In the comment thread of yesterday's post about Robert Kagan, we sort of accidentally got talking about Glenn Greenwald, and that started me thinking (again) about Left and Right (and a few other things too), and I finally found a way to express a few thoughts which have been in the back of my mind for a long, long time, hoping for an opportunity to get out. In light of this long-awaited breakthrough, I hope you'll forgive me if I recycle some of what I wrote yesterday.
I think we make a big mistake when we try to model politics as a one-dimensional continuum. A more realistic model might be n-dimensional, where n is the number of issues on the table.
But that still wouldn't account for the fact that there are usually more than two ways to lay out the options for each issue. In other words, even single-issue politics doesn't usually fit on a one-dimensional continuum.
Start dealing with multiple issues simultaneously and it gets messy fast, even with a relatively small group of people. Expand it to include hundreds of millions of people and the paradigm doesn't fit in the slightest.
Therefore, classifying everything in terms of Left and Right doesn't add clarity to the discussion -- in fact, by trying to collapse the infinite variety of humanity into a single dimension, it destroys clarity. But that's how most people "understand" politics.
In the USA, for reasons which go way back in the national history, the entire Left-Right continnum has been dragged so far to the Right that now there's no Left left.
The so-called "centrist" Democrats are, by any reasonable standard, very far-Right, and most of the so-called "liberal" Democrats are at best moderately-Right.
What used to be called the Center, still passes for Center in most European countries, and would be considered slightly Right of Center in most of Latin America, is not even part of the continuum anymore.
But hardly anybody talks about this. And when they do, they catch a lot of flak. So apparently we weren't supposed to notice.
Stranglely (or maybe not!), while I was struggling to find those words, Ohmy News of Korea was publishing an opinion piece in which Lee Roberts absolutely nails it:
The United States, which proclaims itself a democracy, is the only developed country on the planet with a political spectrum that lies entirely right of center. There is no left wing, or even centrist position in the political public domain. Even the first-ever "socialist" Senator, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is no more than a moderate liberal when his political skin is scratched. The bulk of the Democratic Party is equivalent to the Christian Democrat movement in European terms, and would find themselves on the right wing of the Tory party in the United Kingdom (or the right wing of Blair's New Labor, which now dominates the right axis of Britain's political spectrum). Bill Clinton would not have nurtured a friendship with a genuine representative of labor, and found in Blair a kindred spirit, someone who transferred his allegiance without a blink to Bush. He was able to do so because there are very few fundamental disagreements between America's two parties.There's a lot more, and it's very good. And Lee Roberts catches some flak, too, in the comments thread, mostly (ok -- all!) from people who (I have to say it) seem so out of touch with reality that they cannot even imagine that what they've just read might possibly be true.
Neither party is willing to cut back on corporate excesses; neither party will confront the insurance industry and give America a national health system; neither party disagrees with the aims of hegemony in the Middle East; both oppose progressive movements in Latin America and elsewhere; both believe deeply in American empire and domination; both are dedicated to the continued growth in America's nuclear arsenal. The Democrats are no more outraged [than the Republicans] by the slaughter of more than half a million innocent civilians in Iraq, or the thousands in Lebanon. Both parties are totally committed to the aims and goals of Israel and opposed to any concessions to the Palestinians. As I write, it has been announced that Pelosi and her Senate counterpart, Harry Reid, will make a bipartisan display of unity in support of Israel, by appearing alongside Dick Cheney at the March meeting of the ultra-reactionary American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC has dominated American foreign policy for decades, strengthened since 2000 by the Project for a New American Century, the Bush shadow cabinet, which drew up the blueprints for American empire and the conquest of Iraq and Iran.
None of the Democratic candidates for the presidency, with one exception, is committed to any fundamental change. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have only a whisper of difference between them and both are dedicated to the maintenance of corporate America. The exception is Dennis Kucinich, who having no other serious political party with which to affiliate continues with a tiny band of centrists, to push the Democrats into genuine opposition, to no avail.
It is indeed a very sad situation. But it is not without its opportunities.
In "Debating a Neocon", Stan Goff, describing his debate (shortly after the 2004 "election") with Patrick Clawson, wrote:
In every case, I agreed with him that Democrats wanted to attack Iraq, too, and that they had attacked it as often as possible throughout the eight-year administration of Bill Clinton who by the way had killed more Iraqis than George W. Bush. I also pointed out that Democrats, not Republicans, were the most vocal in calling for a return of military conscription, and that Kerry not only said he wouldn't withdraw from Iraq, but that he would expand the troop numbers making him the Lyndon Baines Johnson of Southwest Asia. Not only that but any smart Democrat right now would be whooping for joy that they won't get the next four years [2004-2008] hung around their necks, because the forces in motion including maybe stagflation and the deepening defeat in Iraq are bigger than either party of the rich.I could be wrong -- I've been wrong once before! -- but I think the same is true today, only more so.
One might think the audience was put off by all this; that the conservatives were offended when I called George W. Bush "Dick Cheney's meat puppet," or worse, that those who had desperately voted Kerry would be offended by my speaking the unspeakable about him being another bourgeois war-candidate.
Not so. People on both sides were anxious to talk after the debate, asking for references and links to some of the information, seeming suddenly stimulated to ask new questions in the face of information to which many had obviously never been exposed. They weren't angry. They seemed almost relieved, like they'd been locked in and suddenly found a key.
We have all sorts of keys, but they won't do us much good unless we share them.