According to a Fox News poll, the majority of Americans have become radicalized extremists, Marxist commies, and fellow travelers! They might also be postmodern moral relativists or even eco-terrorists, but at the very least they are woke snowflakes pushing political correctness and reverse racism. They probably hate God and liberty too. Worse still, one might suspect more than a few of them are antifa, probably lacking an appreciation that a fascist police state is what made America great and will make it great again.
Fox News Voter Analysis – 2020 Presidential Election
In partnership with Associated Press
Based on surveys by NORC at the University of Chicago
29,000 people, all fifty states, October 26 and November 3
- 60% believe government should do more
- 72% concerned about “climate change”
- 70% favor increased government spending on green and renewable energy
- 78% see racism as serious issue in U.S. society
- 73% see racism as serious issue in policing
- 77% think criminal system needs reform: complete overhaul (22%), major changes (46%), or minor changes (29%)
- 72% agree “illegal immigrants” should have pathway to citizenship
- 60% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases
- 71% support the pro-choice Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade
- 3% said abortion most important issue facing country
- 51% want to leave as is or expand Affordable Care Act / Obamacare
- 72% want “government-run healthcare plan” as Medicare for all
- 55% think gun laws need to be more strict
Going by this and other data, we are forced to conclude that the average American is far to the ‘left’ of not only the GOP elite but also the DNC elite. The DNC elite is more concerned with punching ‘left’ and punching down in order to keep democratic activists, community organizers, and populist leaders out of power than to win elections and give Americans what they want. Most Americans, for example, stated support for same sex marriage years before it was backed by Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, the supposed leaders of ‘liberalism’. The DNC elite will only follow behind long after issues have become safe and even then maybe not.
We the People will have to lead ourselves in the march toward political reform, legal justice, civil rights, economic freedom, democratic self-governance, and social progress. But, first, the American public will need to have a populist awakening to the harsh reality that they are the silenced majority and that the corrupt one-party state has become radicalized toward the opposite extreme of corporatocracy, soft fascism (increasingly not-so-soft), and inverted totalitarianism. With polls like this, the suppression and silencing of the American public hopefully won’t last much longer, if and when a populist identity emerges.
The culture wars, in particular, are in decline. It’s not only same sex marriage. Abortion is non-issue for most Americans based on broad support for women’s right. Even for white Evangelicals, abortion is no longer a top issue. And young Evangelicals are increasingly identifying with the ‘progressive’ label, cutting across ideological and partisan divides. “Generally speaking, however, evangelicals ranked traditionally progressive or Democratic causes as more important than traditionally conservative or Republican ones. […] Almost 60-percent said they favored a more progressive evangelical agenda focused more on protecting the environment, tackling HIV/AIDs, and alleviating poverty and less on abortion and homosexuality” (Beliefnet Poll: Evangelicals Still Conservative, But Defy Issue Stereotypes; also see Who Are the American Religious?).
The narrative of civil rights, freedom of choice, and compassionate concern has defeated the narrative of patriarchal paternalism, theocratic control, and moralizing superiority. Few Americans perceive abortion as ‘killing babies’. The culture wars were a carryover from the Cold War era where social issues were used as a blunt instrument of punishment and oppression, such as the McCarthyist fear-mongering of the Lavender Scare where openly gay people had their careers ended and lives destroyed.
But now more than half the population has no memory of the Cold War ideological wars and weren’t bottle-fed on Cold War propaganda. The rhetoric has lost its potency, even for many older Americans, as we move further along in this new century with shifting priorities, concerns, and fears; along with the return of economic populism and old school progressivism. Commie paranoia holds little purchase for the ordinary person when facing concrete threats to life and livelihood such as climate change with droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and historic windstorms, combined with a pandemic. The once powerful redbaiting may still get airtime on right-wing media, but fewer and fewer Americans are swayed by it, as instead large and growing numbers of demographics embrace the ‘socialist’ label. When you keep calling widely and wildly popular policies ‘socialist’, all that is accomplished is getting more Americans to identify accordingly.
Give citizens no other choice than between failed ‘capitalist’ healthcare ruled by a corporatist oligopoly and popular ‘socialist’ healthcare run by the government, most will take socialism gladly and with open arms (In fact, “Every single swing-seat House Democrat who endorsed #MedicareForAll won re-election or is on track to win re-election. Every. Single. One,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; also see: Kenny Stancil, As Centrist House Democrats Attack Medicare for All, Fox News Poll Shows 72% of Voters Want ‘Government-Run Healthcare Plan’). It’s the same basic reason that, when given a narrowly constrained option of either abortion bans or freedom of choice, Americans generally find the latter far more attractive. These forced choices of black-and-white frames were effective in the past as a divide-and-conquer tactic, but over time the rhetoric loses its manipulative force. Americans stop reacting in the way intended, especially as public trust is lost toward the elite pushing this rhetoric. If an ever worsening corrupt plutocracy doesn’t want us — we the People — to have a functioning social democracy and free society, that is all the more reason it becomes attractive.
This is exacerbated as economic issues come to the fore. It’s one thing to give up freedom and self-governance as the price paid for economic comfort and security, as was the deal the plutocrats offered during World War II and heading into the Cold War when public good and shared sacrifice was held up as a societal ideal with a common enemy that was perceived as threatening the “American Way of Life”. But political oppression combined with economic oppression is all take without any gain for us commoners. All boats have not been floating and that harsh reality is getting harder to ignore. The American Dream may require people to be asleep, and the American people may have been fine with remaining asleep during economic good times, but now it’s become a nightmare. This has unsurprisingly led to populist outrage.
Social conservatism used as a political football only works when people are economically comfortable in a society with a middle class that is large, growing, and stable as based on a prosperous society where most of the population gets cheap housing, subsidized higher education, declining inequality, high employment, lifetime job security, affordable healthcare, great employment benefits, and generous pensions. For older Americans, that was the world they grew up in. Even inner city minorites, prior to deindustrialization in the 1960s, were lifted up by decades of good factory jobs that created a minority middle class in communities with low-crime and, because of progressive taxation that heavily taxed the rich, reasonably well-funded public schools.
Look at the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. He didn’t campaign on culture war or even redbaiting. He promised to bring back jobs, protect the American economy, stop undocumented immigration (that is used by by big biz to drive down wages, bust unions, and weaken the bargaining power of workers), and spend millions to rebuild the national infrastructure. This was not merely economic populism. Following Steve Bannon’s wise/conniving advice, Trump invoked the old school progressivism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. As the Democrats abandoned and betrayed the working class, Republicans like Ronald Reagan and Trump found it easy to pick off the very voters in communities that once were labor union strongholds.
The American public didn’t go ‘right’ in being drawn toward populism. No, it was the Democratic Party that embraced class war, if hidden behind identity politics (in turning toward plutocratic elitism, big biz socialism, and soft fascism with corporate deregulation, banking deregulation, media deregulation, racist crime bill, mass incarceration, privatized prisons, etc). On economic issues in particular, Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden are more blatantly and effectively corporatocratic than Donald Trump. Consider Social Security. Trump reassured his supporters that he would never touch it, would never cut it or try to privatize it. Biden, on the other hand, has threatened for decades that he wants to defund Social Security. Some voters have stated that they chose Trump specifically because they feared Biden would take away their Social Security. It gets hard to distinguish between supposedly progressive fiscal liberals and reactionary fiscal conservatives.
Also, a surprising number of minorities voted for Trump; in fact, a larger number this election than last. Even with Trump’s ugly racism, these minorities saw Trump as a viable option in challenging the corporatist oligarchy that has become identified with the Clinton Democrats as the defenders of the status quo. That is a hard-hitting rebuke. Biden barely won an election against the least popular incumbent in U.S. history during a combined economic and pandemic crisis. The DNC elite has zero public mandate. If the corporate stranglehold didn’t keep third parties silenced in the ‘mainstream’ media and shut out of the political debates, a third party candidate might have easily won this election or the last. But that won’t be allowed to happen. We the People, we the liberal and progressive public, we the true moral majority will have to force change from the bottom up.
* * *
The 2020 Election as a Triumph for Democracy? Hold the Hosannas
Even high voter turnouts mask the reality of that “affluent authoritarianism” that now governs America.
by Sam Pizzigati
Gilens and Page, for instance, locate real influence over public policy within the ranks of the most affluent 10 percent, but suggest that opinions in this top tenth most probably reflect attitudes within the ranks of the top 1 or 2 percent.
McGuire and Delahunt go further. Their research moves our focus from what our richest have on their minds to what they’re doing with what they have in their wallets. They see “the transfer of large amounts of money to policy makers from the wealthiest sources focused intensely on particular policies” as the “lodestar variable” for understanding how our policy makers make policy.
* * *
Videos and articles about this Fox News Voter Analysis:
- Shocking Election Night Fox Polls — What Americans Want!
The Jimmy Dore Show
- Fox News Poll Shows Overwhelming Support For Progressive Policies ft. Ben Burgis (TMBS 163)
The Michael Brooks Show
- Fox News exit polls accidentally show Americans are liberal
by Clair Goforth
- Fox News latest exit poll accidentally shows that Americans are liberal and support abortion and gun control
by Tammy Marie Rose by Tammy Marie Rose
- 2020 election early exit poll: Voters support stricter gun laws, protecting Roe v. Wade
by Emily Jacobs
- As Centrist House Democrats Attack Medicare for All, Fox News Poll Shows 72% of Voters Want ‘Government-Run Healthcare Plan’
by Kenny Stancil
- Obamacare Is Becoming a Big Problem for Democrats
by David Sirota and Andrew Perez
- Only Three Percent Of Voters Named Abortion As Their Most Important Issue
- Voters saw election as a judgment on Trump, AP survey find
- Voters say pandemic top issue in election, AP survey finds
Fox News reporting on its own poll:
- Fox News Voter Analysis: Trump sees strong support from base as moderates back Biden
by Margaret Ann Campbell, Peggy Dooley, Andrew Schwartz
- Fox News Poll: Voters pick Biden, yet more think their neighbors back Trump
by Dana Blanton
- Fox News Poll: Majority trusts Biden on COVID, half say virus is out of control
by Dana Blanton
Related posts from this blog:
- US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism
- American People Keep Going Further Left
- Most Oppose Cutting Social Security (data)
- The Court of Public Opinion: Part 1 & Part 2
- Gun Violence & Regulation (Data, Analysis, Rhetoric)
- Warmongering Politicians & Progressive Public
- Environmentalist Majority
- Non-Identifying Environmentalists And Liberals
- Liberalism: Label vs Reality (analysis of data)
- Sea Change of Public Opinion: Libertarianism, Progressivism & Socialism
- Poll Answers, Stated Beliefs, Ideological Labels
- Polarizing Effect of Perceived Polarization
- Wirthlin Effect & Symbolic Conservatism
- Political Elites Disconnected From General Public
- Corporate-Ruled MSM & DNC Is Left-Wing, Says Corporatist Right-Wingers
- Dominant Culture Denies Its Dominance
- Widening the Field of Debate
In other news from recent voting results… This election wasn’t exactly a strong win for the Democratic Party, as they won’t have control outside of the presidency. So, they certainly didn’t gain a crushing victory they could have portrayed as representing a public mandate. But the political left more generally made progress, particularly at the local level.
Increased Diversity In Politics:
“Sen. Kamala Harris is officially the first woman, first Black person, and first South Asian American person to be elected vice president of the United States.” (Li Zhou, Kamala Harris makes history as the first woman to become vice president)
“A new group of Black progressives has officially been elected to Congress. […] Even before the general election on November 3, four progressives in Democratic districts were all but assured spots in the US House of Representatives: Cori Bush from Missouri along with Jones, Jamaal Bowman, and Ritchie Torres — all who will represent districts in New York City. Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia is also advancing to a January runoff for one of the state’s US Senate seats.” (Ella Nilsen, A new generation of Black progressives has been elected to Congress)
“In an incredible turnout of pro-equality voters, Americans across the country elected at least eight out transgender people to office during yesterday’s election.” (Human Riights Campaign, Meet the Transgender Americans Who Won on Election Day)
“Fourteen of the 35 gay, bisexual and transgender candidates who ran for office in Texas during the midterms claimed victory Tuesday night — a 40 percent success rate in deep-red Texas — and national and state activists say they’re confident this election cycle carved a path for a future “rainbow wave” in Texas. The historic number of Texas candidates who ran for offices from governordown to city council positions joined a record-shattering rank of more than 400 LGBTQ individuals on national midterm ballots this year.” (Hannah Wiley, In Texas, the “rainbow wave” outpaces the blue one)
“There will be a record number of women in the next U.S. Congress when it convenes on Jan. 3, 2021. That’s a tabulation from the Center for American Women and Politics. At least 131 women will serve in 117th Congress, with another 25 races featuring women still too close to call as of early Friday morning. CAWP says 100 of the women elected so far are Democrats and 31 are Republicans. In the House, at least 106 women will serve (83 Democrat and 23 Republican), beating the previous record of 102 in 2019. That includes 43 women of color, all but one of whom are Democrat. On the Senate side, at least 24 women will be part of the next Congress. It could be 25 if Sen. Kelly Loeffler wins her Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia. […] Republicans will have 13 freshman House members who are women, a record for that party, with nine races yet to call. Fourteen undecided House races are featuring Democratic women. Eight have already been elected to next year’s freshman class.” (Travis Pittman, Record number of women elected to Congress)
Americans Contemplating The Possibility Of Functioning Democracy:
“Alaska and Massachusetts both have major voting reforms on the ballot this year, including whether to use ranked-choice voting in future elections. […] Missouri voters have a chance to make changes to their state’s elections as well, with Amendment 3, which would limit campaign contributions to state Senate candidates and prohibit state lawmakers and their staff from accepting gifts from lobbyists.” (Live results: Ballot initiatives on democracy reform)
Social Democracy And Democratic Socialism Is On The Rise:
“But democratic socialism, popularized by near-presidential nominee Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.), had a much better night. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), an organization that boasts nearly 80,000 members nationwide, endorsed 29 candidates and 11 ballot initiatives, winning 20 and 8 respectively. There are now democratic socialist caucuses in 15 statehouses, including Montana. […]
“Plenty of progressive candidates also lost, but most candidates nationally endorsed by DSA sailed through. And while it’s true that many of them had tough primary battles and less difficult elections on Tuesday, they still won as DSA members. All four members of “The Squad” — a progressive bloc in Congress that includes Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) — were reelected to the House. (Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez are DSA members and endorsed by the organization.) Progressives also added two more DSA-endorsed members to their squad: Democratic Rep.-elect Jamaal Bowman in New York, and Democratic Rep.-elect Cori Bush, the first ever Black Congresswoman in Missouri.
“Now, thanks to DSA members across the country, there is a socialist in Austin City Council and in both the Rhode Island and Montana State Houses. In Pennsylvania, there are three socialists who are almost certainly headed to the legislature in Harrisburg. Socialists in Boulder, Colorado worked alongside the ACLU to win a ballot measure that guarantees no eviction without representation, and DSA members partnered with the labor unions AFSCME and SEIU to pass Preschool for All in Multnomah County, Oregon. And in both Florida and Portland, Maine, ballot initiatives for a $15 minimum wage passed.
“While it’s clear that most DSA victories have been in big cities or more liberal states thus far, it’s important that we don’t discount the incredible organizing happening in the South and in rural areas. (Marquita Bradshaw ran a DSA-backed campaign for Senate in Tennessee but lost; Kim Roney, endorsed by her DSA chapter, won a seat on the Asheville City Council.)
“And while the Democratic party is loath to give DSA any encouragement, DSA member Tlaib may have helped to secure Biden’s victory in Michigan by helping to massively increase voter turnout from 2016.” (Mindy Isser, What Democrats Should Learn From the Spate of Socialist Wins on Election Day)
Puerto Ricans Demand Decolonization:
“Puerto Ricans have again voted in favor of making their island home a US state and they’re hoping that, this time around, their decision will carry actual weight. Puerto Rico, which has been a US territory for 122 years and is the world’s oldest colony, has held five previous non-binding referendums on the issue. In 2012 and 2017, the island’s 3 million citizens overwhelmingly backed statehood, but Congress never took further action to admit Puerto Rico into the union.” (Nicole Narea, Puerto Ricans have voted in favor of statehood. Now it’s up to Congress.)
Revocation Of Memorializing Historical Racism:
“Mississippians have voted in favor of the ballot initiative Measure 3 and will replace their controversial state flag with a new one, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press. The new flag, named the “In God We Trust” flag, will put to rest a decades-long debate over the flag that the state used for 126 years, which features a Confederate emblem. The new design was commissioned and approved by the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, set up by the state legislature after the body voted to do away with the old flag. It prominently features a magnolia flower — the state flower — encircled by 20 white stars, a nod to Mississippi’s status as the 20th state to join the US. A larger yellow star sits directly above the flower to represent the Choctaw origins of the state, and all the icons sit on a dark blue and red striped background.” (Fabiola Cineas, Mississippi says goodbye to Confederate emblem and adopts a new state flag)
Rejection Of War On Drugs Across Country:
“In every state where a ballot measure asked Americans to reconsider the drug war, voters sided with reformers. In Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, voters legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. In Mississippi and South Dakota (separate from the full legalization measure), voters legalized medical marijuana. In Oregon, voters decriminalized — but not legalized — all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Also in Oregon, voters legalized the use of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms, for supervised therapeutic uses. In Washington, DC, voters in effect decriminalized psychedelic plants, following the lead of several other cities.” (German Lopez, Election Day was a major rejection of the war on drugs)
Police Reform – Downsizing Police, Defunding Police And Funding Alternatives:
“Los Angeles voters have approved Measure J, also known as “Reimagine LA County,” which requires that 10 percent of the city’s unrestricted general funds — estimated between $360 million and $900 million per year — be invested in social services and alternatives to incarceration, not prisons and policing.” (Roger Karma, Los Angeles voters just delivered a huge win for the defund the police movement)
“San Francisco voters have decided to do away with a longtime police staffing law that required the police department to maintain at least 1,971 full-time officers on its force, with their approval of Proposition E, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Now, the strength of the city’s police force will be governed by a police commission tasked with regularly evaluating police staffing levels.” (Fabiola Cineas, San Francisco hasn’t defunded its police force yet — but just voted to make it smaller)
Healthcare Reform Remains A Winner:
“Highlighting an interesting—and to many, instructive—electoral trend that others have spotted in the days since 2020 voting ended earlier this week, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday—just as jubilation spread nationwide among Democrats and progressives upon news that Joe Biden will be the next U.S. President—pointed out that every single congressional member this year who ran for reelection while supporting Medicare for All won (or was on their way to winning) their respective race.” (Jon Queally, ‘Every. Single. One.’: Ocasio-Cortez Notes Every Democrat Who Backed Medicare for All Won Reelection in 2020)
Abortion Restriction Voted Down:
“Colorado voters just rejected a measure that would have banned abortion in the state after 22 weeks’ gestation, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press. […] Abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy are rare, with nearly 99 percent of abortions happening before 22 weeks’ gestation. But a small percentage of patients seek abortion later in pregnancy, sometimes because of severe fetal abnormalities that can only be diagnosed at that time. Proposition 115 did not have an exception for such abnormalities, or for rape, incest, or the health of the pregnant person, allowing abortion only if it was “immediately required to save the life of a pregnant woman.” That could mean providers would have to wait until a patient was actually dying to terminate a pregnancy” (Anna North, Colorado voters reject 22-week ban on abortion)
First State In The South Passes $15 Minimum Wage:
“In the 2020 election, Florida voted 60-40 in favor of Amendment 2, a ballot measure to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 by September 30, 2026, even as it also voted to keep President Donald Trump in office. […] “Across the board, it is not necessarily a left or right issue. Voters across the aisle actually know that it is impossible in Florida and around the country [to] actually survive on $8.56 and what the current minimum wage is,” Allynn Umel, national organizing director of the Fight for $15, a group that advocates for a $15 minimum wage and a union, said on a call with reporters Wednesday.” (Emily Stewart, The lesson Democrats should take from Florida’s $15 minimum wage vote)
Universal Preschool And Teachers Pay Raised:
“Advocates of universal preschool just scored a key local victory, with Multnomah County, Oregon — which includes the city of Portland — approving a ballot measure supporters called Preschool for All, according to OregonLive and Portland Monthly. The initiative, also known as Measure 26-214, will provide tuition-free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents want it, while also raising the pay of preschool teachers. The county will pay for the program with a tax on high-income residents.” (Anna North, What this Oregon county’s “preschool for all” victory means for child care in America)
Renewable Energy Goals In Nevada State Constitution:
“As was widely expected, Nevada voters approved Question 6 on the ballot, which amends the state constitution to mandate that the Nevada’s electricity providers shift to at least 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press.” (David Roberts, Nevada voters seal renewable energy goals in their state constitution)
29 thoughts on “Fox News: Americans are the ‘Left-Wing’ Enemy Threatening America”
We need a radical reform if human society. I never, ever condone violence. It needs to be peaceful. But we have the resources to provide security and care for all and correct the deep injustices in society.
It could be put a slightly different way. Change is inevitable, whether quickly or gradually, although probably within the lifetime of presently living generations. It could be reform or revolution, civil war or societal collapse. It might even be mutually assured destruction through ecological decline, mass extinction, and climate change or maybe a world war of nuclear and biological weapons. It could be any combination of the above.
Our choices will shape the outcome. But what we can’t choose is not to change at all. That is not in our power nor is it in the power of the ruling elite. Even violence or not, at least on the large-scale, is not in our hands to decide. We can personally embrace pacifism. Yet if the ruling elite chooses violence, then violence it will be. The ruling elite controls the tools of violence. So, it’s simply a matter of the ruling elite accepting change or resisting it.
Going by history, ruling elites most of the time choose violence. Offhand, I can only think of a couple of examples of entirely peaceful transition of power where a ruling elite willingly gave up power. One was the Quaker government of the Pennsylvania colony. They simply stepped down and allowed others to take over the government, and they did so without anyone demanding them to do so. The Quakers simply decided they no longer wanted to be a ruling elite.
The other example is more recent, Portugal’s Carnation Revolution. The military generals agreed to no longer enforce a police state. The troops marched into the capital, along with the tanks. Then they simply stopped and refused to move. The people were afraid at first, but then realized the military was no threat and so went out with carnation flowers. No one was harmed, the military temporarily held power during democratic elections, and they transitioned to a peaceful social democracy.
There is an interesting side story to that second example. Johann Hari writes about it in Chasing the Scream. Portugal’s former police state used an oppressive war on drugs and mass incarceration as social control. After the democratic reforms, they decriminalized drug use, although maintained the illegality of selling drugs on the black market. For those addicted, they could go to a doctor to get a prescription. But they also offered programs for addiction prevention and rehabilitation. Drug addiction rates dropped.
That is inspiring. Sadly, it’s rare. I don’t see that happening in the United States. Could you imagine the entire US military marching into Washington, DC and refusing to enforce the police state? To most Americans, especially most soldiers, that is unimaginable. Yet we definitely can imagine it. And there is nothing stopping it from happening. But I must admit the possibility of our present ruling elite willingly relinquishing power like the Pennsylvania Quakers is beyond even the capacities of my radical imagination.
Sadly, you are entirely correct in everything you say. I was merely expressing a hope which I have no real expectation of seeing put into practice. As you say, there are a few rare examples of peaceful change in history but that is very much the exception. I have reached the stage where I cease to expect anything of humanity. I may express my wishes for a better more just society but that is all I can do since I was never, nor ever will be a mover and shaker. Nor do I wish to be. I concede, willingly, that change could occur as a result of any of the events you mention. It would not surprise me were humanity to go extinct or were we to see a vicious violent Dystopia as we have witnessed so often in the past. I feel detached and remote from the world. It is not that I do not care – it is simply that I see it through the same eyes as Carl Sagan. A tiny Blue Dot which could be heaven but which one thoroughly unpleasant animal species has turned into a hell.
There is some satisfaction in contemplating, likely or not, alternative possibilities and divergent futures. If nothing else, there is a sense that we are entering an age that will be far less predictable based on extrapolating from the past. What may have seemed incomprehensible before might become increasingly plausible and attractive, maybe even come to be perceived as near inevitable. Our ideas about society, humanity, and reality will shift as well. That said, maybe like you, I’ve become less attached to specific results, even as I care too much to be indifferent.
By the way, I’m all for hope. And I’d never want to cynically dash someone’s hope upon the rocks of realism. We might as well imagine a path to peaceful reform or some other lovely outcome. Why not? We are creatures of imagination. We have to imagine something and we always are imagining something. If we don’t imagine a desirable result and inspiring vision, we will imagine something else in its place.
I used that as my morning contemplation during my walk to work. Imagination is not about thinking of and envisioning what is not real. It’s inseparable from our perception and experience of the world, our being in and of the world. And it has everything to do with identity. That has been on my mind a lot lately. What kind of world do we create with what kind of identity? It goes back to why I’ve lost interest in the outrage machine.
Totally agree in giving up on outrage. I certainly have.
Perhaps we’ve just been decapitated and the American public is now, officially, the Headless Horseman.
I’ve used the imagery of a pendulum to illustrate the historical “swings” between the two predominant political parties and their “majority” rules, suspended as it is from the stale and stagnant, central point of the Federal government. Combine that with the pyramidal image on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States and what do you get? (Besides extreme polarization and a panopticon.)
Are we walking a “tightrope over the Abyss” or suspended between a pit and a pendulum?
I wonder if “the elites” just happen to be here while the “average American” is here. If so, perhaps there’s hope for us yet.
It is natural to bring up Gilens and Page in response to the Fox News poll. If I had thought about it, I might’ve discussed it in the above post. It emphasizes the point being made. But the advantage of the Fox News poll is that no one can honestly dismiss it as the liberal bias of ‘left-wing’ media. That isn’t to say that plenty won’t still try to dismiss. One has to give Fox News credit for still reporting it, if barely. The articles they published on it buried the most damning data.
I’m not sure how many Americans are aware of such info showing our government is not representative, but I suspect it’s few. It’s similar to Americans being kept ignorant about how high is inequality. In fact, inequality is higher than Americans claim is tolerable, according to other polls. So, what would happen if Americans found out politicians don’t represent them and that inequality is vastly higher than they realize?
Conservatives, libertarians, and such will sometimes argue that the US is a representative republic, not a democracy. Well, at the national level, it’s neither; although at the most local level some county and city governments have characteristics of both (to varying degrees, depending on the locality). All that a republic means is a government is not a monarchy, a low bar to reach. Nazi Germany, Maoist China, USSR, etc were all republics, if not representative, much less democratic.
I was reluctant to write this post because it can feel pointless. People like you and I already know this, but it is nice to see it confirmed again. The first post I wrote (linked above) gathering decades of polling data was from about a decade ago, and it made the same point as this. The American public is quite liberal and progressive, a trend that can be seen going far back. But this shouldn’t be surprising when one looks at how radical politics was earlier last century.
During the culture wars, there was the claim that the moral majority was conservative, traditionalist, and fundamentalist to an extreme degree. I’m not sure there is good polling data from the early Cold War, but I wonder if that propagandistic narrative was ever as true as we’ve been led to believe. Unsurprisingly, when I’ve told conservatives of polling data like this, they never believe me. They usually say the source is biased, but Fox News is as solidly conservative as it comes, at least ‘conservative’ in the American sense.
Even now, I doubt many conservatives would be able and willing to accept what this shows. I know my conservative parents would be resistant, although my father is starting to come around to the fact the public maybe has shifted into the opposite direction from his 1950s politics based on the nostalgia of the American Dream of small town USA. He literally grew up in the town that was used as a model for WWII propaganda, and indeed the propaganda pamphlet referred to it as “Small Town, USA”. That town has since declined into poverty, lost its status as a labor union stronghold, and went to Trump.
Even then, my father has grown conspiratorial, mostly from watching too much Fox News. He was a fan of Glenn Beck during the Tea Party era. My dad has come to believe that the media and universities are indoctrinating the young. So, he’d probably take this Fox News poll as just more proof of the power of ‘left-wing’ propaganda. It wouldn’t occur to him that maybe the moral vision of liberalism and progressivism is simply more inspiring than mean-spirited moralizing and social Darwinian capitalist realism.
I was reminded of another influence on my father. He gets the Imprimis publication put out by Hillsdale College. I too somehow ended up on their mailing list and so get the Imprimis. I briefly looked at the recent edition and there was a propaganda piece about the Chinese, including a claim about indoctrinating young American leftist activists and supporting their movement and organizations.
“It is also believed that Chinese operatives in the Houston consulate provided intelligence to Black Lives Matter and Antifa rioters in Houston as a way of demonstrating their solidarity. Indeed, there is growing evidence that the CCP’s United Front includes these groups, and that some of the funding for BLM and Antifa is coming from CCP-sponsored or affiliated groups: Liberation Road, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the Chinese Progressive Association.”
This comes straight out of the rhetorical playbook of the early Cold War. So, it’s basically repeating the propaganda my father would have heard beginning in childhood. The only difference is that China has replaced the Soviets as the global bogeyman. His mind obviously is already primed for it.
From a post written several years ago, I made a point about a different understanding of propaganda. The example I used was Imprimis and I quoted C.J. Hopkins:
“The primary aim of official propaganda is to generate an “official narrative” that can be mindlessly repeated by the ruling classes and those who support and identify with them.”
My father has swallowed this “official narrative” hook, line, and sinker. The other day, I heard him in his study and he was on a phone call or maybe in a Zoom meeting. He was repeating the “official narrative” straight out of the Imprimis piece.
He belongs to and is often in leadership positions with various local groups, from being on church boards to being the president of the local Kiwanis organization. His social circle involves many in the local capitalist class and professional class, the movers and shakers in this town. In this capacity, he acts as a thought leader and influencer. He could easily spread this propaganda to dozens of other people.
If I shared this Fox News poll with him, would he likewise spread the info in it that shows Americans are liberal, progressive, and radical? Probably not. I’m quite confident he wouldn’t. Yet why is he willing to push propaganda from sources he is unaware of. Imprimis is one of the main propaganda rags of the neocons. It’s backed by powerful and wealthy interests. Yet that doesn’t concern him, even as it concerns me greatly.
The author of the Imprimis piece is Brian T. Kennedy, a fairly influential figure if not a well known name, although he is personally associated with other infamous people like Steven Bannon.
He is president of the American Strategy Group. He is also a Senior Fellow, board member, and former president of the Claremont Institute, a neocon policy center or what is more commonly referred to as a right-wing think tank. Even more interesting, he is the chairman of the Committee on the Present Danger(CPD), an old Cold War organization with powerful political ties, of which Wikispooks says:
“The Committee on the Present Danger denotes a series of hawkish US establishment pressure groups. The original committee founded in 1950, was revived three times, in 1976,2004 and most recently in March 2019. Both the first and second incarnations of the Committee sought to use public pressure to influence debates already underway within the Government, concerning the NSC-68 document in 1950, and the Team B exercise in 1976, each of which exaggerated the Soviet threat. The 1976 Committee was the first in which the neoconservatives emerged as a significant force within the hawkish coalition. They would go on to be the dominant strand in the 2004 Committee which attempted to apply a similar logic to the war on terror. The 2019 version is directed against China.”
Basically, those like Kennedy have been longing for a new Cold War. If that requires pushing propaganda, Kennedy is probably fine with that. About the CPD, according to the Militarist Monitor,
“the group has been largely dormant for many years.” But that might be changing. They sought to promote war hawk polices and military imperialism during the War on Terror. Now they see another opportunity with perceived conflict with China that has been a major part of President Trump’s message.
To understand what kind of organization is the CPD, look at it’s leadership as described by the Militarist Monitor: “Reagan-era secretary of state George Shultz and Clinton-era CIA head James Woolsey are CPD’s co-chairs. They are joined by two honorary co-chairs, the hawkish former senators Jon Kyl and Joseph Lieberman.” So, it’s obviously all tied into the war state.
As a side note, the CPD seems to represent a powerful stream of political force that likely is linked to what is referred to as the deep state. It involves important figures that worked in the government. The push for a Cold War with the Soviets actually goes back further than the CPD. Even while WWII was still going on, the pre-neocons were already angling to make Stalin into the new enemy, despite Stalin hoping to maintain the West as allies.
In the following video, one guy referred to the “conservative Democrats”. That seems accurate when speaking of the Clintons, Obama, Biden, etc. But if they are conservatives, albeit comparably ‘moderate’ in their authoritarian and reactionary impulses, how do we meaningfully and with discernment label the hardcore extremists of the ‘conservative’ movement?
It’s actually a little more concerning to me that — to the one guy — “common ground” obviously means negotiating for a common ground that doesn’t already exist and, therefore, compromise of one’s self and others’. In other words, he accepts the “academic” definition of “common ground” without question. The word, negotiation, itself smacks of the Neoliberal paradigm and its assessment of human beings as profit and loss calculators, so I understand why he doesn’t like it, but am personally fed up with “activists” who start from the same mentality and play the same mind games as the so-called elites. In fact, I don’t listen to them at all anymore.
This kind of “academic” language has become so pervasive, it’s a living wonder any of us can understand each other at all.
Speak of dialogue and conversation, on the other hand, and one has my undivided attention. Dialogue and conversation do not end in negotiation and compromise or, as it is more widely known today, The ‘Art’ of the Deal.
We’re not here to play ‘Make a Deal’ as far as I’m concerned. We’re here to become crystal clear reflections of the “One in the Many and the Many in the One” we all know in our heart of hearts we are and bring “the more beautiful world we know is possible,” to quote Charles Eisenstein, into being. I, for one, am willing to settle for nothing less.
That is fair. We agree that speaking of a “common ground” where none exists is worse than meaningless. Compromise is dangerous when it leads to being morally compromised. I have no opinion about whether it’s an academic definition of “common ground”. More simply, I’d just say it expresses confusion, indicating intellectual compromise by speaking without understanding. We definitely share a strong unacceptance of settling for less than our fullest potential. ‘Settling’ is also an interesting word. When a house settles, the foundation can crack and leak. Yet other things, as they settle, become more stable and strong. It’s a matter of what is settling and how.
To be honest, I only played part of the video and was barely listening to it. I wasn’t recommending the video itself or the views presented in it, and so I won’t defend it. I only threw it out as an example of someone speaking of “conservative Democrats”. That was all that caught my attention and interested me. In the past, I’ve sought to clarify by being specific in my language. So, I’ve usually spoken not of Democrats in general but precisely Democratic partisans, Clinton Democrats, corporatist Democrats, DNC elite, etc. These are the people who have falsely styled themselves ‘centrists’ and ‘moderates’. The name of the party, Democrats, misleads the public to believe that those who identify with it are democratic.
It might be best to refer to them as conservative Democrats, to differentiate them from actual moderate Democrats along with liberal Democrats who don’t control the DNC. For one, conservative as used here is a highly accurate description. Also, it better captures and more effectively expresses what they actually believe and support, and how they act accordingly. But, in that case, it might be false to refer to a supposed ‘conservative’ movement that is separate from and opposed to the conservative Democrats (even within the overly simplified and narrowly constrained political spectrum of left and right, at least in its American version). Both Democrats and Republicans are conservative. What differentiates them is the degree of authoritarianism and the extremity of the reactionary mind.
I’ve come to the opinion that conservatism is simply a reaction to and an authoritarian variant of liberalism. That is to say conservatives are also liberal but a specific type, and any liberal under the right conditions can become reactionary and authoritarian in being drawn to conservative-style thinking. This is because, in post-Enlightenment modernity, we live within a liberal paradigm and so everything is defined by liberalism, including opposition to it. That is even more true for a country like the United States that was founded directly upon liberalism.
We also have to understand modern authoritarianism, at least in the West, in terms of liberalism. There are disagreements to what degree authoritarianism is inherently conservative, rather than merely anti-liberal, but that might be a difference that makes no difference. There is much more commonality than not between varieties of modern, Western authoritarianism. Both Nazis and Stalinists, for example, were simultaneously opposed to social liberalism (egalitarianism, free speech, free press, independent scholarship, experimental art, etc), social democracy (democratic process, fair legal system, civil rights, minority rights, etc), radical politics (labor organizing, Marxism, anarchosyndicalism, democratic socialism, etc), and traditionalism (orthodox church authority, feudalism, local commons, rights of commoners, etc).
That last part surprises people who don’t know the history of the reactionary mind in how the counterrevolution, including conservatism, arose in reaction to what was perceived as the failure of the ancien regime to stop the challenge of radicals and revolutionaries. Conservatives came not to defend traditionalism but to replace it, and so this explains why modern authoritarians have emerged out of or made use of conservatism (e.g., nationalism). It is impossible to find an authoritarianism that is fully socially liberal, by which I mean doesn’t merely co-opt social liberal rhetoric as is common with reactionaries (as seen with many right-libertarians and so-called classical liberals).
This is what feels odd, in our historical amnesia, to looking back at a radicalized liberal like Thomas Paine. He defended aspects of traditionalism against the attacks by conservatives and other counterrevolutionaries. For all his radicalism, he saw the privatization of modern capitalism as far more radical than what he was advocating. The loss of the feudal commons and the rights of the commoners demolished the foundations of traditional society. Peasants and serfs had certain rights to land and resources, while the monarchy, aristocracy, and church had carefully defined responsibilities. It was the most radical social liberals and social democrats who took this loss seriously, in demanding that there be compensation or else something to serve a similar purpose.
Calling American Republicans ‘conservatives’ doesn’t begin to capture how radically counterrevolutionary they are. And it misses the point that the ongoing counterrevolution has itself been revolutionary, in having utterly disrupted and transformed society. We need better language. It’s possible that ‘conservative’ as a label has also become entirely meaningless at this point, maybe even in reference to the Democrats who are moderate authoritarians, reactionaries, and counterrevolutionaries. That is why I still fall back on ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’, as it is the only widely understood labels that get at this distinction, however imperfectly. In this sense, both parties are ‘right-wing’.
This is much more clear once one looks beyond the past century of American politics. It’s obvious that the modern one-party state with two factions has very little in common with a ‘leftist’ like Paine. Even after centuries of ‘progress’, Paine still sounds radical and we are only beginning to entertain his most liberal positions such as a citizens dividend. Paine was the original American ‘leftist’, despite his having sat on the right side of the Legislative Assembly during the French Revolution. Confusion aside, it should be noted that classical liberals and libertarians were initially on the political left and they changed in nature as they became associated with the political right.
At first, the visuospatial metaphor had a practical application of separating absolute monarchists and limited monarchists, and then it separated monarchists and republicans (a republic is simply a government that isn’t a monarchy). Many have argued that it’s still a useful way of making fundamental distinctions. This has been variously given as egalitarianism vs hierarchy with the extremes being anarchism vs elitism (or else the degree of entrenched and inherited rigidity of hierarchy, such as between a democratically elected representative and a born aristocrat or plutocrat), open vs closed (related to personality traits like FFM openness and Ernest Hartmann’s boundary types), etc.
Here is a good example from Andrew Heywood’s Key Concepts in Politics and International Relations on p. 119. In speaking of the political spectrum, he begins by referring to the standard stereotypes: “left-wing views support intervention and collectivism; and right-wing views favour market and individualism.” Fortunately, he doesn’t end with that common but misleading set of definitions: “However, this distinction supposedly reflects deeper, if imperfectly defined, ideological or value differences. Ideas such as freedom, equality, fraternity, rights, progress, reform and internationalism are generally seen to have a left-wing character, while notions such as authority, hierarchy, order, duty, tradition, reaction and nationalism are generally seen as having a right-wing character.”
Left-wingers aren’t inherently opposed to markets but when it comes to free markets they emphasize the freedom part of the equation, whereas right-wingers prioritize markets with or without freedom. That is a massive difference in whether, if conflict arises, markets might be sacrificed for freedom or freedom sacrificed for markets. Right-wingers have typically only advocated full individual rights and freedom for the ruling elite and upper classes (or more broadly the capitalist class, as in those who own and control most of the fungible wealth), sometimes including the middle class when the middle class is large enough and wealthy enough to wield political influence. But when individualism is aligned with egalitarianism and openness as in freedom for all equally and fairly (i.e., fully functioning social democracy), individualism has been strongly advocated by traditional ‘leftists’; but when not, not. It also depends on which kind of individualism and when it gets applied.
In right-wing ideological systems, those higher up the hierarchy of power, privilege, and/or wealth get treated as individuals when it comes to benefits and gains whereas costs are externalized and socialized in being paid for by government or through otherwise confiscating wealth and resources from the larger society or from one’s subordinates (e.g., enforced cheap labor). That is why our present corporatocracy and plutocracy involves a socialism for the rich while a social Darwinian individualism only applies to to the degree one is poor and powerless. In the soft fascism of capitalist realism, the ultimate individual is known by their being punished for their inferiority, such as by way of being imprisoned or homeless. This is the right-wing ideal of the market as the Invisible Hand of God which presumes social hierarchies are a product of a Calvinist-style Elect predestined by God (or, in pseudo-scientific language, by genetic determinism, race realism, etc) and so demonstrates the inborn nature and moral character of each separate individual, which is then used to justify collectivist transference of wealth upwards.
Obviously, the individualism of American capitalism is highly questionable. As argued by Anu Partanen in the Nordic Theory of Everything, this is seen in how Scandinavian countries, as what many Americans consider collectivist welfare states, support and promote greater individualism than does pseudo-individualistic United States (hyper-individualism is another way of speaking of pseudo-individualism, such as the rhetoric of individualism is ramped up to hide the actual collectivist oppression). Yet both Scandinavia and the United States have mixed economics that include large national and international markets. It’s a similar confusion as the changing notions of natural law (a divine or universal law above state and church authority), as it earlier was often more strongly embraced by revolutionary liberals and mostly rejected by counterrevolutionary conservatives. Natural law today, however, is thought of as being conservative and fundamentalist, particularly employed by theocons and conflated with revisionistic constitutional pseudo-originalism as if conservative ideology were written into the stars.
As liberalism increasingly becomes the norm, opponents of liberalism end up being quite liberal themselves, albeit with a reactionary overlay. Given enough time, everything liberal eventually becomes conservative. In a few generations, American conservatives will be upholding feminism and defending abortion, in their fight against whatever new expressions of radicalism emerge on the political left. Still, the basic ideological impulses behind the left-right division probably will remain unchanging for a while longer as, one might argue, they form out of very old metaphorical frames built on deeply entrenched patterns in the mind. But no doubt meanings will shift.
The historical contingency is why the political spectrum has come to feel so muddled. We focus on outward expression rather than the values, principles, and ideals of inner motivation. My criticisms in calling left/right as bullshit, is mostly in how it’s come to be used. I’m not dismissing it in it’s entirety. It remains a powerful metaphor, if not as compelling as it once was. The main problem is a better metaphor has yet to take hold, but one probably will over time. Anyways, metaphors are never right or wrong, rather apt or not. We have minds that think through metaphor, as Julian Jaynes demonstrates. Where I disagree with the muddled thinking is that, to my view, all authoritarianism is right-wing almost by definition, in seeing authority as an ultimate value in and of itself. It matters not if an authoritarian uses egalitarian rhetoric for we should judge people by their actions and politics by their results.
That is the problem with right-libertarians who claim so-called negative freedom which conflates freedom with liberty, two very different linguistic terms and cultural concepts. There is no such thing as negative freedom as supposed opportunity if it is systematically and continuously suppressed in real world results, what libertarians call positive freedom. There is either freedom or not. This is an example of reactionaries co-opting rhetoric. These pseudo-libertarians don’t actually care about freedom at all; and, no, freedom can never be defined by markets since a market can only be free to the degree that everyone involved in or affected by a market is free. This is why it makes perfect sense to place these (right-)libertarians firmly on the inegalitarian, hierarchical, and authoritarian right-wing.
It’s related to why one might call the DNC elite ‘conservatives’, in being relatively moderate ‘right-wingers’. It’s also why Nazis and Stalinists tended toward a similar social conservatism that is rarely acknowledged. In the end, Hitler and Stalin were imperialists, a specific variety of right-wing authoritarian. It is irrelevant what rhetoric they used in speeches or the propaganda that was fed to the public. Stalin, for example, simply re-created a feudal-like society that re-established the old territorial boundaries of the Russian Empire. The real world results of what he enforced did not match the hopes, expectations, ideals, and values of left-wing ideology from Karl Marx and others, no matter the claims made in defining the new Russian Empire as supposedly different from the new German Empire or the emerging American Empire.
The main argument is to what degree of reaction. That is true for all of us. As we live in a liberal age, we also live in a highly reactionary society. To varying degrees, all of us incorporate elements of both but the degree does matter. It also matters whether one embraces liberalism or the reactionary as a psychological way of being and a social identity. Reaction is what liberalism mutates into when fearful and anxiety-driven unawareness prevails, but we all struggle with the limits and challenges of limited awareness. Liberalism arose as a countervailing force to millennia of rising authoritarianism, from imperialism to feudalism. It was an impulse borne out of the post-bicameral mind during the Axial Age. As some have noted, left and right are just another way of talking about the two sides of class war. Back in 1947, Robert M. MacIver, a Scottish sociologist, put it this way:
“The right is always the party sector associated with the interests of the upper or dominant classes, the left the sector expressive of the lower economic or social classes, and the centre that of the middle classes. Historically this criterion seems acceptable. The conservative right has defended entrenched prerogatives, privileges and powers; the left has attacked them. The right has been more favorable to the aristocratic position, to the hierarchy of birth or of wealth; the left has fought for the equalization of advantage or of opportunity, for the claims of the less advantaged. Defence and attack have met, under democratic conditions, not in the name of class but in the name of principle; but the opposing principles have broadly corresponded to the interests of the different classes.”
Those two main currents of class war ideologies, in the Anglo-American tradition, emerged during the English Civil War. That was when the first socialist ideas were heard, as large segments of the serfs, peasants, and early middle class rose up against the monarchy and aristocracy. The new military force that developed during the war was egalitarian for its time. They so opposed enforced hierarchy that they beheaded the king, setting a fine example for the French to later follow. An elite without a head cannot rule over the masses. That is as anti-monarchical as an ideology can get, although egalitarianism was otherwise still a bit rough around the edges.
In my more personal understanding, maybe right and left most fundamentally comes down to the psychological and sociological. If left and right have become too muddled, then why not simply talk about what is reactionary and what is not. And the reactionary basically is an expression of fear and anxiety or more generally stress. Anyone who is stressed enough, repeatedly or continuously, will exhibit symptoms of trauma. The reactionary mind is a traumatized mind. Left and right isn’t really about political ideologies. If one isn’t fearful and anxious, isn’t stressed and traumatized, then there will be less attraction to a reactionary mindset and hence reactionary ideologies. The Dark Triad or Tetrad might simply be another facet of this neurocognitive dysfunction that, when affecting a large enough part of a population, manifests as social, political, and economic systems.
Even authoritarianism might be more of a result than a cause. Tests that measure for authoritarianism in individuals are trying to discern specific attitudes, behaviors, and ways of relating. But that still leaves us with the issue of causation. What if the main causation is overwhelming stress, such as can be measured in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)? It’s not surprising that studies have shown that those who hold views on the standardly defined political right tend to have grown up with spanking and other forms of corporal punishment. The trauma of spanking can be measured quite concretely in stunted brain development, as seen in brain scans. But to those on the political right, that is simply the price to be paid to maintain moral order and social order.
Here is a thought experiment. Would so-called right-wing ideologies diminish if most corporal punishment was outlawed, ACEs were decreased, and trauma lessened for most of the population? I suspect it would. And by ‘right-wing’, I mean it in the standard sense of referring to social conservatism, authoritarianism, and the reactionary mind. If this is correct, the debate isn’t really about political ideology, per se. The rise of a public that is socially liberal, politically progressive, and economically populist might directly involve that corporal punishment for children is now frowned upon and to some degree outright illegal. A child can talk back to a teacher who is an authority figure without fear of being physically abused or publicly humiliated, as was common not that long ago. Maybe such simple social changes have immense consequences in social outcomes.
For all the problems we continue to have, certain basic causes of trauma have been remedied to some extent. And despite the constant attacks and defunding, there is a greater safety net and better public education system than existed a century ago. I was reading an article about a poor black girl who spent some of her early life homeless. It was a sad story, but what stood out was the immense amount of resources that had been available to her as compared to previous generations. There were several organizations that helped her out in numerous ways and gave her hope. Not that long ago, a black girl in a similar situation probably would have ended up a prostitute or trapped in an abusive marriage or maybe just already dead. So, even in her continuing struggles, she has gained more security and comfort than she would have otherwise had if liberalism had not prevailed to the degree it has. Someone like her is more likely to hold liberal values and progressive views as an adult.
All in all, I don’t necessarily care about any particular terms to be used to describe differences that do make a difference. And no doubt we need better language. But even if we are suspicious of the left-right frame, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is a genuine conflict of ideological worldviews that has formed a schism in our society. It may not be represented by the party system. Still, it can be seen and felt in every aspect of our society. So, if we don’t call certain ideologies as right-wing, that might be fine. In that case, what other similar label captures the full meaning that right-wing captured in the past in advocating hierarchy, order, authority, reaction, and such? But also, how do we regain the earlier connotation of left-right that made clear it was first and foremost about class war? That class war has never ended, even if the ruling elite of both main US parties pretends it has.
Actually, I was speaking of a “common ground” that does exist. If only we weren’t so wrapped up in ourselves as a species, we might even be able to see it in time to avoid the “global catastrophe” of which Gebser speaks. (As if the Sixth Extinction Event, in which our own species is participating whether we all realize it or not, isn’t enough of a global catastrophe.)
I’m taking a long break from what’s happening in the “body politic,” however. My own circumstances are urgent.
Good speaking with you again.
I wasn’t asserting there was no real “common ground” but that what the elites call “common ground” is not. I’m all the time going on about a shared humanity, majority opinion, and what is fundamental. This includes the greater sense of being in and of the world, of dependent co-arising along with the self that is open, porous, extended, and bundled. Basically, we are not only more than most of us realize but that we are of a different nature than is typically assumed.
The point I was making is that what is most significantly common is what gets obscured by false claims of what is common. As I said, it seems you and I are on common ground, at least about this particular understanding of common ground. But we might put a different emphasis on aspects of this understanding. And certainly we disagree about much else. I suspect, for example, you have a very different take on the left-right issue. We might both declare ‘bullshit’ while meaning something different.
These days, I don’t much focus on such things as “global catastrophe”. I acknowledge such possibilities, but it’s just not where my mind is at. I spent so many decades obsessing over gloom and doom that I have little interest in continuing to do so. As I often repeat, my main concern and interest isn’t really about politics or the body politic. Instead, I’ve turned to more ‘personal’ matters and ‘subjective’ experience, part of the reason I’ve been blogging less and feel dissatisfied when I do blog.
One might sense that desire to shift in my last comment. From my perspective, the essential distinction in the left-right frame is not political but psychological or sociological. It touches a deep nerve in the common ground of our shared humanity. Even on a personal level, it’s the same dilemma we are faced with. The reactionary, authoritarian, dark tetrad, etc is not out in the world but in our collective psyche. We can’t escape it, even if we turn away from politics proper. We are forced to deal with it, one way or another.
This is why I spoke of stress, anxiety, and trauma. Before anything becomes overtly ‘political’, it’s been simmering within us a long time. It slowly emerges, largely without awareness, in our ways of relating to others and being in the world. That is what bothers me about what gets obscured, often intentionally with rhetoric and propaganda, although speaking of intention is less than clear in a society so lacking in awareness.
The problem I’ve had with left-right framings in the ‘mainstream’ has partly to do with false equivalency. Two variants of reactionary thought and authoritarian systems get portrayed as ‘left’ and ‘right’: Democratic Corporatists vs Republican Corporatists, Soviet Imperialists vs American Imperialists, etc. But that misses the point of the original distinction which was between progressive and reactionary, revolutionary and counterrevolutionary, egalitarian and authoritarian. It used to be a meaningful distinction that was stark, if never absolute, certainly not degrees of lesser evil.
This has immense personal import. It goes to how we think about our common ground, how we identify . The left-right is about class war, but it is centrally important that this class war has only been promoted by one side of the equation. The political left wants to end the class war, wants to end division and conflict based on rigid and authoritarian hierarchies; hence, egalitarianism and fairness and freedom (both negative and positive, as they’re inseparable). Rather than being a new elite, the earliest impetus to the political left was to eliminate elitism entirely. Cold War propaganda, however, destroyed that distinction since neither side wanted to allow genuine egalitarianism.
Here is the thing. Egalitarianism, as with democracy, is not primarily a political system. Politics is a result, not the cause. And it’s only one result among many, far from being the most important result. The fundamental reality that is being referred to is not elsewhere, is not in Washington DC, is not a melodrama playing out on corporate media. We know liberal values like freedom and openness, empathy and compassion (or lack thereof) in how we live our everyday lives, in the small decisions we make.
For example, my father and I just had an argument or rather an idiotic quibble. It was pointless but all too common, not just between us but in this society overall. It’s an expression of stress and frustration, and I might say there is a reactionary quality to it, a defensiveness and aggression, even a mean-spiritedness in lashing out in feeling hurt. All in all, it’s dysfunctional. Yet even when not an open conflict, there is so often this edge of unease and free-floating anxiety. I sense it in myself and in others.
It’s not normal and should not be normal, or such has been the argument from the traditional left. There is the old liberal vision that life is not meant to be endless struggle, that human nature is not inherently violent, aggressive and competitive, that the world is not a dark and cruel place. For this sense of hope and optimism, the political right has used cynical realism to portray the political left as utopian. These ancient values have been given voice for millennia and yet are thrown aside as unrealistic.
That goes back to the first use ‘left’ and ‘right’. The monarchists had ‘reality’ on their side in that the ideological realism of monarchy had dominated Western society for centuries, since the genocide and conversion of tribal Europeans. The last fully indigenous people in Europe persisted in a few places through the Middle Ages with a few isolated traces of indigenous traditions lasting longer. Authoritarianism and the reactionary mind first took hold in the Axial Age and had become fully dominant by the modern period.
As with the Axial Age prophets, the modern left-wing visionaries spoke of a different way of being that was possible. They were often oppressed and their rhetoric co-opted. Then, in being co-opted, their ideals were treated as falsified. Josef Stalin and Mao Tse Tung were communists and Marxists in the way Jerry Falwell and Donald Trump are Christians. All becomes meaningless. All language becomes empty. All claims become lies. But what if we refused to accept these terms of debate? What if we defended a genuine sense of meaningful distinction?
Most importantly, what does this mean in our lives? There is no point in talking about a political left, if we can’t find it in our hearts to embody basic liberal, progressive, and egalitarian values in how we resolve conflict with family members, in how we treat nature, in how we perceive and experience the world.
What could be more liberal as in generous to see all of life, human and otherwise, as common; to see the earth as our shared inheritance or as the living Gaia? If we weren’t infected with the reactionary virus of the mind, could we walk past the homeless person without helping them or speaking a kind word? And if we took anti-authoritarianism seriously, what would we owe Caesar?
What is at stake goes so far beyond mere politics. It’s the fate of the soul that we are concerned about, not just our individual souls but our shared soul. The question is whether we can even recognize we have a shared soul, a shared fate. Throw aside the false accretions to the ideological wars, that is what it comes down to.
Were the Axial Age prophets just saying pretty words to inspire people and gain followers? Or were they speaking to a greater reality, not only potential but something that is in some sense already true, already present? What does it mean to say the Kingdom of God is all around us? Why did Jesus continually espouse such radicalism in telling people to give away wealth, let the dead bury themselves, and on and on? Did he not literally mean what he said?
I have no idea. But it seems highly probable. In every relationship where I’ve gotten to know someone well, there has always been disagreements that arose on numerous issues. Besides, I don’t have to speculate. Here in this blog we’ve disagreed about a number of things in the comments section of other posts, although I can’t offhand recall why were disagreeing. What I do recall is that it was a difference in perspective and emphasis, in how we talked about something. There was one ‘debate’ we had about the nature of reality, as I was reluctant to agree to certain things that simply made sense to you. That is what I recall, not that I remember the exact details. I don’t think it was much of a disagreement, if it was really a disagreement at all. It’s always hard to say. I’m not sure my dad and I were fundamentally disagreeing when we were ‘arguing’. Such is life. All humans have unique experiences and views. Disagreement is far from abnormal, as far as I can tell. Do you disagree? LOL
Or at least, to the terminology in use, which is actually that of A.H. Almaas.
Almaas uses the word, ‘Essence’, as a name for the ineffable quality intrinsic to our experience as human beings which others call by a variety of other names. IIRC, I’d mentioned (and highly recommended) his book, The Point of Existence: Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization.
The word, ‘essence,’ though reminded you of the philosophy of essentialism and off you went. 😀
If it makes any difference, I understand your writing perfectly and can’t really think of anything we disagree upon right off hand. If and when we do, I’ll be happy to clarify, if possible, considering the corruption of the English language itself with which we’re struggling today.
We are both sensitive to language use. A number of our ‘disagreements’ were simply an issue of a choice of word, metaphor, etc. So, they weren’t necessarily disagreements at all. But these incidents might sometimes indicate a difference of emphasis… or it might not. Language is always tricksy. I sometimes question if I even understand myself and what I’m trying to communicate.
I came across again a study that shows the general lack of self-awareness among humans. In the study, people were told to choose which person they thought was better looking. Then through a trick, they had the pictures switched and so were given the opposite picture of the one they chose but told it was the one they chose. Most people immediately rationalized why they picked the picture they actually did not pick.
We might like to think that only happens to other people. But I have a strong suspicion it happens to all of us more than we’d like to admit. We have minds that are constantly trying to make sense of the world. We see patterns where there are none. And we find reasons when there are none. We seek coherency in the narratives we tell and the identities we hold.
If one is prone to depression and/or anxiety, that might lead to pessimism and cynicism. I’ve been contemplating this conundrum of the human condition. We are too quick to latch onto thoughts, assuming we know what we don’t, including about ourselves.
That is where meditation comes in. All of us, myself in particular, surely could benefit from learning to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go without identifying with them.
I take disagreements as a normal part of human experience. I’ve even had disagreements with nonhumans, especially cats who can have strong minds of their own. That is fine, as there doesn’t seem to be anything to be done about it. Our only choice is to try to be empathetic and understanding or else, like an authoritarian or reactionary, to force our views onto others or defeat our perceived opponents in ideological battle.
That was the problem in the minor conflict with my dad. I was seeking to make a nuanced argument, however imperfect my communication skills. But my dad pulled out one statement I made, took it out of context, portrayed it in absolute terms, criticized it, and then threw out an opposing broad generalization that was simply declared as true. It was a brilliant debating tactic, but wasn’t conducive to pleasant relations and meaningful discussion. What began as a casual conversation instantly became framed as a polarized debate where, as it felt to me, one side had to be right and the other wrong. It was typical black/white thinking.
Even as I intellectually didn’t want that frame, I was psychologically pulled into it. If I had better psychological development and awareness, I could have stepped back from it and seen it clearly as it was happening. That is the psychological jujitsu I presently lack. I despise such polarization for the very reason I too often feel unprepared and defenseless against it. That polarization wouldn’t have worked on me if I hadn’t spent a lifetime in a reactionary culture. This kind of dysfunction has worn deep grooves into my brain matter. I’m in dire need of what some Buddhists call skillful means.
That incident is what seems so common in our society. It happened so quickly and so subtly. My dad is an intellectual type and can speak with authoritative certitude, as he spent his career as an army officer, factory manager, and professor. Also, he often unconsciously becomes contrarian in playing Devil’s advocate. It drives my mom crazy and I can find it irritating, but my dad denies this tendency. Sadly, I’ve learned from my father’s example, in always being ever ready for intellectual sparring. I don’t want to be that way, though.
The divisive and debative framing was so powerful that I didn’t realize what was going on in the moment, until I was already emotionally locked in. My dad too probably was unaware of what he did by creating that frame. It was second nature, something he might’ve picked up from his own father or else from the broader culture. That is what feels reactionary to me, a default sense of conflict, divisiveness, polarization, and aggression. There was a lack of liberal-minded generosity, from either my father or from me. We immediately became combatants.
I wonder if the very egotistic way of thinking about this is inherently reactionary. Did my dad really create that polarization? Or does that polarization in some sense act as a daimonic force possessing the collective psyche? I ask that in all seriousness. To try to figure out who started it, in order ascertain guilt, blame, and possible punishment… well, that seems to miss the point or maybe proves the point. The ego always operates on me vs not-me, the expanded version being us vs them.
The ego-mind is based on Axial Age abstract thought (e.g., Platonic idealism) uprooted from earthly experience of the embodied mind. It creates what some have come called Cartesian anxiety, the unsettling sense of division between mind and body, the Jaynesian metaphorical frame of inner and outer. It’s the primal schism upon which all other polarized divides form. This is the problem with how even the anti-authoritarian impulse, however nobly it is expressed such as with Jesus’ teachings, gets pulled back into an authoritarian frame.
It’s not to blame the messenger or even the message itself or how it’s communicated. Be it Jesus’ words or left/right labels, the reactionary can co-opt anything. So, one can throw out the Bible and look to some other source of wisdom. And one can refuse to use the distinction of ‘left’ and ‘right’ by replacing it with some other terms. It won’t matter. Whatever else one embraces instead will become targeted by the same daimonic force of the reactionary mind. That will remain the fundamental failure until the reactionary is resolved or trasnsmuted.
One can even attempt to retreat from the field of battle by avoiding ‘politics’. But the reactionary, like a parasite, can hook on and travel to whatever terrain one goes. The reactionary will emerge in how one relates to others, in what and how one eats, in the entertainment one watches, in all the world around one. Become a hermit and, even then, one will likely carry it as a hidden passenger deep in the mind, as the colonizers did in carrying WETIKO to new populations.
This isn’t how all or most societies have been across human existence. Nor is it how most Westerners acted until recent history. That stood out to me in Daniel Everett’s account of the Piraha. They lacked depression, anxiety, and fear of death. They didn’t even have conception of an afterlife or concern about immortality. They lived in immediate experience. Maybe more important, they don’t think in abstractions or speak in generalizations. There language requires them to be extremely specific in stating the source and justification of any truth claim. For example, they don’t tend to speak of people who aren’t alive or of the experience of people not personally known.
Using Weston A. Price’s language, they have great moral health. That is to say they express pro-social behavior. They are egalitarian with no formal or permanent hierarchy. Yet they work together well and sometimes an individual will act as a temporary leader to accomplish a group task. Otherwise, there are no chiefs, shamans, or council of elders. Their marriages are simple and informal. If one wants a divorce, one simply leaves the village with one’s new lover for a few days. The former spouse cries and laments their loss, until the return of the new couple, and that is the end of it.
They don’t tend to fight or, when they do, they don’t tend to hold grudges. They even lack stages like the terrible twos and rebellious/angsty teenagehood. Transitioning into adulthood occurs with little difficulty or fuss and no extended childhood of stunted development. Whether child or adult, they express their emotions and let them go. Emotional expression apparently isn’t a big deal, neither idealized nor repressed. Obviously, debating politics is a non-issue and they couldn’t imagine a polarized debate of broad generalizations or abstract ideologies.
It’s useful to study societies that seem to entirely lack any evidence of the reactionary mind and authoritarianism. They also seem to lack such things as the dark tetrad. The Piraha don’t tolerate murder or corporal punishment. Murder, in particular, even of a stranger will lead to banishment. There simply is little place in their society for violence, although the introduction of alcohol from traders sometimes destabilizes their otherwise easygoing nature.
Unsurprisingly, their identity is more tribal than individualistic. More interestingly, they have no permanent and unchanging sense of self, as a spirit encounter might cause them to gain a new name that accompanies a new identity. This fluidity of self was common among most societies in the ancient world. And this fluidity allows for a greater sense of being embedded and immersed in the immediate world. Maybe that is why, unlike WEIRD populations, the Piraha aren’t ridden with anxiety and fear. They don’t feel alienated, as if foreigners in the world. There is no Heaven that is their real home they hope to return to.
Everett made a brilliant point. He ended up living with the Piraha as a Christian missionary. That is why he was trained in linguistics. His purpose was to learn the language, translate the Bible, and convert the. But he wasn’t the first missionary to attempt this apparently impossible feat. The Piraha had been in contact with Westerners for two centuries to little obvious effect on their indigenous culture. They hadn’t even adopted the ability to use numbers, as counting wasn’t part of their traditional culture. Their strong, stable identity made them resistant to cultural influence. The point Everett made was that, as he had learned in his missionary training, a people can only be converted after their own traditional culture is destroyed.
That is why we Westerners are so prone to various forms of conversion and indoctrination. Our indigenous European tribal cultures were annihilated so long ago that they’ve practically been erased from the face of the earth. We have no deeper sense of identity to fall back on and so, instead, we fall prey to rhetoric and propaganda. We are left feeling constantly ill at ease. That is why the Axial Age prophets came along in that early era of the breakdown of the bundled bicameral mind. But mostly their teachings failed to be heard and understood.
All this time later, can we regain what was lost so far beyond living memory? Can the bundled mind (embodied, extended, enactivist, etc) even operate in modern industrial society? To be like the Piraha in America would be to be deemed insane and one would either end up institutionalized or homeless. But maybe that is a better fate than the slow soul death of accommodating to the mass delusion and dysfunction. Still, one might prefer to find a third option, a new form of bundled mind.