Sunday, November 29, 2015

 

Thinking About Left-Right Convergence

I first joined Veterans For Peace well over a decade ago. As I explained earlier, one of the main reasons I recently gave up on VFP was because it finally became clear that the VFP national leadership was dead set against involving the group in the kind of broad-based effort that will be required for an effective peace movement in the US. On the contrary, their misguided idea of "broad-based" is to work with Lefties of all types and virtually no one else in pursuit of a statist, Left-Liberal agenda along with all the violence inherent in that. I cannot say that the tiny VFP rank-and-file affirmatively endorses this program as much as they acquiesce in it.

Fortunately, not everyone on the Left is as short-sighted as the leaders of VFP. Last spring Yes! magazine ran an interesting article entitled "Can the Left and Right Unite to End Corporate Rule? An Interview with Ralph Nader and Daniel McCarthy". It may be too little, too late but it is a hopeful sign nevertheless. Below are a two excerpts from the interview.

Ralph Nader: Well, liberalism and conservatism, in various ways, have been hijacked by corporatism.

Liberalism in the 18th and 19th centuries was the classic philosophy aimed at restraining arbitrary government power—then often exercised by kings and emperors. Civil liberties were the foundation of freedom of speech and due process of law, which became part of our Constitution.

Fast forward, you now have corporate liberals— like the Clintons—and you have the corporatists who call themselves conservatives throughout Congress. They're all pushing corporate welfare and bailouts for banks.

What we're trying to do here is go back to fundamental principles and un-hijack conservatism and liberalism. When we do that, we see that there's a convergence of support on a lot of major issues.

***

McCarthy: Yeah, the two parties and the bipartisan elite have had their own kind of convergence on a strategy for dominating the country, both in government and in big business.

Americans of all ideological stripes have been feeling a great deal of alienation, resentment, and anger. But it's very difficult to talk about the actual structure of government and of the economy and to explain how it is that people have been effectively disenfranchised and manipulated. It’s much easier on both the left and the right to focus on cultural issues, where you can have scapegoats and think that those are the central issues, and to ignore these more structural problems.

I think the left's embrace of identity politics in the 1960s and '70s was disastrous for the working class. It was very bad for the labor union movement, it was very bad for any number of economic issues. Which is not to say that there wasn’t a place for the civil rights movement. Of course there was. But identity-based politics went from being a necessary thing to being something that started to preclude some of the economic and other policy efforts that needed to be undertaken.

And similarly on the right. It's not just a matter of a cynical manipulation of the public by going for hot-button issues. There really was a sense among many ordinary people in the 1960s that something had gone culturally wrong in the country. Crime rates were going up, promiscuity was going up. There were changes that people found weird or disorienting. Whether or not they were right or wrong, they were unfamiliar and new, and therefore alarming.

This set of emotional complexes was turned into the so-called culture war, to the detriment of anything that would reform our economy, our self-government, or our foreign policy. Those sort of complex issues have been thrown by the wayside in favor of identity politics.

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