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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's Left and What's Right in America

Many people, my generation especially, have a very skewed view of left-right spectrum. With the election of Bush and his actions after 9/11, he has given the lesser informed and the un-analytical the wrong impression of the right wing. In fact, Bush has given them a view into what a moderate looks like. Alas, and ironically, they'll take the GOP at its word its conservative, but assume its lying about everything else.

The creation of the left-right spectrum came during the French Revolution. The king, still being the formal head of state, sat in the center of the new Assembly. To his right were the monarchists, traditionalists, moderate monarchists, etc. To his left were the revolutionaries, the classical liberals, the Jacobins, etc. [1] Over time these positions changed due to the violate nature of the French Revolution, but in essence it remained that way: right = monarchists, left = republicans. During the 19th century in Europe, with the increasing spread of Marxist and radical egalitarian doctrines, the classical liberal and republican ideologies were suddenly pushed out of the left-wing entirely and into the right along side monarchists and cultural traditionalists. This set the stage for left-right politics in Europe today where the right-wing, while holding some classical liberal or republican views, is also quite statist and is identified as right-wing based on cultural or religious values.

In America, the Revolution totally changed the idea of what made a right-winger (a defender of the "old order") and what made a left-winger. With no monarchist history other than that of pre-Revolutionary America, the traditionalist American is a republican. The traditionalist American holds to the ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the rule of law and rights enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. It be questioned what exact economics defines an American right-winger as the fathers of the American right disagreed upon its specifics, but the essential freedom of commerce within America was agreed upon wholeheartedly.

Alas, in the early days of the Republic, left-right was barely definable as most Americans held very, very similar beliefs. It could be said that American supporters of the French Revolution like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine could be called left-wing, but that would be fishing for partisanship. Its what the left became that matters, and like Europe, the Marxist gospel was spread across the American landscape and inserted itself in to the center of the American left. Soon, even Thomas Paine's ideas would be considered moderate or even right-wing. This radicalization of the left led to the rise of the Progressives: Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The forefathers of modern liberalism. From their economic egalitarian statist (with Wilson and FDR, near fascistic) governments came the inspiration for today's liberals.

My next post will cover Bush's record and why he isn't the best example of conservatism and show how many of the Democrats are actually exactly like Bush.


P.M.Lawrence said...

"...American supporters of the French Revolution like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine..."

There is no consistent definition that makes Thomas Paine an American. If you say he wasn't English but American because he went there - even though he only went there to agitate, after trouble was brewing - then he wasn't American but French because he went there later - even though he only went there to agitate, after trouble was brewing.

Jordan said...

There's the fact Paine was an American citizen.

That may lend some weight.

P.M.Lawrence said...

"There's the fact Paine was an American citizen. That may lend some weight."

Not really. He was also a British citizen and a French citizen. He just ends up a rootless cosmopolitan. If anything, the fact that he became a French citizen after he became an American citizen would have lost him US citizenship, over quite a long period.