would find themselves on the outside. Isn't there a Democrat "progressive" caucus in Congress that can only be described in leftist terms?

I agree with your definitions but I also believe that there are a fair amount (perhaps as many as 15% of Democrats) that would cheerfully identify themselves as "progressives" - with a wink to let you know they really meant socialists. If they are read out of the party (or become so uncomfortable that they leave) then the party is no longer viable until it replaces them. Splintering, regrouping (and renaming) parties has occured before but I don't really think you are suggesting that outcome. Are you?

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 4, 2004 11:14 PM

Michael,

Well said, a conventional Conservative Republican is in terms of the world extremely liberal. Definitions can be confusing. A neo-liberal is a free market fiscal conservative, and a neo-conservative is a foreign policy liberal with a belief in international neo-liberalism. (A Double Liberal!!!) yet this is considered conservative in today’s world? What happened? The neo-liberal policies of Clinton were never accepted by mainstream Democrats they were implemented by a Republican congress. None of these policies (NAFTA, Welfare Reform, would never have passed a Democratic Congress) They viewed Clinton and his policies as Republican-lite and were biding time. Republicans love these policies. Michael this is the problem for Democrats right now. Independents for the most part love these things. The typical independent is a socially tolerant neo-liberal, and somewhat hawkish. Now I never voted for Reagan but I understand the phenomenon, at the time I was somewhat befuddled, today I would vote for him. I have followed your heed and endeavored to learn from history. All lot of these people loved Reagan but will never suffer a Pat Buchanan any more than a Ted Kennedy. Well wasn’t Reagan a Radical conservative? I certainly thought so! The fact is that Reagan was a “liberal mugged by reality” neo-conservative with neo-liberal fiscal policies. He to some degree merged Wilson with Milton (Friedman) and branded it into the culture, Bush is heavier on Wilson and lighter on Milton (actually my preference), Clinton was lighter on both. We are still living with that to some degree, we are arguing on the margins. The socially tolerant fiscally conservative independent will not cede neo-liberalism strictly for the cause of being socially tolerant. Other factors are Security and Foreign policy. In retrospect the end of the Cold War more than anything opened the door for the Democrats. The security /foreign policy advantage for the Republicans was lost. Now the cold reality, the outlook for democrats is actually more dangerous and worse than ever. They had the opportunity to show people especially the independents that had supported Reagan and Bush I, and let us not delude ourselves Perot delivered the election in 1992 to the Democrats. By 1996 however Clinton legitimately inspired many independents to think that maybe they had a home after all. The Democrats had a chance to seal this. They were convinced by Clinton but never the Democratic Party. The danger now is that a true further shift will cause a 30 - 40 year congressional run by Republicans with only the hawkish Democrats being elected as President. The Democrats were never effective as a Party in convincing independents conviction on security issues. We are in a new Cold War, actually a Hot War. Because of Democratic ineptness, it is the Republican’s to lose. Security/Foreign policy is again a deciding issue, the linchpin issue.

Posted by: Samuel at January 4, 2004 11:45 PM

Because of Democratic ineptness, it is the Republican’s to lose. Security/Foreign policy is again a deciding issue, the linchpin issue.

Yes. And the Democrats respond perversely. Instead of building up their own credibility, they ineffectively attack Bush's. It just doesn't work. Hopefully they'll learn something about that this November.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 4, 2004 11:56 PM

Michael,

I certainly hope so, I have my doubts.

Posted by: Samuel at January 5, 2004 12:04 AM

A brave writer is one who, faced with making a necessary distinction between hopelessly entangled categories, shrugs and makes a clean cut anyway, however flawed. Good job Michael, I think your attempt is more clarifying than obfuscating.

The distinction between liberals and leftists is one I've tried to make on other blogs, even using the same Churchill quote. Even (especially) as I am a Republican, I view the quest to rehabilitate term "liberal" is noble and essential, as it signifies our common political heritage. In the partisan maelstrom of this election year it will be important to keep this straight.

So having said that, where would you put Norman Geras? Christopher Hitchens?

Posted by: lewy14 at January 5, 2004 01:24 AM

And when considering traditional definitions of conservative and liberal, one can be conservative about a progressive policy. I support same sex marriage (even though I still hold fairly rectionary views about sex in general), I just believe in incuding homsoexuals in the right to enjoy a monogamous relationship. I also realize that for same sex marriage to be a relaity, we have to apply it conservatively, as opposed to implementing your full goal five minutes ago.

I'd love to see the difference between consevative and right-wing explained, thoug I have a basic idea on it. Another funny thing is that many people in America regardless of actual beliefs would classify themsleves as moderates, because there seems something appealing about being a moderate or an independent, even if soemone clearly fist into a crtain category the label of moderate, centrist, or independent has a certain appeal to it.

Posted by: Green Baron at January 5, 2004 02:06 AM

I wish I had used the Churchill quote: "Socialism seeks to pull down wealth. Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty" when I wrote about Bush hate, Jew hate, Success hate (tomgrey.motime.com).

The Angry Left is most angry at Bush for two reasons, his tax cuts (the Left wants to punish, er, tax/pull down the rich) and his faith.

Michael, you left out religion, an extremely important dividing point:
Liberals want freedom from gov't religion, and from gov't imposed atheism; they are comfortable with believers professing different beliefs (though against hate-sermons). Leftists want to impose an secular humanist non-religious atheism and oppose almost all public expressions of belief, faith, or religious based motivations.

Leftists oppose school vouchers because some gov't tax money would go to religious schools. Liberals are willing to try school vouchers because they seem to work better for poor people. I think you avoid this because you've a Leftist foot here.

But for this election, as Roger L. Simon says "It's the WAR, stupid" -- the Iraq war will be a big divide, making people question their own places, and reasons.

And hopefully the real campaign will discuss the costs, morally and financially, of both choices: international promotion of democracy (Bush), and continued realpolitik power games, supporting allies even if dictators (US Cold War plus).

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 5, 2004 02:07 AM

Leftists beleive Bush is a theocratic fascist and compare him to Hitler. Liberals disagree with some of his policies.

Posted by: Reid at January 5, 2004 03:53 AM

I think you've generally hit the nail on the head in this article. As a somewhat liberal republican, I think you should consider that all the "hate speech" doesn't originate with the republicans. folks like michael moore, and others are as guilty, or more guilty, of lowering the debate to the gutter.

Posted by: TIMMAC at January 5, 2004 05:38 AM

I agree with Kimmett. Health care. Insurance is the biggest problem. But it is not from the side of the Patients. But the Doctors. They have to pay huge fees in Malpractice Insurance.

Mainly brought about by huge law suits. Yes, people who get screwed because their doctor was incompetent should get restitution but there should probably be some kind of limit.

My Health care solution may not be the best, but here is my idea. The government pays for good students ( and I mean a b average at worst) to go to medical school and become Doctors. Now they have to give 10 years or so of service to the Government to provide Health care. After that 10 years they could start their own practice or do whatever they wish to do.

Anyway, Kimmett and I agree on the Health Care issue. But probably just different sides of the insurance issue.

Posted by: James Stephenson at January 5, 2004 05:59 AM

Good stuff, MT!

Tiny quibble: "Liberals believe in reform" is a bit too vague; it's a description of progressives. To describe liberals, and given that, as you say, you can be liberal and conservative at the same time, you'd have to emend the sentence to "liberals believe in reform of time-honored ways when and only when there is good evidence that those ways are impediments to good lives." If they just simply like reform, then they're progressives and probably leftists, but not liberals, given that liberals can be conservative.

Now, you don't take each item on the list of liberal beliefs as necessary, do you? A liberal can be staunchly opposed to healthcare reform, for example - perhaps, say, one who's lived in Canada for a spell.

Posted by: Jim at January 5, 2004 06:10 AM

Vouchers have not demonstrated themselves to work better for poor people, and Liberals oppose them because they are merely a back-door way to defund the public education system.

You raise an interesting point, James. I wonder, exactly how much was spent on all Malpractice case payouts last year, and how does that compare to promotional spending by the large drug companies? At what ratio (Malpractice judgements+settlements were x times as large as promotional spending) would you say that the problem had been solved? I propose that when malpractice judgements and settlements are just twice as large as promotional spending by drug companies, the problem should be declared minor and set aside, but I'm willing to compromise. What do you think the right ratio would be?

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 5, 2004 06:18 AM

The Angry Left is most angry at Bush for two reasons, his tax cuts (the Left wants to punish, er, tax/pull down the rich) and his faith.

Interesting - though I might add two other prime factors that I mentioned in my comments to Michael's previous post: The fact that 1) they still believe he, his family, the Supreme Court and prominent Republicans in power "stole" the 2000 election deliberately and illegally, and 2) He is simply the first Republican president after Clinton, and 8 years of pent-up anger and frustration at Republican Clinton-bashing were ready to be unleashed at whoever was elected. Bush simply was the one.

Posted by: Barry at January 5, 2004 06:53 AM

Interesting. Thank you for finally doing this. Being a real outsider to the Democratic party, it is often very difficult to understand how decent people can adopt the same viewpoints as leftists, but do so for drastically different reasons.

My only objection to traditional "liberal" mentality is this:

"Liberals want higher taxes on the rich because it’s fairer to the middle and working classes. Leftists want to soak the rich out of class hatred."

Neither one of these positions have anything to do with freedom. The leftist position is a pretty fair assessment, but I think the "liberal" view is pretty non-liberal as well.

Government is not, nor was it ever intended, to be the slicer of the economic pie. Taxes are not social policy, they are a means to the end of a functioning government. The minute that the entire spectrum of the left, including the liberals, chose to view taxes as another instrument of social adjustment they entered a slippery slope of class envy and variable justification that has not ended and will never end until we are all perfectly "equally" poor.

Posted by: Roark at January 5, 2004 07:01 AM

Veil of Ignorance.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 5, 2004 07:07 AM

Here's one thing we can ALL agree on: Our wordy engineer friend of Dutch extraction spells him name STEVEN Den Beste, not Stephen. And I've seen him make more than a few corrections about it to others, too - I can see how it would bug someone to constantly have their name misspelled! So correct that, eh?

Great post, too. Sorry to nitpick.

Posted by: Jeff B. at January 5, 2004 07:15 AM

I think many liberals can blame themselves for this confusion. When you adopt the language of Leftism, you can't help but confuse people.

Good essay (and I am a libertarian, which I guess is just a type of liberal).

Posted by: Ryan at January 5, 2004 07:30 AM

Also, many CONSERVATVIVES in the United States are really liberals by your definition. If they advocate the Federalist Papers over Throne and Alter, that would make them a type of liberal.

The so-called neocons are ironically closer to left-liberals than libertarians or Edmond Burke/National Review-type conservatives - which makes it weird that left-liberals and leftists hate them so much.

Posted by: Ryan at January 5, 2004 07:35 AM

Well, the problem is that you don't use the terms like many if not most people in the country and the news media. When you make a generalization about "leftists" or especially "the left" you're talking about, say, 5% of the population (that's actually a little high), but there's an excellent, excellent chance of it getting applied to 40%.

Even the people you list as "leftist" do not deserve all of the descriptions you give them. Dennis Kucinich is an idiot, but I don't know that he blames September 11 on America, roots for the Ba'athist in Iraq, supports Stalinists, burns the flag. etc. Those descriptions apply to only a minority of the staff at the Nation--God knows why they keep them, but it's only a minority.

Posted by: Katherine at January 5, 2004 07:52 AM

So having said that, where would you put Norman Geras? Christopher Hitchens?

They are the old left, not the new left (or is it new new left?). Hitchens, though, describes himself as independent now.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 08:28 AM

The so-called neocons are ironically closer to left-liberals than libertarians or Edmond Burke/National Review-type conservatives - which makes it weird that left-liberals and leftists hate them so much.

This is true, and I've pointed it out many many times. It's because neoconservatism has a left-wing pedigree.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 08:36 AM

Hello, Michael,

I can't help but notice that, in your otherwise excellent piece, you couldn't help taking a cheap shot at Republicans (as being prone to ' make stupid bigoted comments otherwise known as “hate speech.” ') without a corresponding slam at Democrats. Any of the other characteristics is defensible on its own merits, and open to intelligent debate, pro and con; that one only on the grounds of the First Amendment, that people have a right to say stupid things. Perhaps it should have been left out altogether, or balanced with an equally cheap shot, like, "Democrats are prone to take bigoted, paternalistic attitudes towards minorities..." Mere name-calling, and not belonging in a well-reasoned post...

Best,

Posted by: Brian Swisher at January 5, 2004 08:49 AM

"Bush simply was the one."

Agreed with your major points, Barry, but I would add 3): that smirk of his. I know otherwise-sane people who almost froth when they see that smirk... and then go out and politically fight angry, which was precisely why Bush unloaded the smirk in the first place. The man is simply very good at both fighting political campaigns against angry opponents - and in both getting and keeping those opponents usefully angry.

The Democrats don't need somebody ready to fight back so much as they need somebody able to know when to fight back.

Posted by: Moe Lane at January 5, 2004 08:58 AM

FYI, I created a thread based on this piece over at landv.net. I think it's a topic that's very important as liberal and left become used interchangeably, as well as the fact that traditional notions of "liberal" (and by this I mean traditional Democratic notions) are in a state of flux right now. Same with conservative notions.

Posted by: alanH at January 5, 2004 09:01 AM

I can't help but notice that, in your otherwise excellent piece, you couldn't help taking a cheap shot at Republicans (as being prone to ' make stupid bigoted comments otherwise known as “hate speech.” ') without a corresponding slam at Democrats.

I knew somebody was going to misunderstand me. So just as you posted this I made a grammar change that should clear up the confusion.

I meant (and said a bit unclearly) that Republicans defend the right of hate speech, not that they use hate speech.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 09:02 AM

And what about religion in public? Don't you think there's a difference between your liberal and your leftist in their opinions about religion?

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 5, 2004 09:12 AM

Michael – thanks for taking the time to write this all down, and putting it in one easy-to-link-to place. Extreme leftists like to hide behind the word ‘liberal’ – or they call themselves progressives, anti-war or anarchists to hide their stasist, authoritarian leanings. Lenin used that trick too. What a coincidence.

There are a lot of shades of gray. Most people are somewhere in the middle of the curve, but it is distressing to watch the Democrats treat the loony edges of the left with such respect.

Posted by: mary at January 5, 2004 09:16 AM

Hello, Michael,

Cool. I can hang with that...

Posted by: Brian Swisher at January 5, 2004 09:39 AM

I have a different quarrel with your point on hate speech: hate crimes legislation does not criminalize speech. Rather, it adds additional penalties for things that are already crimes in their own right. I think there's a better double jeopardy argument against it than first amendment argument.

Posted by: Katherine at January 5, 2004 09:49 AM

Since when did you start using "Democrat Party(sic)," Totten? Are you copying talking points from the RNC? Did the check come in OK this year already?

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 5, 2004 09:57 AM

Bravo, Michael.

Posted by: Oberon at January 5, 2004 10:11 AM

Thanks, Michael. I think you make some useful distinctions, but I'm not as ready as you are to concede the label "leftist" (or even "socialist") to the likes of Chomsky and Vidal. I'd prefer to consider myself part of the liberal and democratic (note the small "d") left, while they belong to some other variation-- hard left, dogmatic left, call it what you will.

I'd also quibble with a few of your distinctions:

Liberals fly the American flag. Leftists burn it.

Isn't it fairer to say, "Liberals fly the American flag. Leftists don't."?

Liberals want universal access to health care while leaving the system as market-driven as possible. Leftists would destroy the health care industry altogether and replace it with a state-run monopoly.

I support a Canadian-style single-payer system. I'm not sure which of your categories that belongs in. Besides, a case can be made that "competition" in the health care industry drives costs up, not down.

Liberals want to ban clear-cutting. Leftists want to ban the logging industry.

I'm unaware of any leftists who would want to "ban the logging industry" entirely.

Posted by: Gene at January 5, 2004 10:12 AM

Hipocrite: Since when did you start using "Democrat Party(sic)," Totten? Are you copying talking points from the RNC? Did the check come in OK this year already?

You have me confused with someone else. I don't know who did, but I didn't write that.

Tom: And what about religion in public? Don't you think there's a difference between your liberal and your leftist in their opinions about religion?

Maybe, but I think this question, more than the others, is harder to parse. Still, you could probably say that leftists are more hostile to religion than liberals and probably be right more often than not. I would also add that conservatives often think liberals are more hostile to religion than they actually are.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 10:21 AM

Gene: I'd prefer to consider myself part of the liberal and democratic (note the small "d") left, while they belong to some other variation-- hard left, dogmatic left, call it what you will.

I knew that if you or Norman Geras read this you would quibble, and I understand exactly what you mean.

Splitting the left up into two camps is as dicey as splitting the entire electorate into "left" and "right" camps. It just doesn't work for everybody. People are more complicated than that. I don't fit into anyone's single-word category either.

Still, I think your description of yourself as a democratic or liberal leftist works pretty well.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 10:29 AM

The liberal agenda, or the platform of the Democrat Party, changes over time, as does the character of people we refer to as leftists. But the line which divides liberals from leftists remains mostly unchanged. And it is this.

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 5, 2004 10:40 AM

Hipocrite,

Would it help if I put a colon (:) at the end of the word "this"? That's how you should read it. I am going to edit it now, because you apparantly misunderstand. (Or perhaps I misunderstand you.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 10:46 AM

His problem is "Democrat party" instead of "Democrats" or "Democratic party". (I think).

Posted by: Katherine at January 5, 2004 10:54 AM

Katherine: His problem is "Democrat party" instead of "Democrats" or "Democratic party". (I think).

Gotcha. Edited. (Sorry for the typo.)

This piece is, in its way, a defense of the Democratic Party. It is not necessary for Democrats to be defensive about what I've written.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 10:59 AM

When you make a generalization about "leftists" or especially "the left" you're talking about, say, 5% of the population (that's actually a little high), but there's an excellent, excellent chance of it getting applied to 40%.

Actually, I don't think the numbers are that low. I've never seen any polling data on the numbers of Leftist idiotarians, but I sure as hell have met PLENTY of them "in real life." It may simply be that I travel in a demographic that is rife with them (poets, folk singers, academics, theatre people -- yes, I am an artsy fartsy liberal hawk, married to a teacher at a Quaker school). As near as I can tell, they are EVERYWHERE. Especially bars. :)

Now, I will grant you that not all of them hold every left-wing idiotarian point of view at all times, but I have seldom been in a social situation in the past year and a half where someone did not say something in keeping with Michael's description of the Left, and where at least half the people in the room said some variant of "hear, hear!"

Now, in this context, if I were to say, "Actually, I think Ted Rall is an idiot," or, you know, some other sensible thing, then it's only a matter of time before someone acuses me of having converted to conservativism.

Then I find it necessary to point out the fact that I am much of a liberal as ever, but that the Left has abandoned liberalism, and therefore many intelligent liberals have broken ties with the Left.

Now if the mainstream media has not yet come to understand this phenomenon, and continues to conflate liberalism with Leftism, that's a shame, but the problem will not be helped by refusing to make the distinction.

Posted by: Browning at January 5, 2004 11:07 AM
Michael J Totten wrote:
Liberals support mainstream Democratic Party candidates in primary elections. Leftists support fringe candidates or a third party (Communists, Socialists, or Greens) to the left of the Democrats.

and

Some of today’s prominent leftists include Dennis Kucinich, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Ted Rall, and Gore Vidal. The range of prominent leftist publications includes Z Magazine, Counterpunch, Adbusters, and The Nation.

Some of today’s prominent liberals include Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Al Franken, and Salman Rushdie. The range of prominent liberal publications includes The American Prospect, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, Salon, and The New Republic.

Question: since Ted Ralls endorsed Howard Dean and Howard Dean’s campaign touted the endorsement on their website, does this mean that Howard Dean should now be considered a “fringe candidate” or should we move him into the leftist category?

Also since you labeled Michael Moore as a “prominent leftist” and he endorsed Wesley Clark, it would follow that the latter is also either a leftist or “fringe candidate.”

More to the point since Al Gore was noticeably not on either list and he has been a prominent feature of the leftist MoveOn,org as well as a former Democratic presidential nominee, it seems then the “distinction” (which is really only a matter of degree and your own strawman as to motives) between the two is blurred even further.

Posted by: Thorley Winston at January 5, 2004 11:08 AM

Michael, you are thought provoking (as usual) where others are merely provoking.

Discussing politics in these terms is wonderful and entertaining but I can’t help but think it will be no more effective now than is has been since the days of the “Know-Nothings, the “Free-Soilers” and the “Mugwumps.” This is sports team style analysis writ large. Rather, in terms of useful policy toward the steady maintenance of our free society, I think the important distinction lies between Statist and anti-Statist, and between those aware—and unaware—of consequences, both the known and the unintended.

The “sports team” form of analysis assumes that social and economic policy can be steered, to greater or lesser degree, through the constant enactment of law, to arrive at only intended results as defined by individuals each within his or her team-allegiance and team-platform. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way.

For example, we legislate RICO laws solely to fight drugs and organized crime; or the forced reporting of >$10K deposits. Well, the abuses of these laws are mounting in spread and scope, with no evidence of reductions in either the supply or the demand for drugs. Originally, I believe the big "team" for this came from the Right.

Kimmit, bless his little statist heart, would—apparently—be in favor of horsewhipping certain business people who, over time, have merely reacted in business-like fashion to the unintended effects of laws put in place to achieve entirely different ends. Well. Let him have his horsewhipping law. How long though, before—through some other well intentioned attempt at “proper” outcome—he feels the horsewhip on his own back? The salient point here is: under sports-team analysis, the problems with market blocks and distortions which have come with the over-regulation of healthcare are never questioned. The only alternative proffered is more law.

Michael, you wrote: Liberals want higher taxes on the rich because it’s fairer to the middle and working classes. Leftists want to soak the rich out of class hatred. See the implicit assumption? “Sports-team” analysis will never open for examination the morality of what is “fair” in this context, and why it should be. Or, whether this is indeed the wisest approach to tax policy with respect to raising the most revenue with the least economic harm. It may be convenient (for those in favor of one tax policy or another) to ignore these questions, but it certainly isn’t right.

For example, “fair” in this context must be put on some moral basis, because the only alternative is to say; “we’re taking this because we need it, and might-makes-right, and we can.” A strong-arm robber can say the same. The problem, though, with the moral argument is that you’re asking morality to stop at the US border. If you are making anything above a measly (in the US) $25K a year then you are far better off than more than 3/4 of the world population. Morally then, any poor Compesino in Guadalajara has a “fair” claim on your “excessively” higher income. It’s either that or justify a moral claim which stops at the border. Am I talking nonsense? Fine, if you (may) say so, but I will have to be shown the moral case. (Note: variations on “from each, according to his ability, to each…etc. are not acceptable).

The history of man has been a long struggle to figure a way to contain the beast of tyranny. That means constraining the State. Letting it loose in “certain” areas, no matter what or how pure the motives, is a dangerous game to be approached with the highest and most committed analysis. Sports it ain't! A little tyranny is indeed a slippery slope and in the end, creeping or galloping Statism arrives at the same place, whether you call it Left, Liberal, Conservative, or Reactionary.

Posted by: Stephen at January 5, 2004 11:31 AM

Thorley: Question: since Ted Ralls endorsed Howard Dean and Howard Dean’s campaign touted the endorsement on their website, does this mean that Howard Dean should now be considered a “fringe candidate” or should we move him into the leftist category?

No, but Dean is wooing leftists for votes, which is the reason he is alienating moderates and the reason so many in the Democratic establishment are saying he is unelectable. And it's not Wesley Clark's fault that Michael Moore endorses him. Michael Moore's views are much more in line with Dennis Kucinich and others farther left.

David Duke may have (or may not have, I really don't know) endorsed George W. Bush over John McCain, but that sort of thing doesn't make George Bush a Klansman.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 11:51 AM

Michael J Totten> I imagine David Duke endorsed Pat Buchanan and he talked about joning the Reform Party with him. He is now in jail for tax evasion so he won't be voting much these days :)

I also think we can safely assume Duke didn't endorse Alan Keyes ;)

Posted by: Green Baron at January 5, 2004 12:29 PM

Guess who wrote this:

…A war against Iraq threatens regime change not only in Iraq, but across the Mideast. It is likely the new regimes will be violently against European-American interests, and their targets will certainly include the large corporate oil companies. The millions of Americans who live and work overseas and the billions of dollars of American investments would be gravely threatened. The war on Iraq will certainly unleash a torrent of hatred and terrorism against Americans around the world. It will create exactly what bin Laden and other anti-American fanatics desire..

As badly as this war will hurt our economy (far from the stated purpose of protecting America) this war will make us far less secure. Our involvement in Mideastern conflicts and America's support for the criminal actions of Israel have caused millions of people around the world to hate America. Many of them are even willing to sacrifice their very lives to get at us. America's support for Israel's agenda directly led to the 911 attack upon America. America's Israeli-controlled foreign policy led to the carnage of thousands of lives lost on September 11. It has caused America to live under a constant threat of terrorism and threatens our most precious Constitutional freedoms.

No, I didn’t get this from Common Dreams or the Nation. It was written by David Duke. Like most white supremacists, Duke doesn’t support the war, Bush, or Israel. He does support the Palestinian cause.

More info about Duke can be found at the website for his ‘white civil rights group’ - EURO

Posted by: mary at January 5, 2004 12:52 PM

Browning writes:

Actually, I don't think the numbers are that low. I've never seen any polling data on the numbers of Leftist idiotarians, but I sure as hell have met PLENTY of them "in real life." It may simply be that I travel in a demographic that is rife with them (poets, folk singers, academics, theatre people -- yes, I am an artsy fartsy liberal hawk, married to a teacher at a Quaker school). As near as I can tell, they are EVERYWHERE. Especially bars. :)

Poets, folk singers, academics, and theatre people? I say yep, it's simply that you travel in a demographic rife with Leftists. :)

Posted by: Oberon at January 5, 2004 01:12 PM

Mary I could play the david duke game too, by going to the same site finding some quote of his on the need for welfare reform, to impugn the motives of Republicans (and Democrats) who offer similar support.

One needs to look at the motives and the context within which a particular view is held. Duke's anti-Israel stance is contextualized by his blatant and unconcealed antisemitism. Chomsky's anti-Israel stance is contextualized by his anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism. The two are apples and oranges. Chomsky may be wrong (I think he is -- Israel is not your typical colonial power) but his views and David Duke's views have nothing in common.

Posted by: markus rose at January 5, 2004 01:24 PM

Pretty good post; some quibbles:

1. Health Care, as noted above

2. TNR; not clearly a liberal publication anymore; it's kind of all over the middle from center-left to center-right; neoliberal and/or neoconservative

3. The Nation isn't totally leftist, nor is Mother Jones totally liberal--I think they overlap a lot of the time.

Posted by: praktike at January 5, 2004 02:04 PM

Michael,
This is an interesting topic. I think a subsequent post defining the various iterations of conservatism is in order as well. You've written about the liberal (and leftist) underpinnings of neoconservatism in the past. Now, however, would be a good time to tie it all together; it's important to note the common ground shared by leftists and paleoconservatives--alluded to by Mary's post regarding David Duke--as well as ties between neocons and liberals. Clearly, the political spectrum is more a horse-shoe than linear plane, with both extremes sounding crazy in similar ways. "Independents" have a good handle one this, but moderate members of both parties seem to forget it.

Posted by: Dove in D.C. at January 5, 2004 02:07 PM

Regarding the spelling of "health care," I do not think it should be capitalized (what is that about?). It should, however, be one word: healthcare. Same for "Web site," by the way.

Posted by: Dove in D.C. at January 5, 2004 02:14 PM

Marcus - I compared Duke's writings with something you'd find in the Nation or Common Dreams, but I didn't mention Chomsky's anti-Israel bias. Why did you bring that up?

I do know that Chomsky has said that he is motivated by anti-colonialism, and that he is praised by Nazis and the Saudi press, but the truth behind his motives are known only to Chomsky. He's such a slippery character, I can't begin to guess.

If you want to look for similarities between Duke and Chomsky, there are quite a few. Both have been praised by fascists, both have been published and praised in the Saudi English newspaper Arab News, both have an obessessive hatred of Israel.

The fact that most of the left & white supremacists both hate Bush, Israel and neocons doesn't prove that the left is the same as the Duke types. But it does prove that the extreme right wing has more things in common with the extreme left than it does with moderates of either sort.

It would be hard to find examples of Chomsky or Duke supporting moderate causes. It's very unlikely that either one would support welfare reform. If you do happen to find an example of Duke or Chomsky supporting it, let me know. I'd llike to see that.

Posted by: mary at January 5, 2004 02:22 PM

This is an interesting discussion. I agree with most of Michael's points, except I'd quibble with Mother Jones being considered a liberal magazine. Mother Jones was originally founded by a hard left Marxist with assistance from Chomsky; in fact its original name had the word socialist in it (the exact title escapes me) before it changed its title. Little has changed. The magazine is still the epitomy of the Marxist worldview masquerading as Gramscian 'progressive' criticism.

Posted by: Catalonia at January 5, 2004 04:30 PM

I have to take issue with a few things being discussed here. Politically speaking, "liberal" refers to a desire for reform. In the USSR, people pushing to overthrow the communist government were Liberals. The Communist leaders were Conservatives. It is simply a matter of what those words mean.

The terms "left" and "right" come from the French National Assembly in which the revolutionaries sat on the left side of the hall and the Royales sat on the right.

Here is my understanding of the spectrum. Radical, leftist, centrist, rightist, reactionary. The crazies start and drift out from each extreme. Most put this across a straight line but I think it is actually circular withRadicals and Reactionaries blending together. That explains why we have anti-semitism rampant in both ends.

I think it important to recognize and condemn the extremes of both sides. And to respect the honorable disagreement that leftists and rightists have over various issues.

JFK was considered liberal but he was a hawk. There is nothing that says if you believe in Liberal ideals, that you also believe in a weak military. Or you blame the US first. Or you believe Bush took us to war to make some quick cash. Or that Israel arranged 9-11. Or that Michael Moore has a drop of integrity. You just have to be nuts.

Sorry Michael, I just realized I've joined two discussions on your site in which I'm contradicting your thesis. Not intentional.

bb

Posted by: bbridges at January 5, 2004 04:55 PM

Catalonia,

Interesting trivia: Michael Moore was briefly the editor of Mother Jones and was very quickly fired for what the publisher thought was inappropriate content.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 04:55 PM

Michael,

Good post. Next can you tell me me why "progressive" is a term that has become monopolized by the left?

Classic liberals would like to see many changes for the better too.

Just thought I'd ask.

Posted by: spc67 at January 5, 2004 05:06 PM

Next can you tell me me why "progressive" is a term that has become monopolized by the left?

Some on the left adopted "progressive" as a label because they don't like liberals. (Liberals are too conservative and conventional according to progressives.) How they came to monopolize the word, I don't know.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 5, 2004 05:24 PM

It's a reference to the Progressive movement, which mitigated the worst abuses of the gilded era and laid the groundwork for modern environmentalism and good-government practices.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 5, 2004 05:46 PM

How would your binary work on the noticeably absent issue of massive illegal immigration, Michael? Liberals hide their heads in the sand about it out of neurotic guilt and fear of being called racist. Leftists actively support it as a way to undermine the current social order.

Posted by: Stephen at January 5, 2004 06:02 PM

Michael, as a life long and soon to be ex-Democrat let me make a couple of observations. I agree with your basic differentiation of liberal/leftist. But I disagree that most Democrats are liberals under this definition. The vast majority of the Democratic party are not "reformers" at all but simply obstructionist defenders of the status quo. Recall how the majority of the party fought tooth and nail against the welfare reform bill passed over their objections by the Republicans and signed by President Clinton. Today we see the Democrats demagogue ANY effort to reform ages based entitlements or social security while failing to offer any alternative of their own. I could go on and on but in a strange modern way today's Democrats remind me of the Republicans of the thirties who opposed any effort by Roosevelt to reform the capitalist system in order to save it. I think today's Democrats can be largely divided between leftists (Ted Kennedy borders on leftist), European style statists (most of the party which is why they oppose a strong defense policy and entitlement reform) and of course opportunists. The Republican party has a significant contingent of hard core ideological right wingers and social conservatives but most members of the party in my opinion genuinely favor liberal reform which is to say they believe that their program will truly benefit the country as a whole. I believe President Bush believes his tax cuts will benefit everybody not just the rich. I am not saying he is right, just that his motives are pure. I would call those on the left who think the motives of their opponents are evil, leftists. We must all remember that FDR had no ideology except the willingness to experiment and use whatever worked. He was admired by most modern conservatives, including in particular ROnald Reagan. Sometime in the sixties/seventies, the Democratic party turned hard left. The Republicans took on the southern rascists but that has obviously died out over the last twenty years. Today's Republican party appears more classically liberal and thanks to GW Bush and Sept. 11, more Wilsonian as well.

Posted by: Doug at January 5, 2004 06:54 PM

A couple of additional thoughts. First, when describing the Democratic party we must take notice of the cleave that occurred in the party in 1968. It is not useful to speak of Harry Truman or JFK as "liberals" in any modern sense. I doubt you could find a single difference in the policies and positions of JFK and George W. Bush. ANd JFK was NOT regarded as a true liberal by the liberals who preferred Adlai Stevenson. Second, a point I meant to make in my previous post is that Michael has left out an important "type" which is now ascendant in the Dem. party. I call it "Neo-Marxian". It is more a perspective than a hard set of positions. This perspective narrowed to its essence holds that life is a struggle for a limited pie between those who have and those who do not. This perspective informs domestic policy and explains why, so many Democrats continue to try to pit the "have nots" against the "wealthy" and most particularly trying to convince the working and middle classes that they are the "have nots". It also applies to foreign affairs to the extent that the wealthier nations are regarded as unfairly advantaged while the poorer third world nations are regarded as international "proletarians." Thus, the U.S. is often if not always regarded as wrong or unfair while oppressive failed societies are forgiven their transgressions. Neo-Marxians do not favor revolution. They simply seek to promote policies to bring down the more fortunate out of a sense of fairness. They are not socialists because they think they favor private enterprise. But they really do not and they play on the politics of resentment. Many if not most of the Democratic party falls into this category today. Bill Clinton, to the extent he actually believed anything, is not a neo-marxian but a neo-liberal. What the Neo-Marxians do not understand is that the key to our success and prosperity is that the pie is not limited but ever expanding. American policy is geared towards expanding the pie. Often, this means policies that benefit the wealthy but will ALSO benefit the less wealthy and make them more wealthy. A majority of Americans viscerally understand this which is why the Democratic party is falling apart and why Al Gore is not president. This doesn't even touch on the foreign policy issue. Ultimately, this country needs a vigorous two party system so that the country can decide the appropriate level of regulation necessary to ensure the most efficient and just market feasible. I favor vigorous government regulation of business to protect the population as a whole. But the tearing down of the wealthy and of corporations is foolish as they provide the wealth that make our lives possible. In the end we, in the U.S. with a much smaller population and no greater resources than such countries as India and China are light years ahead of them because of our liberal economic/political system, not because we steal. If the Democrats don't accept this (and I think few elected Democrats really do) they are doomed as a party.

Posted by: Doug at January 5, 2004 07:47 PM


The terms "liberal" and "conservative" have always been crude simplications in American politics, but useful nevertheless (we have nearly 300 million citizens, but we can't have 300 million political tags.)

The problem now is that ideologies are shifting, due to 9/11, the ending of the Cold War, the disillusionment over and dismantling of the Great Society, massive immigration, etc. We are currently in an era of flux.

But remember: our political system is geared toward a two-party sytem -- which also happens to nicely suit our national mindset. Since most political thought can be (crudely) branded as either "liberal" or "conservative", this makes for a natural distinction for the national parties. In recent history, the alignment was simple. The Democrats were the party of the liberals, and the Republicans were the party of the conservatives.

(you could always try to escape this by calling yourself an Independent, but that has never cut the mustard in the USA -- it implied that either you were indifferent, aloof, or couldn't make up your f***ing mind -- in any event, you're irrelevant.)

The last decade or so, however, has muddied things up.

The Democrats veered left in the 60's and started leaving lots of ordinary folks behind. Clinton put a temporarily halt to the blood-letting, but created another problem. If I'm a Democrat, then I'm a liberal. But my party (led by Clinton) supports welfare reform, free trade (such as NAFTA), and balanced budgets as a fiscal priority. But I don't agree with those viewpoints, so what am I? What does a true Democrat believe?

The same problem has come to haunt some Republicans. If I'm a Republican, I'm a conservative. But my party (led by Bush) is pushing up the deficit, expanding social entitlements, and engaging in nation building abroad. While the disaffection may not be as great among Republicans (because of strong support for Bush on the War on Terrorism), there is still some in-house bickering. What does a true Republican believe?

The simple "liberal=Democrat, conservative=Republican" idea doesn't work so well these days. Especially since 9/11. How to properly respond to the terrorist threat has cut across all (previous) ideological boundaries and made for some truly bizarre bedfellows.

Michael is arguing that the "liberal" tag needs to be defined more precisely (no doubt so that he and other Dems can distance themselves from the raving looneys on the far left). But I think the problem is deeper (and the solution more involved) than that.

At the current rate, the Democratic party is marching toward the fringes and consequently, toward irrelevance. But it can't really completely die out, as some have predicted. Why? Because we can't all be Republicans. The Republican tent can't get so big it covers nearly everybody, as it would cease to have meaning itself.

You could argue a scenario (and some have) whereby the Democratic party dissolves, and the Republican party splits into several new parties (isolationists, neo-cons, centrists, Christian funamentalists,... you decide). But however the scenario unfolds, you will end up with a group of people with more or less "liberal" ideas who band together, and others with more or less "conservative" ideas who band together. And you wind up with the familiar two parties -- whether you call them Democrats and Republicans, or Whigs and Tories, or Yings and Yangs. In which case, you might as well call them Democrats and Republicans (we're already used to those terms).

In other words, the "liberal=Democrat, conservative=Republican" idea is too useful, and we won't give it up. We may have to redefine liberal or conservative or Democrat or Republican (or possibly all of them). But we'll make the adjustment. The two-party (bi-polar) arrangement is like a force of nature in American politics. That's why I think Michael's attempted distinction between "liberal" and "leftist" won't stick. Nice try, though.

Posted by: Daniel at January 5, 2004 08:27 PM

Doug, I'm a big tent Dem, so I'd hate to see you go. But don't drink the Kool-Aid:

http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/midclass/middata.html

Real Income Increases, by Quintile
(last column is top 5%)

1973-2000
117.79% 118.66% 120.93% 130.76% 159.78% 186.00%

Clinton
116.75% 115.83% 115.07% 115.11% 119.72% 123.75%

Bush I
93.10% 93.71% 94.98% 96.39% 95.54% 93.86%

Reagan
103.97% 108.84% 110.21% 111.85% 121.90% 135.06%

Carter
100.72% 102.99% 102.80% 103.38% 103.58% 101.52%

Nixon/Ford
101.43% 97.12% 97.50% 98.42% 96.84% 93.99%

So you see, this "raising all boats" is vastly overstated. Only under Clinton did the lower incomes advance much at all.

Posted by: praktike at January 5, 2004 10:08 PM

Hillary Clinton's not a leftist? The gun grabber? The soak-the-rich advocate? The PR half (Ira Magaziner was the actual architect) of the defeated health care initiative? The defender of incompetent teachers? What liberal policies does she support?

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson at January 6, 2004 12:36 AM

Michael,

I was starting to think you'd never follow through on all those past liberal/leftist-breakdown promises of yours. Some of us have been waiting a long time for this. Thank you.

Overall, I'm impressed with just how un-overly-simplistic it all turned out. I mean, it is a little, but not damn much. You kept the ideological holes to a minimum. Good job. This "liberal" is impressed. And feeling a bit reborn.

A few things, though: Mother Jones, Michael Moore, and Al Franken. I've scarcely ever read Mother Jones (American Prospect and TNR take up most my spare time), but isn't it a wee more radical "leftist" than that? That's the impression I've always gotten from it. At least what I've heard, mostly. As for Michael Moore and Al Franken...I haven't had the chance to read much Franken so I'm hardly an authority on this, either...but isn't he maybe towing the line, a little? What exactly sets him apart from his fellow bestselling journalists on the Left? Oh, and Michael Moore: Sure, we'd probably agree that he's maybe gone off the deep end these past couple of years but I'd have to argue his firmly "liberal" past credentials. He's always been sort of a suped-up Gephardt-style populist more than an anti-war nut and I fondly recall reading a November-97 article of his entitled something like "Is The Left Nuts Or Is It Just Me" in which he completely tore into your "leftist" typology. And you gotta admit...Bowling For Columbine is a great film with a pretty "liberal" (maybe even borderline mainstream) message. Take away his anti-war stance and I say he IS Dick Gephardt.

These are just some random thoughts, man. Any kind of response would be great. Sorry this had to take up so much space. I ramble.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at January 6, 2004 03:46 AM

Michael,

It is good that you are finally beginning to recognize the differences between liberals and "leftists." Maybe with a little more time and education you will also come to recognize that "leftists" are in fact socialists and are therefore anti-liberal.

One distinction between liberals and "leftists" is that a liberal is willing to try a government solution to a problem and if the solution is successful at solving the problem, and if the Law of Unintended Consequences doesn't create larger problems, then the liberal will keep the program. Otherwise, the liberal will discontinue the program.

The "leftist" will keep the program even if it is a failure because the goal of the "leftist" is to transfer power from the private sector to the state. To the socialist/leftist, there is no such thing as a failed government program as long a that program exists.

Perhaps you don't want to reach the logical conclusion that today's leftists are in fact socialists because they don't want the state to control the means of production. But that is a distinction without a difference. Today's socialists want the state to control distribution rather than production. But in the final analysis, there is no difference between having the state control production rather than distribution. Both means to the socialist end will effectively kill the price discovery mechanism that is essential to a healthy economy. This can only lead to stagnation and decline. See France.

Maybe with a little more education you will fully understand the difference between a liberal and a socialist. As always, the starting point is Hayek.Hayek is one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century and had a profound influence over the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions. Yet hardly anybody knows Hayek because the socialists who dominate academia don't want people to understand him. Hayek is dangerous to socialists.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0226320618/qid=1073387845/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-9193739-3368753?v=glance&s=books

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0226320847/qid=1073387875/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-9193739-3368753?v=glance&s=books

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0226320669/qid=1073387875/sr=1-5/ref=sr_1_5/104-9193739-3368753?v=glance&s=books

Posted by: HA at January 6, 2004 03:50 AM

Markus,

Your post about the differences between Chomsky and Duke is illustrative of the reason why leftist/socialist movements always end in tyranny if they are unopposed. Ultimately, the different intentions don't matter if the ends are the same. Intents don't justify the ends.

Duke is a known quantity so we can dismiss him because we know his intent. But what happens when the next Duke comes along and he is skilled enough to mask his intent? This is how mass movements populated by well-intentioned people get co-opted by evil demagogues.

Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pot, Castro, Kim and Saddam didn't gain power by promising tyranny and death. They came to power by co-opting or leading socialist mass-movements and promised progress. The people in those movements mostly weren't evil. They were mostly well-intentioned people lead by evil. Most socialist tyrants were considered progressive in their day. Castro still is considered progressive by many.

As long as there are Chomsky's, there will be a potential for Duke's to gain power.

Posted by: HA at January 6, 2004 04:09 AM

As far as drug companies.

How much profit do you really think comes with being a drug company?

How many trillions of dollars do they spend on research, sometimes getting nothing in return?

So when they finally come up with something that works, they have to recoup their massive losses on failed projects. Or do you think that money that was lost does not matter?

So they finally get a product that works consistently, passes all of the government tests(costing more money) and is marketable. So now other drug companies see that you can do that, so they spend some of their money trying to catch up. Meanwhile, the original company knows they have a limited time before competitors are able to determine what it is they did to make it work. So they advertise, trying to recoup the money to develop and test said product, and for the ten other products they spent money on that was worthless.

You see R&D are expensive, drug R&D is probably the most expensive process in the world.

Or am I making all of this up? The Drug companies are out to make a profit, but they also provide a very nice service. If they did not, they would not make any money at all.

Anyway, I have never done any research into the profit margins of Drug Companies, but I know Capitalism and if there was easy money to be made being a Drug Company, there would be so many drug companies that the competition would drive the price down so low, that the Drug companies would eventually just run out of money trying to invent the next drug and go bankrupt and who would win then? Noone.

Posted by: James Stephenson at January 6, 2004 04:50 AM

Liberals believe in reform.

Then why have "liberals" tried to block so much reform legislation, including welfare reform, tax reform, etc.?

"Reform" is an empty vessel. It means change. Some reforms are "liberal," some "conservative." Lately, the energy for making changes has come from the right, with liberals defending the (liberal) status quo.

You'd be better off without this one.

Posted by: R C Dean at January 6, 2004 04:51 AM

James - Process Patents and Drug Patents provide a huge barrier to entry into the Drug Development Market. Because the product development cycle is now as long a seven years from conception to first income, it's impossible to be a truely sucessful new drug company. Sure, you can be a manufacturer, or a research interest, but only the existing players can do the whole deal.

Econ 101 is good, right up untill things aren't pefectly competitive. Then it's crap, and you'll need to go ahead and take the next class, in which they talk about innefficiency. In the case of the huge-barrier-to-entry drug development process, it's crap.

Again, I'll repeat my unawnsered question. At what ratio (Malpractice judgements+settlements were x times as large as promotional spending) would you say that the problem of medmal had been solved?

Posted by: Hipocrite at January 6, 2004 05:13 AM

Good post. At root, I think the distinction is as follows: (1) Liberals (and conservatives) accept the basic assumptions upon which our nation is built. Liberals and conservatives agree about the fundamental structure of our nation but have different opinions about how it should be run. (2) Leftists and Rightists do not accept the basic assumptions upon which our nation is built and seek to remake it in various ways.

Posted by: Ben at January 6, 2004 09:04 AM

Dudes - why are y'all giving serious discussion to rhetoric borrowed from stand up comedy and Hilights Magazine (Goofus and Gallant)? It most closely resembles Chris Rock's routine about the difference between "black people" and "niggers" - and if this parallel seems ugly, well Totten's ghettoization of "leftist" is pretty damn ugly.

This oversimplification requires ignoring the moderate things many of the eeeeevil leftists say and the radical things the oh-so-clean liberals say.

From what I can tell: Liberals are milquetoasts so obsessed with appearances they will undermine their own position by spouting false, divisive caricatures which originate in right-wing propaganda. Leftists stand by their beliefs, occasionally using blunt and aggressive rhetoric which similar to what underlies many right wing victories.

Or perhaps, Morons use false dichotomies in their arguments, Cretins redefine words to demonize groups of people with stereotypes so broad they are absurd.

Posted by: softdog at January 6, 2004 09:37 AM

Yawn. How utterly simplistic.

I consider myself a "leftist" (and so would all of you) but, funny enough, don't fit into a single one of your obtusely pandering bifurcations. Your list works great if you are comparing mainstream "social democrats" with the Communism of college kids who just took Philosophy 101, but it falls to pieces when you try and apply it to leftists who aren't reeling from their first hit from a beer bong.

It's like diferentiating "conservatives" from "right-wingers" by comparing the Republican party with a bunch of drunken teenage neo-fascist skinheads while ignoring Libertarianism or any other non-authoritarian right-wing ideology just as you ignore Syndicalism or any other non-authoritarian leftist ideology.

Posted by: Casmir Radon at January 6, 2004 09:48 AM

Casmir: Neo-fascists are left wing, fascism and national socialism were left ideologies.

Posted by: joker at January 6, 2004 10:18 AM

casmir,

well said.

Posted by: bbridges at January 6, 2004 10:39 AM

Neo-fascists are left wing, fascism and national socialism were left ideologies.

That's absurd. Fascism is when the illiberal portions of conservative thought (discomfort with the rights of the accused, an overall sense that people are bad and need to be controlled, nationalism, difficulties with religious freedoms, racism, et cetera) overpower the liberal portions of that type of thought. It is the right-wing equivalent of totalitarian Communism, and to imply otherwise is to live in a fantasyland. It is also to deny the existence of fascist movements in the US, France, and elsewhere which all were generated from the right wing. You are speaking ahistorically.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 6, 2004 10:50 AM

The Democrats veered left in the 60's and started leaving lots of ordinary folks behind.

Yeah, a commitment to equal rights for all races will do that; we lost the Dixiecrats, and they found their true home in the conservative movement and the Republican Party. It was inevitable, but there's little to be done; at some point, you gotta tell the bigots where to get off (or, as in the Republican case, where to sign on).

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 6, 2004 10:52 AM

Oooooh kay.

Let's take one example, the "Liberals see America as the land of opportunity and freedom. Leftists see America as the bastion of Imperialism, Racism, and Oppression." bit.

What if I think both are right? What if I am proud of the fact that intelligent people of all races, creeds, and colors can live in this country and have a good life, but upset that somehow lots of intelligent people who happen to have dark skin get stuck in areas of the country that just plain suck?

What if I think liberating the Iraqi people is good, but it would have been better not to support Hussien in the first place? And that it would have been better to not do it the benefit of Halliburton and Bechtel? And what if I think the benefits Halliburton and Bechtel get aren't worth the fact that we're pissing off a bunch of people around the world over oil contracts and loans?

Posted by: Dan at January 6, 2004 11:08 AM

Interesting distinctions. From my experiences, I think many of these true. I can't know for sure, of course, since I don't know what everyone is thinking ... But I think you're making some interesting points.

Posted by: karrie at January 6, 2004 11:21 AM

Dan wrote:

"What if I think liberating the Iraqi people is good, but it would have been better not to support Hussien in the first place? And that it would have been better to not do it the benefit of Halliburton and Bechtel? And what if I think the benefits Halliburton and Bechtel get aren't worth the fact that we're pissing off a bunch of people around the world over oil contracts and loans?"

Well Dan, if you think liberating the Iraqi people is good, then you wouldn't want past relationships and possible money making to interfere would you? If you think liberating the Iraqi people, you would surely not deny them that liberty because we might piss off a bunch of people right?

I'm assuming that you place those separate issues in separate places. Is that correct? Or should the proper course of action be bogged down as we debate totally different issues?

Posted by: bbridges at January 6, 2004 11:27 AM

kimmit is correct - edmund burke was a fascist

Posted by: leftie at January 6, 2004 11:28 AM

... and many of the people make interesting points in the comments section, too.

As for the drug companies and profits ... I read a very interesting article about how drug companies spend more on advertising than any other thing - including research and development. Most of their advertising money is poured into "lifestyle" and essentially "repeat" drugs (i.e., drugs that perform the same function as older, cheaper medication). Companies make up for this spending by keeping prices high. Then, they hide behind R&D as the reason for keeping prices high and blocking generics, while people suffer with illnesses that are easily treatable. That said, I am sure this is not true of all drug companies. It's very complex. One solution might be public funding of essential (that is, non-lifestyle and non-repeat) drug research, since we all have a stake in it. And, of course, a strong public health care system, with real access for everyone.

Posted by: karrie at January 6, 2004 11:29 AM

plus mussilini had his roots as a right-wing conservative. look it up, it is history.

Posted by: leftie at January 6, 2004 11:30 AM

I have no idea who "mussilini" was. Quite possibly a figment of some one's imagination. There was a Benito Mussolini founder of Italian fascism, who started his political life as an ardent socialist.

Posted by: Zacek at January 6, 2004 11:36 AM

I was about to say; Mussolini drew from many wells.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 6, 2004 11:58 AM

Mussolini drew from many wells.

Yes, as do most dictators.

And for those of you who enjoy arguing about this, you might try to understand that pointing out a dictator's far-left or far-right tendencies will not advance your argument against mainstream domestic opponents one iota.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2004 12:01 PM

HA -- For some reason, David Duke types kill Chomsky types first. Look at Hitler and the Communists. But I agree that communism and fascism do have more than a little in common.

Mary -- Duke made a big effort to moderate his image and to ape the rhetoric of the "respectable right" in the early nineties, and almost succeeded in getting elected to the senate and the governorship. (majority of louisiana whites voted for him.)

David Duke: The Messenger and His Message
by Chip Berlet and Margaret Quigle

...Vice President Dan Quayle has condemned the man but not his message. Quayle told ABC, "The message of David Duke is...anti-big government, get out of my pocketbook, cut my taxes, put welfare people back to work. That's a very popular message. The problem is the messenger. David Duke, neo-Nazi, ex-Klansman, basically a bad person."

http://www.publiceye.org/racism/David_Duke/Duke_and_Republicans.htm

Posted by: markus rose at January 6, 2004 12:03 PM

Leftists think Bush is the antichrist.

Liberals think Bush is the convictionless sock-puppet of industry who employs serial mendacity to forward his sponsors' agenda.

Rightists think Bush will save them from non-Christians, foreigners and other folks not like them.

Posted by: rooser04 at January 6, 2004 12:47 PM

Markus,

who do Stalinists kill first? Not the Chomsky's of the world. Instead, Chomsky would receive a politburo seat and a country dacha.

Posted by: David at January 6, 2004 01:17 PM

plus mussilini had his roots as a right-wing conservative. look it up, it is history.

Don't overlook the fact that Hitler was a national SOCIALIST. History.

Posted by: David at January 6, 2004 01:19 PM

Conservatives consider Leftists to be dangerous, and Liberals to be merely silly.

Posted by: David at January 6, 2004 01:21 PM

[Fascism] is the right-wing equivalent of totalitarian Communism, and to imply otherwise is to live in a fantasyland. It is also to deny the existence of fascist movements in the US, France, and elsewhere which all were generated from the right wing. You are speaking ahistorically.

This is the pot calling the kettle black, I believe. Mussolini was a revolutionary socialist who became nationalistic to suit his revolutionary proclivities. It is a dynamic as old as the hills, and it is why Leftist revolutions are always utter, complete failures. And conservatism in Europe circa early 20th century was nothing like American conservatism in the same period, and certainly nothing like American conservatism in the early 21st century.

Only ill-educated rubes conflate American conservatism with European fascism. I'll grant, however, that it is absolutely necessary for Leftists to maintain the Big Lie that fascism was not a 'change everything', anti-religious, anti-individual revolutionary movement.

Fantasyland indeed. Not to understand that Communism and Fascism were first cousins is astoundingly obtuse.

Posted by: Catalonia at January 6, 2004 02:51 PM

That is beyond absurd. The whole idea of Fascism is the elevation of the nation and the leader above the self -- it's nationalism and racism run amok. Totalitarian Communism is the elevation of class identity above the self -- it's Marxism and elitism run amok. One is a right-wing disease, while the other is a left-wing malady.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 6, 2004 03:19 PM

The whole idea of Fascism is the elevation of the nation and the leader above the self -- it's nationalism and racism run amok. Totalitarian Communism is the elevation of class identity above the self -- it's Marxism and elitism run amok. One is a right-wing disease, while the other is a left-wing malady.

That is correct. The fact that the two in practice are hardly different doesn't mean that both are on the same ends of the political spectrum. (I prefer to think of Fascism and Communism meeting at the bottom of a political circle.)

Noam Chomsky likes to describe Stalin as a right-wing Fascist, and I know some conservatives like to describe Hitler as a leftist. But it seems to me that most people who don't try to score domestic political points off the behavior of foreign dictators understand that Hitler was a rightist (and a fierce enemy of the communist, socialist, and liberal left) and that Stalin was a totalitarian leftist and leave it at that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2004 03:37 PM

The whole idea of Fascism is the elevation of the nation and the leader above the self -- it's nationalism and racism run amok.

You have a very simplistic understanding of Fascism. Fascism was nothing if not a movement with extremely complicated, conflicted roots. Racism has nothing to do with Fascism, per se -- that was a uniquely German element that Hitler milked for his own purposes. Italy demonstrated very little anti-Semitism, for instance, until later (the way al Qaeda adopted the Palestinian issue later as a form of political expediency).

And to believe that Leftists cannot be racists is laughable. I have seldom met an American minority Leftist, for instance, who was not anti-White and generally prejudiced against those outside their own race, as well, visceral and purely rhetorical political alliances notwithstanding.

Need I remind you that the political spectrum is a circle, with the Far Left and the Far Right meeting at the top? Fascism is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon -- it was a melding of the two. Fascism's roots, however, were in socialism. Of all that things that is probably the most relevant and least deniable fact.

Posted by: Catalonia at January 6, 2004 03:49 PM

Michael,

Oops. Looks like you mentioned the 'political circle' idea before I had completed my own posting. Apologies!

Posted by: Catalonia at January 6, 2004 03:50 PM

I'm not interested in scoring points. What Kimmitt points out is a distinction in the kind of package. But it's the same stuff inside: state ownership of everything, including your self.

Liberals want as little of that stuff as possible, on principle. Leftists don't see anything inherently wrong with the stuff. Leftists take the view of the state and say, "Alright, let's see what a neat society we could create from here!" Liberals shudder at the thought. When they see a problem here and there it is only with regret that they find they have to resort to a state solution. Liberals love people being left alone do do as they like. Leftists don't.

MT pointed to this distinction. Some to the left in this thread have complained that they're unfairly caricatured by MT's list. Well, caricatures exaggerate, but they aren't necessarily unfair. They like the ugliness of extreme statism; MT has caricatured the degree to which they like it.

Posted by: Jim at January 6, 2004 03:51 PM

state ownership of everything, including your self.

This is what characterizes the far Right, as well -- a State that tells you who you may sleep with, where you may go to church, and which opinions you may express in public. Modern Liberals and Conservatives are each adaptations of (small l) liberalism, with Liberals generally seeking to have the government intervene where it can increase economic equity and/or efficiency and with Conservatives generally seeking to have the government intervene where it can improve social values and/or morality.

The important thing to keep in mind is that there is a second axis -- "corrupt" -- which is orthogonal to this political distinction. For the corrupt, expediency always trumps ideology.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 6, 2004 04:58 PM

...with Liberals generally seeking to have the government intervene where it can increase economic equity....

Sounds leftist to me. A liberal would suffer to have the state intervene only where the injustice is grievous enough to warrant the loss of libery. Economic equality is second to liberty in importance for the liberal. In fact, it's of no importance at all to the liberal. To him only the reduction of undeserved poverty matters.

...with Conservatives generally seeking to have the government intervene where it can improve social values....

Perhaps, but just be sure you don't confuse this with their seeking to prevent the government from changing existing social values.

Posted by: Jim at January 6, 2004 05:14 PM

Jim: Economic equality is second to liberty in importance for the liberal. In fact, it's of no importance at all to the liberal.

Liberty is of no importance only to a certain kind of leftist or rightist. Under no definition of liberal, either traditional or conventional, is what you say true.

Besides, liberals don't seek economic equality, they seek economic fairness. Perhaps you don't see a difference, but I do. I don't know any liberal who thinks a CEO and a janitor should get the same salary.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2004 05:37 PM

On the issue of rising tide floating all boats, the Clinton years were pointed out as being extremely beneficial to all incomes. I AGREE! Clinton clearly ran an administration that understood that at its essence, our economy and our living standard is dependent on the freedom and success of private business. Perhaps this is why Howard Dean has condemmed Clinton's policies. In the seventies, on the other hand, all three presidents were statists who simply tried to "govern" their way out of disaster. ALl failed miserably. Carter's greatest act was appointing Paul Volcker chairman of the fed. Reagan's greatest was retaining him and listening to him, short term pai to wring out inflation, long term gain, the fruits of which we saw in the nineties. Clinton had the wisdom to follow a good thing. Their are quibbles, as I said earlier, with the degree of regulation necessary to ensure fairness and to prevent rampant corruption. But when Democrats adopt the neo-marxian perspective that the wealthy and private businesses are out to steal what rightly belongs to you or me, they lose the ability to make real policy. This country will not elect a "Robin Hood" unless another great depression hits. And I think that someone who believes we invaded Iraq for the benefit of Halliburton is a leftist.

Posted by: Doug at January 6, 2004 05:39 PM

Michael, I think you might have misread my sentence. Or maybe I misunderstand you. Your last two sentences are exactly my point. Can you clarify?

Posted by: Jim at January 6, 2004 05:46 PM

Jim,

Ack, I did misunderstand you. Sorry. We agree.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2004 06:25 PM

To him only the reduction of undeserved poverty matters.

Actually, this whole idea of "deserved" and "undeserved" poverty is very much a libertarian/conservative construct. The Depression demonstrated to most liberals the absurdity of the notion.

Seriously, you're redefining "liberal" to be "fairly reasonable libertarian." Liberals support state intervention in the economy to make it more equal. Things like public schools, Social Security, and Medicare are liberal programs. You may not agree with them, but that's what they want and they (we) have good reasons for it.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 6, 2004 06:44 PM

'S'okay, MT, you probably saw the name "Jim" and just assumed I was off on another right-wing rant ;)

Kimmitt: Actually, this whole idea of "deserved" and "undeserved" poverty is very much a libertarian/conservative construct. The Depression demonstrated to most liberals the absurdity of the notion.

You can't seriously maintain that people with few virtues and many vices - laziness, intemperance, lack of urge control, nastiness, arrogance - do not deserve to be poor, can you? Will you not feel outrage as your 60-year-old mother works her fingers to the bone at and is made to pay for the housing and healthcare of a vicious 28-year-old with cable and a pot habit that cost the same as monthly Blue Cross? Or will you believe that the obviously true point I am making is merely the cunning rhetoric of a mean and niggardly right who only wish to deny milk to crippled babies?

Or is the point you're making the Marxist one that all schemes of economic justice are merely the functions of economic forces, none having any intrinsic merit? And if so, why isn't absolute economic equality just another scheme devoid of merit?

Posted by: Jim at January 6, 2004 07:32 PM

What's the difference between a rightist and a conservative?

Posted by: Barbar at January 6, 2004 10:46 PM

What's the difference between a rightist and a conservative?

Generally, I'd say it's the difference between a reactionary like James Dobson and a traditionalist like William F. Buckely. Extreme rightists include jingoists, nativists, fundamentalists, and neofascists - people like Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, and Timothy McVeigh.

A mainstream conservative has more in common with a mainstream liberal than either have with the wing-nuts on their respective "sides."

Neoconservatives are in their own interesting category. I think of them as right-wing liberals rather than actual conservatives.

(People who hate labels must be really annoyed by now...)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2004 11:03 PM

Kimmitt,

Fascism is when the illiberal portions of conservative thought ...It is the right-wing equivalent of totalitarian Communism, and to imply otherwise is to live in a fantasyland.

As usual, you know nothing. Fascism as an ideology is a direct descendent of Marxism. Leading socialist theorticians as early as the late 19th century already knew that socialist theory was failing in the real world (something you haven't caught on to more than a century later). Fascist theory was the socialist theory that socialists developed in response to the "Crisis of Marxism." Mussolini was the first to manifest this theory and everybody should know by now that his roots were socialist.

The notion that fascism is an extreme right wing phenomenon is pure propoganda from contemporary socialists. Contemporary socialists want to frame contemporary conservatives for socialist crimes. These crimes include the deaths of tens of millions and the enslavement of billions.

Contemporary socialists must go to any length to claim that Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, Kim, Mussolini, Saddam were not really socialists. Yet they all were. Every single genocidal dictatorsip of the 20th century with the exception of the Islamic Ottoman turks share a socialist pedigree. But what the heck, maybe we should try socialism one more time!

Communism is transnational socialism. Fascism is national socialism. Both are extreme left-wing manifestations of socialism.

When you view left and right on a statist versus individualist scale, communism and fascism are both extreme statist ideologies. Anarchism is the extreme right-wing ideology. Liberalism occupies the sweet spot between these two extremes.

Read and learn:

http://www.la-articles.org.uk/fascism.htm
http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism
http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benito_Mussolini

Posted by: HA at January 7, 2004 04:43 AM

Liberals support free markets, liberty, individual rights, property rights and limits to government power.. They agree with Federalist papers and support the ideas behind the Consitution. In the US they disagree over what those terms mean, which is why we have "liberals," "conseratives" and "libertarians" and "independants." But anyone who agress with above are by definition a liberal.

Righists and Leftists don't. It's that simple. The US has had very few Rightists and Leftists, as these are European ideas. Both Rightists (Fascists) and Leftists (Communists, Anarhists) are socialists and anti-liberals, and Europe has been dominated by socialists for almost two centuries.

European Conservatives, those that support Throne & Alter - e.g. Monarchists, are deader than dead in Europe. In the past, they often supported the Rightists agains the Leftists. But they are still not liberals or the same as American "conservatives."

Socialism of any stripe, Right or Left, is NOT liberalism. Socialists are the enemies of liberals, along with monarchists, racialists and religionists. Pretending that liberal vs. conservative in the US is the same thing as Leftist vs. Rightist in the European context is to be disingenuous.

And let's not pretent there was any serious Rightist movements, at least compared with Leftist movements that seriously advocated the overthrow of the Constitution and a socialist/communist ditatorship. Sure there were a couple Fascists in the 1930s, but we have seen more than 100 years of active subversion by the the Left. Fascism is dead, the Left lives on.

The Left is a vile import from Europe, and liberals of all stripes would be well to disassociate with these idealogoies.

(Note that I am speaking of individual's beliefs, not of polical/economic systems. Most Western nations are still liberal democracies, despite being under the assalt of Leftist/Rightist anti-liberals for nearly two hundred years. To say that Canada or Britain are socialist is a bold-faced lie, as they have liberal parties or constitutionas that check any socialist government or legislation.)

Posted by: Ryan at January 7, 2004 05:47 AM

Edit: And let's not pretent there was any serious Rightist movement IN THE US

(there isn't any serious Rightist movement currently in the US, though there were a few in the 1930s)

Posted by: Ryan at January 7, 2004 05:50 AM

Is this guy a socialist or a fascists, I think a little from both columns

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/155107_firstperson05.html

Or maybe he is just part of that S-Factor he is writing about.

Posted by: James Stephenson at January 7, 2004 06:36 AM

Although I'm glad to hear from a liberal that liberals fly the flag, I'm afraid that many of the distinctions that you made are a matter of degree.

If you are the person that's having your taxes raised it hardly matters to you whether the intent of the politicians was to be "more fair" or to "soak the rich."

Those who marched against the war often marched with ANSWER whether they were troubled by it or not.

And if Hillary Clinton is ever elected President she will seek to move the nation closer to a Socialist model. It won't matter whether she is a liberal or a leftist.

Posted by: Stephen Gordon at January 7, 2004 08:01 AM

HA,

If fascism is left-wing as you say, why were fascism's contemporary fellow-travellers in America and elsewhere on the far-right? Why is it, then, that neo-fascists (skinheads, et al) are all on the far-right? Why was it that the anti-fascists were on the left? And why was it that the first targets of fascists were leftists?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 09:10 AM

But Michael by your reckoning, Stalin was a right winger then. After all his first attacks were against the Left, mostly competitors. Then the Peasants.

Extremists of any kind, Socialists, Communists, Fascists, Statists, they are all birds of the same feather in my eye.

Posted by: James Stephenson at January 7, 2004 09:38 AM

Micheal: Don't be sucked in pardign of the factional politics of 1930s totalitarains. American Trotsykist Communists were also considered "right-wing" by Stalinist Communists.

And American liberals and conservatives were both anti-fascist, yet considered also "right-wing."

"Right" and "Left" are not native to US liberalism. They were terms that became associated with two competeting forms of anti-liberal totalitarian socialism, and later the competition of Junta/Monarchists and Communists.

The Right is dead (domestically) but the Left is still a threat.

Posted by: Ryan at January 7, 2004 10:13 AM

That Wiki article HA posted is really good; I'm gonna repost it here.

http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

Fascism, in many respects, is an ideology of negativism: anti-liberal, anti-Communist, anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, etc. As a political and economic system in Italy, it combined elements of corporatism, totalitarianism, nationalism, and anti-communism.

This is what I refer to when I state that I believe the Bush Administration to be "fascist" or "proto-fascist;" it is corporatist, excessively nationalist, anticommunist, antiliberal, and antidemocratic. I mean it in a very specific way.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 7, 2004 10:42 AM

Kimmitt: Your pathetic quest to "prove" that Bush, Republicans, conservatives, libertarians and any other non-leftists are secretly totalitarian Nazis has failed.

Please try another angle.

Posted by: Bimmitt at January 7, 2004 10:47 AM

Michael,

It's an interesting distinction that you and Churchill make, but I don't see how it has any practical purposes, at least as it pertains to the implementation of a particular form of government. In other words, if you say that you are a liberal and therefore you are for 'raising up poverty', by what method would you do this? If you say that you are going to acomplish this through your own means as an individual, as well as, with others who seek, or you seek out, to voluntarily join you, then I would say I accept your distinction. If your going to advocate the use of the power of government to force all people under that government to implement your ideal of liberalism, then your are nothing less than a socialist.

Posted by: Steve at January 7, 2004 10:54 AM

Great definitions!

Where are the liberal Democrats? Why are they letting the Democratic Party be hijacked by the haters? by the revolutionaries? by the leftists?

It is the Democratic Party's primary, and we will see who turns out to vote.

I think there is another confusion when looking at the left side of the isle. There is another split into two camps - those who recognize that the Post-Viet Nam Era ended on 9/11/01, and those who are still stuck in the quagmire of Post-Viet Nam thinking.

It is what some pundit recently referred to as the sane vs. the insane left - those who recognize that we are under attack, and those that have been driven insane because they can only conceive of the U.S. as the cause of any problems in the world (as in Viet Nam), so they see Bush as the cause of the war, not the fascist element of the Islamic world as the cause of the war.

The world awaits for the liberals vs. leftists, the sane vs. insane, the Recognizers That We Are At War vs. Post-Viet Namist Era-ists to sort it out and come up with a coherent vision.

I believe that if the Post-Viet Nam era-ists and the Hate Bush and the U.S. Leftists win this fight, the Democratic Party will expire.

John Moreschi

Posted by: JohnM at January 7, 2004 01:26 PM

Steve, I guess Bush is a socialist then. He is in favor of maintaining the welfare program. So's Bob Dole. So are most Republicans in Congress, I'll wager. You are going to have a lot of work ahead of you if you aim to kick all these heretics out of the right. Better get started!

Posted by: Jim at January 7, 2004 01:35 PM

When anyone in the Democratic Party starts campaigning to nationalize shoe factories, then I'll take the socialist accusation seriously.

No serious person thinks we ought to destroy the market economy and replace it with anything else. And affixing the same label to the Democratic Party as the Castro regime in Cuba smacks a great deal of the Bush=Hitler nonsense.

Argue against excessive statism if you want, but calling it socialism instantly throws me out of the argument. Most real socialists know that the Democratic Party is the Other Capitalist Party.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2004 01:56 PM

Again Micheal, it is miscommunication I have a lot of Democratic friends who say things like "a little socialism is good thing" etc., so I am not surprised when my Republican friends accuse them of "supporting socialism."

Most people are sloppy with their definitions and labels. Which is too bad as it prevents us from discussing real ideas.

Posted by: Ryan at January 7, 2004 02:08 PM

Michael,

So a little socialism isn't socialism, only a lot of socialism is socialism?

Perhaps a better distinction can be made with a broader and more clear definition of what I believe to be the two main competing forces on the function of a society's government. One either believes in government with laws based on the rule of right, or one believes in government with laws based on the rule of good.

Jim,

Yes, they are socialists, among other things, and would fall under my definition of those that believe in the rule of good.

Posted by: Steve at January 7, 2004 04:07 PM

Steve,

I don't know why you can't see that American government is rightly beholden to both the good and the right. Don't smuggle in the premise that one must commit oneself to one or the other but not both. Socialists hate America; America is far too beholden to liberty and the right to be left alone for their taste. Hardcore libertarians, which I guess includes you, are disgusted with America as too socialist. Get the drift? We won't let you neglect your duty to chip in for the aid of Americans who have blamelessly encountered terrible misfortune. And we won't let the pinkos take away your enormous rights to property and liberty. Don't scream "socialism!" in the face of this. It makes as little sense as telling me I'm an alcoholic for drinking a glass of wine once in a while.

(I agree with you that entitlements are too generous, but that's beside the point.)

Posted by: Jim at January 7, 2004 05:50 PM

And it bears repeating that you've admitted that, given your view, the Republican party is socialist. Hello?!

Posted by: Jim at January 7, 2004 05:53 PM

Michael,

If fascism is left-wing as you say, why were fascism's contemporary fellow-travellers in America and elsewhere on the far-right? Why is it, then, that neo-fascists (skinheads, et al) are all on the far-right? Why was it that the anti-fascists were on the left? And why was it that the first targets of fascists were leftists?

Your questions are still based on the assertion that fascism is far-right. Its not. Fascism and communism are rival forms of statist socialism. Both are left-wing and anti-liberal. The hostility between fascists and communists is simply due to the fact that both are competing for the same statist prize. Hitler and Stalin were allies before they were enemies.

As for skinheads, I would characterize them as racists. Racists are opportunists. I wouldn't say racists are either left or right, but rather they embrace whatever part of the political spectrum they think will further their racist goals. Before the civil rights era, most racists were planted firmly in the left. After the civil-rights era, they moved from left to right. At this moment, most racists are flocking back to the left. Where is all the talk about "zionist conspiracies" coming from these days? Its not from the right. The rhetoric of David Duke is in many ways indistinguishable from that of left-wing heroes like Noam Chomsky or Edward Said. Also, don't forget that the Democrats were the party of FDR and Jim Crow. Were the Democrats of that era right or left?

As Mussolini said:

"If classical liberalism spells individualism," Mussolini continued, "Fascism spells government."

Socialism and communism also spell government.

Posted by: HA at January 7, 2004 06:56 PM

Michael,

When anyone in the Democratic Party starts campaigning to nationalize shoe factories, then I'll take the socialist accusation seriously.

What about nationalizing our health care system? Most Democrats support this. Government (federal, state and local) already spends 40% of GDP and nationalizing the health care system would push that well over 50%. Nationalizing shoe factories would be insignificant compared to the health care industry. Hell, they can have the damn shoe factories if they keep their power hungry paws off the health care system!

Posted by: HA at January 7, 2004 07:14 PM

Kimmitt,

Here's something else from the Wikipedia:

Today, very few groups proclaim themselves as fascist, and the term almost universally is used for groups for whom the speaker has little regard, often with minimal understanding of what the term actually means. More particularly, "Fascist" is sometimes used by people of the Left to characterize some group or persons of the far-right

Posted by: HA at January 7, 2004 07:37 PM

Let me recommend the article once again; it really is quite excellent.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 7, 2004 07:39 PM

Jim,

I never said anything about the republican party, just the men and program you mentioned.

What I would really like to know is, do you have any thoughts regarding my definitions of the rule of right vs. the rule of good as an important dividing line?

I suppose this thread is getting pretty tired, so maybe another time. I'll be away from the computer for a day or two, but thanks for the discussion.

Posted by: Steve at January 7, 2004 08:48 PM

In an article rich in food for thought Jon Ray argues:

...in the end Fascism and Communism were two very similar Leftist sects. So the idea that Nazism and Fascism were Rightist is an old Soviet lie that Left-leaning intellectuals in the West have perpetuated in flagrant denial of historical reality.

There's loads more on his site.

Steve, email me, and I'd be happy to discuss the philosophical ideas with you. Of course the dividing line you mention is important.

Posted by: Jim at January 7, 2004 09:10 PM

Michael,

No serious person thinks we ought to destroy the market economy and replace it with anything else.

This is the fundamental difference between communists and fascists. Communists want to destroy the market economy while fascists want to coopt it. Some might point to nationalism is the differentiator, but I view nationalism as something that is common across the political spectrum. Sure, the lefties denounce nationalism when they are out of power, but they always become nationalistic when they acquire power out of pragmatism. They MUST become nationalistic in order to maintain their power because they have to attend to the needs of their own citizens. Otherwise, they will lose power. In a socialist democracy, they will get voted out. In a socialist tyranny, they will get overthrown.

Contemporary leftists more closely resemble Mussolini than Stalin because they want to coopt the private sector rather than replace it. So who are the fascists?

Posted by: HA at January 8, 2004 04:22 AM

HA,

I use the word "fascist" a lot, but I am careful with it. It sticks on Saddam Hussein and his ilk. It sticks on skinheads, Hamas, Al Qaeda, and it arguably sticks on International ANSWER.

But it doesn't stick on very many others, and if you use it too liberally, it loses its punch.

For one thing, it isn't possible to be a fascist without the desire to impose a dictatorship on your own country. That, I think, should be the minimum threshold.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 8, 2004 04:56 PM

Not entirely fair, as it was meant somewhat in jest, but:

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier...just as long as I'm the dictator..."

President George Walker Bush, December 18th, 2000.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 8, 2004 06:41 PM

Kimmett you and I both know that was a joke.

"Ghandi ran a gas station here in St. Loius", Hillary Clinton joking.

Which is the worse joke? I have to say Hillary's.

Posted by: James Stephenson at January 9, 2004 04:44 AM

Kimmett, James: I fear that in any such discussion, "the worst joke" is the one told by the speaker's opponent.

Posted by: De Doc at January 9, 2004 09:06 AM

Michael,

You don't have to be a fascist to be an enabler of fascism. Kimmitt and his ilk are the enablers of fascism. Real fascism in America would arise from Kimmitt's ranks. The fascist demagogues manipulate the socialist utopians. Witness any ANSWER sponsored "peace" protest. Try counter protesting at one of these events and count the seconds before you are threatened with violence by a red-faced, spitting, brown shirt thug. I've experienced this personally. The organizers aren't "peace" protesters, they are authentic fascists manipulating utopians.

Of course the utopians would be the first purged in the Trotsky tradition.

http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Trotsky

Lilek's captured this perfectly:

They are the useful fools who end up on the wrong side of concertina wire a year after the revolution; besotted by their communal self-regard, enchanted by the allure of the flame, they have thrown in their lot with the enemies of civilization. And this will be the death of their cause.

http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/02/0402/040402.html

BTW, I'd take fascism over communism any day. The enslavement, destruction and death wrought by communism is an order of magnitude worse than that caused by fascism. If you exclude Hitler, fascism even looks benign in comparison.

Also, since Gandhi the socialist saint was mentioned on this thread, here is what he had to say about Hitler after the fall of France:

"Germans of future generations will honour Herr Hitler as a genius, a brave man, a matchless organizer and much more."

Gandhi was right about the "much more" part, but little else.

From pg. 204 of Len Deighton's book "Blood, Tears and Folly"

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0785811141/qid=1073740742/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-9193739-3368753?v=glance&s=books

Posted by: HA at January 10, 2004 05:24 AM

Wow, you really are a fucking liar. Do you shave? Because if I were you, I'd have a hell of a time looking myself in the mirror.

At any rate, here is a summary of Gandhi's decisions and actions during the war. He was pretty badly wrong, in my opinion, but was hardly a Hitler supporter.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 10, 2004 12:11 PM

Kimmitt,

You decree people as fascists without understanding fascism, you decree people as liars without pointing out a single lie. So who is the fascist?

Here is a quote about Gandhi from your article:

Gandhi was adamant though, that India would not take advantage of Britain's troubles, wanting Britain to fight the Nazis without arms and to allow the Nazis and Italians into Britain.

Good God! Its a good thing Churchill didn't follow Gandhi's advice. Its also a good thing for Gandhi that India wasn't a German colony. The world would know as much about Gandhi today as it knows about you.

If you believe for a minute that Gandhi didn't want to take advantage of the the war to achieve independence for India, then you are a bigger fool than I thought. I've got news for you, sometimes people don't say what they mean.

To put it in terms you'll understand, take Bush for example. In the weeks leading up the war, Bush kept repeating that "no decision" had been made to go to war. Everybody knows that what he meant was that the inention was already final, but he hadn't said "GO" yet. Got it?

You can really be a useful foil at times.

Posted by: HA at January 11, 2004 05:44 AM

"They are the useful fools who end up on the wrong side of concertina wire a year after the revolution; besotted by their communal self-regard, enchanted by the allure of the flame, they have thrown in their lot with the enemies of civilization. And this will be the death of their cause."

here is an interesting article about such fools:

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/taheri200311181102.asp

Posted by: frendlydude2k at January 11, 2004 06:39 PM

While it may be useful for scoring political points, I still cannot grasp the corrupt mindset necessary to live a philosophy which can only be maintained through relentless mendacity.

Do you really start to believe what comes out of your keyboard at some point? Is there some part of you which is aware that you're a fucking liar and hides it away so that the rest of you can go on believing? That is, is it psychosis all the way down, or is there some tiny shred of sanity and human decency which still clings to you?

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David Duke is a malignant narcissist.

He invents and then projects a false, fictitious, self for the world to fear, or to admire. He maintains a tenuous grasp on reality to start with and the trappings of power further exacerbate this. Real life authority and David Duke’s predilection to surround him with obsequious sycophants support David Duke’s grandiose self-delusions and fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience.

David Duke's personality is so precariously balanced that he cannot tolerate even a hint of criticism and disagreement. Most narcissists are paranoid and suffer from ideas of reference (the delusion that they are being mocked or discussed when they are not). Thus, narcissists often regard themselves as "victims of persecution".
Duke fosters and encourages a personality cult with all the hallmarks of an institutional religion: priesthood, rites, rituals, temples, worship, catechism, and mythology. The leader is this religion's ascetic saint. He monastically denies himself earthly pleasures (or so he claims) in order to be able to dedicate himself fully to his calling.
Duke is a monstrously inverted Jesus, sacrificing his life and denying himself so that his people - or humanity at large - should benefit. By surpassing and suppressing his humanity, Duke became a distorted version of Nietzsche's "superman".

But being a-human or super-human also means being a-sexual and a-moral. In this restricted sense, narcissistic leaders are post-modernist and moral relativists. They project to the masses an androgynous figure and enhance it by engendering the adoration of nudity and all things "natural" - or by strongly repressing these feelings. But what they refer to, as "nature" is not natural at all.

Duke invariably proffers an aesthetic of decadence and evil carefully orchestrated and artificial - though it is not perceived this way by him or by his followers. Narcissistic leadership is about reproduced copies, not about originals. It is about the manipulation of symbols - not about veritable atavism or true conservatism.
In short: narcissistic leadership is about theatre, not about life. To enjoy the spectacle (and be subsumed by it), the leader demands the suspension of judgment, depersonalization, and de-realization. Catharsis is tantamount, in this narcissistic dramaturgy, to self-annulment.

Narcissism is nihilistic not only operationally, or ideologically. Its very language and narratives are nihilistic. Narcissism is conspicuous nihilism - and the cult's leader serves as a role model, annihilating the Man, only to re-appear as a pre-ordained and irresistible force of nature.

Narcissistic leadership often poses as a rebellion against the "old ways" - against the hegemonic culture, the upper classes, the established religions, the superpowers, the corrupt order. Narcissistic movements are puerile, a reaction to narcissistic injuries inflicted upon David Duke like (and rather psychopathic) toddler nation-state, or group, or upon the leader.

Minorities or "others" - often arbitrarily selected - constitute a perfect, easily identifiable, embodiment of all that is "wrong". They are accused of being old, they are eerily disembodied, they are cosmopolitan, they are part of the establishment, they are "decadent", they are hated on religious and socio-economic grounds, or because of their race, sexual orientation, origin ... They are different, they are narcissistic (feel and act as morally superior), they are everywhere, they are defenseless, they are credulous, they are adaptable (and thus can be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction). They are the perfect hate figure. Narcissists thrive on hatred and pathological envy.

This is precisely the source of the fascination with Hitler, diagnosed by Erich Fromm - together with Stalin - as a malignant narcissist. He was an inverted human. His unconscious was his conscious. He acted out our most repressed drives, fantasies, and wishes. He provides us with a glimpse of the horrors that lie beneath the veneer, the barbarians at our personal gates, and what it was like before we invented civilization. Hitler forced us all through a time warp and many did not emerge. He was not the devil. He was one of us. He was what Arendt aptly called the banality of evil. Just an ordinary, mentally disturbed, failure, a member of a mentally disturbed and failing nation, who lived through disturbed and failing times. He was the perfect mirror, a channel, a voice, and the very depth of our souls.

Duke prefers the sparkle and glamour of well-orchestrated illusions to the tedium and method of real accomplishments. His reign is all smoke and mirrors, devoid of substances, consisting of mere appearances and mass delusions. In the aftermath of his regime - Duke having died, been deposed, or voted out of office - it all unravels. The tireless and constant prestidigitation ceases and the entire edifice crumbles. What looked like an economic miracle turns out to have been a fraud-laced bubble. Loosely held empires disintegrate. Laboriously assembled business conglomerates go to pieces. "Earth shattering" and "revolutionary" scientific discoveries and theories are discredited. Social experiments end in mayhem.

It is important to understand that the use of violence must be ego-syntonic. It must accord with the self-image of David Duke. It must abet and sustain his grandiose fantasies and feed his sense of entitlement. It must conform David Duke like narrative. Thus, David Duke who regards himself as the benefactor of the poor, a member of the common folk, the representative of the disenfranchised, the champion of the dispossessed against the corrupt elite - is highly unlikely to use violence at first. The pacific mask crumbles when David Duke has become convinced that the very people he purported to speak for, his constituency, his grassroots fans, and the prime sources of his narcissistic supply - have turned against him. At first, in a desperate effort to maintain the fiction underlying his chaotic personality, David Duke strives to explain away the sudden reversal of sentiment. "The people are being duped by (the media, big industry, the military, the elite, etc.)", "they don't really know what they are doing", "following a rude awakening, they will revert to form", etc. When these flimsy attempts to patch a tattered personal mythology fail, David Duke becomes injured. Narcissistic injury inevitably leads to narcissistic rage and to a terrifying display of unbridled aggression. The pent-up frustration and hurt translate into devaluation. That which was previously idealized - is now discarded with contempt and hatred. This primitive defense mechanism is called "splitting".

To David Duke, things and people are either entirely bad (evil) or entirely good. He projects onto others his own shortcomings and negative emotions, thus becoming a totally good object. Duke is likely to justify the butchering of his own people by claiming that they intended to kill him, undo the revolution, devastate the economy, or the country, etc. The "small people", the "rank and file", and the "loyal soldiers" of David Duke - his flock, his nation, and his employees - they pay the price. The disillusionment and disenchantment are agonizing. The process of reconstruction, of rising from the ashes, of overcoming the trauma of having been deceived, exploited and manipulated - is drawn-out. It is difficult to trust again, to have faith, to love, to be led, to collaborate. Feelings of shame and guilt engulf the erstwhile followers of David Duke. This is his sole legacy: a massive post-traumatic stress disorder.

Posted by: David Duke is a malignant narcissist. at June 2, 2004 10:42 PM

Totten is wrong on many counts. One, and most importantly, are the
"progressive" category of the types like Molly Ivins: so, she's not a
leftist despite claiming the title?

But most importantly (and this is the key distinction) there is no firm
line between reform and revolution. They're quite frankly without any
firm distinction along the entire Western portion of the left, up to
and including communists now. Again, for example let's use Molly Ivins
(for no reason in particular other than I already used her).

Molly uses every canard of the revolutionary. Right alongside every
canard of the reformer of systems. So which is she? The woman insisting
in a democratic vote and a "partial bottle of pills for seniors"
because "compromise is the heart of democracy"? Or is she the
"muckraking freedom fighter"? She says both. So does Eric, our esteemed
list memeber. In fact, both Molly and Eric use both language in exactly
equal portions.

Obviously, progressivism is nothing except the fading of liberalism
into radicalism, straddling the difference between revolutionar and
reformer. So there is little distinction to be made with people who
won't make the distinction themselves. In fact, the word itself was
coined to blend the two.

Listen now, and listen closely. There is one reason why certain folks
care about this tiny nomenclature issue enough to write a zillion words
on it like Totten. If liberals are not leftists, then they are the
center of the political spectrum, quod erat demonstradum, and the
defining aspect of the political spectrum is moved two steps rightward.
This is in order to define the right as extremist.

Totten is not smart enough to tackle this issue. Liberals, in the
American lexicon, are leftists. If not, someone go ask the democatic
socialists what the holy fuck they are, cause Totten ain't gonna have a
clue.

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