This is why you Always Side with the Left.


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The political spectrum has been upended in recent years, leading a lot of people to question whether it even makes sense anymore.

But the distinctions between right and left still hold, as they have since they first came into use in the French Revolution over two centuries ago. And recognizing just how the two sides differ can tell us a lot about what we really believe and why it matters.

The left concerns itself with improving the human condition through the state, the right with the dangers of state power. The left concerns itself with reducing inequality, the right with maintaining the status quo. The left concerns itself with protecting the voiceless, the right with commitments nearer to home. The concerns on both sides usually overlap, but sometimes they conflict, and sometimes they both meet in the middle.

The left is ultimately hopeful about what humanity can accomplish while the right remains skeptical. Sometimes the skepticism springs from heartlessness, sometimes from a fear of change; sometimes from a desire for order, sometimes an authoritarian drive. At its best, the right is concerned with the little things that make the world work. Its humanity lies in the predictability of traditions and the comforts of home, but it can also dominate and bully and oppress the weak.

The differences are readily distinguishable in most places. Everywhere, the left supports government funded health care, social security, and unemployment insurance; protecting women, minorities, and employees from abuse; limiting environmental harms to future generations and improving the lives of the insecure. Some are more radical, some more reformist; some go further, some are more cautious. But the differences are almost always differences of degree.

Sometimes the right shares these concerns, but mostly for different reasons. The right supports leftist causes when it is required to preserve order or to hold onto power, as Nixon did in the early 70s, after coming to power amid the upheaval of the late 60s. Sometimes, a right wing leader will sign leftist legislation, as George H.W. Bush did with the Clean Air Act in the early 90s, but they almost never initiate the drive to pass it.

Sometimes, the left is overzealous in its support for the poor, forsaking legal equality to punish elites. These punishments became genocidal in Maoist China, Stalinist Russia, and Khmer Cambodia. This may have resulted from a tendency to view people in statistical terms, and an authoritarian streak that often appears on the far left. It might also have resulted from many communist governments being in over their heads, possessing virtually no governing experience at all.

Sometimes, the state becomes abusive under leftist governments, but the most abusive leftist states are almost always those that were initially built to protect the poor. And it is often the case that they have simply taken over the administrations of the brutal conservative regimes from which they initially revolted precisely because they were so brutal.

Not everything we attempt in life turns out as expected, and this is precisely the right’s main criticism of the left.

The left can also be overzealous in its opposition to imperialism, justifying human rights abuses in geopolitically weak states to prevent their overthrow, as often happens with the Assad regime in Syria today. The anti-imperial, anti-war left has acquired a reputation in recent years for jumping to the defense of a regime that is torturing tens of thousands to death and starving the cities defended by pro-democratic rebels.

The contradiction can be disheartening, for we expect the defenders of the weak to do so when they’re most vulnerable. And there is little more vulnerable than a woman being gang-raped in prison.

But everyone can be overzealous, and all of us get confused at times. Most people do not know much about states other than their own, especially when they are in distant and obscure places. What they do know can usually be summarized in vague generalities, interpreted through an ideological lens. Leaders of small autocracies are aware of this tendency and produce propaganda to play on our biases.

Putin has mastered the art of playing on the worst tendencies of the far left and far right alike, but Assad is now a practiced hand as well.

The world is particularly confusing if you cannot trust the mainstream media. For the mainstream media can afford to hire specialists who know what they are talking about, to fact-check articles and edit out inaccuracies. Their articles are read by the educated, cover most everything, refer to real data, and are usually daily.

Regular readers of the Washington Post or New York Times are thus seldom confused about what’s happening in the world—even when they are wrong. But they are less likely to be wrong, because such news sources are chock full of the perspectives of pivotal players and the most up to date research.

Everything is different with alternative news. It is seldom daily, poorly fact-checked, rarely professional, and sporadically specialized. Even when its writers are smarter, they are seldom as balanced. Even when they are more knowledgeable, they are rarely as comprehensive. The problem is, it is hard to tell what they really know and even harder to discern their considered views. Hence, alternative news readers tend to understand the world in fragments, and this makes it easier to see it in extremes.

Aristotle wrote of a temperance that gives each thing we value its due. It is sometimes impossible to get everything we want, so we have to choose between opposing the military force of a dominant nation like America and protecting a vulnerable population like that of the Bosnian Muslims through humanitarian intervention, for instance.

These differences can be viewed in terms of personality styles, with different personality styles representing different ideological persuasions. And they can be viewed as mere tribal groupings, around which people band for aesthetic reasons. But the idea that personality style determines political affiliation quickly degenerates into a moral relativism that trivializes our deepest values.

It may be the case that many people are drawn to the different placeholders along the political spectrum for such idiosyncratic reasons, but it is all the more reason to engage in a moral discourse that explores which value systems are right in the first place.

George Lakoff has put forth a powerful argument that Americans group themselves around sets of metaphorical frames. According to Lakoff, liberals see the state as a nurturing parent, which should care for citizens, and conservatives as a strict father, which should push them to stand on their own.

The differences can also be looked at developmentally. Ken Wilber has done so and sees the right as focused on more foundational, conventional levels of developmental, while the left represents a coalition split between postconventional progressives and the preconventional people they protect.

However, neither the developmental view, nor the cognitive metaphorical frames view of Lakoff contradicts the notion that the left believes the state can improve the human condition, while the right believes doing so should be left to individuals, families, and communities.

It is commonly said that the ideological spectrum arose in the French Revolution, but these tendencies can be glimpsed in most every society. John Stuart Mill universalized the differences between right and left as that between the party of order and the party of change—believing that every society needs both and that things works best when they are integrated.

The ideal can be found in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, which in the late 20th century produced arguably the most successful states in history. And it is arguable that Bernie Sanders’ highly progressive agenda presents something of this same balance in its call for a fair deal that includes everyone.

In reviewing the differences between left and right, perhaps what stands out the most is how little people these days resonate with conservative values. Trump is not a conservative, but rather a fascist—like most right wing leaders today. His nationalism is rooted in racism, his populism is an assault on traditions.

Conservatives turn to him because they have lost faith in their own values, and they have lost touch with their own traditions, choosing instead a world of make believe. The turn to empty lies and false promises is proof that the left is winning.

Of course, that would be news to the left. For the left these days more often than not loses. But if conservatives cannot win without deception, it may be telling: maybe people really do want to make the world a better place.


If you liked this article, please check out my book, The Holocausts We All Deny.


author: Theo Horesh

Image: Flickr

Editor: Naomi Boshari


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kcloud Nov 25, 2018 3:44pm

Maybe Gaia will help us sort it all out.

Alain Degraeve Nov 25, 2018 12:10pm

This writer is completely out of touch . There are people all over the world that wish nothing more than to get a slice of the “American dream” and will do anything to get here. This writer believes that we should “ let the state take care of the well being of it’s people” . Name me one country where this has successfully worked. Norway , Denmark , Sweden? I don’t think so ….. No thank you to tax after tax after tax and an immigration policy that is a total disaster . I rather work hard and and take advantage of all this country stands for and has to offer even with its few drawbacks such as the healthcare. Nothing comes for free in this world, somebody has to pay the bill. This writer wants the hard working people to pay for the ones who sit at home …. so that the state can loom after them. Where is the motivation for change ? The current political environment is far from
ideal but the fundamental policies are in the right place . As a person who immigrated here legally and who has seen and lived the “left ideologies” let me tell you , I am most grateful for the opportunities this country offers and would never go back …..

    Theo Horesh Nov 27, 2018 5:16am

    America scores at or near the bottom of all developed democracies on virtually every quality of life indicator. We die the youngest. We are more likely to kill each other, more likely to kill ourselves, more likely to die at birth, more likely to suffer mental illnesses, more likely to suffer from obesity. We are more likely to report we are not happy, that we are not satisfied with our lives, and that we are lonely. We also have the most embarrassing, stupid, corrupt, and narcissistic president.

    The Danes, the Swedes, the Belgians, Germans, Austrians, Irish, Australians, Dutch, Canadians and at least twenty or so other peoples score better on these counts than Americans. But hey, we sure to know how to sling an insult.

      Bryan Cheney Nov 28, 2018 11:10pm

      While I agree with the statistics and that our current administration does not repressent the best of America, we were not provided a better option with the alternate candidate. Bernie’s candidacy was effectively stolen by the DNC who would’ve crushed trump, but ultimately may have polarized the country as equally as trump but for entirely different reasons.

      There are deep rooted issues that go back to policies implemented over the past 40 years resulting in our current state. This isn’t a simple fix. Just having somebody, or millions of people wanting things to be different won’t make it so.

      We have to play our respective role in accountability and honesty, and find a way to work together to provide solutions and a plan.

      While the invention of the internet has brought forth so many wonderful things, it has also fostered the falsehood that we can have whatever we want in seconds, whereas real policy and change, the change that needs to happen will take a lifetime.

      Like addressing climate change, I was personally turned off by Gore parading around the world preaching global warming while simultaneously reaping huge financial gains. Not saying people shouldn’t earn a living or make lots of money, but I believe people truly want to understand what’s happening to the environment without feeling the impact of politics and blame, mostly politics.

Alancproctor Nov 25, 2018 9:14am

Great idea of you hate the foundation of the USA that is the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    Theo Horesh Nov 27, 2018 5:18am

    I am curious how you would relate this comment to anything in the article? For it seems you did not even read the title but just responded to a call to attack from the leader of your troll network.

stefkeer Nov 25, 2018 8:57am

Awfully polarized and misunderstanding of historical facts, fascism and socialism by the author. Too much to expand on but – I think this person forgets or is ignorant of the most basic of all values – balance. That can be found by an integration of both sides.

    Theo Horesh Nov 27, 2018 5:28am

    Perhaps you could be more specific about which historical facts are inaccurate. For without this specificity, it is easy to mistake your comment for that of a troll who did not bother to read the article and just repeats the same thing on every page he is sent to.

Bryan Cheney Nov 25, 2018 8:20am

It would have been really great if the author actually understood “the right” instead of using broad generalizations and stereotypes.

As a registered independent, I left the Republican Party when I recognized too much partisan voting and general disinterest from the population at large.

The left is not the savior it casts itself to be. The most fair analogy I saw in this article is the mother/father metaphor. However, the authoritarian father figure also appears to be cast without any compassion or empathy for his child.

Good parents, like strong political parties, provide balance across the human spectrum. A loving mother both comforts and disciplines while a father also does the same.

When there is relational imbalance, people tend to take on more extreme roles to unconsciously bring balance to the relationship.

It today’s world, there is such an imbalance that both sides of the political spectrum (and in the US many general human relationships) continue to wander further away, I believe, to try and balance the spectrum, only to find that we make worse decisions as a whole.

It would be really great if we, as a country, in our respective states, and within our communities look for the similarities instead of differences. We must find a way to work towards center. ANTIFA, white nationalism, or the KKK are not the answer.

Criticism of the other would be acceptable once we accept accountability for our own actions. And if we saw leaders calling out their own, we could move forward and achieve more together.

    Theo Horesh Nov 27, 2018 5:25am

    I am widely schooled in conservative philosophy, as I spent a couple of years studying conservative thinkers in preparation to write a book on “The Healthy Conservative,” which I dropped halfway through for personal reasons. I have also written a book on fascism, which references hundreds of book, which I am just about to shop around to publishers. So, I am curious what you think I got wrong about these topics?

      Bryan Cheney Nov 28, 2018 10:58pm

      “Sometimes the right shares these concerns, but mostly for different reasons…”

      Taken simply, this is an entirely true statement. However, there is a lot of spin here and generally the right is cast in a mostly negative light. The right will only support an idea so long as it is self-serving seems to be a fairly common theme.

      I find that the ideals of the left are good but often flawed in execution. Lacking root cause analysis and true empowerment and enablement.

      Fiscal responsibility is important and oftentimes goes unaddressed with many of the leftist ideals. Government funded healthcare would be great except we don’t have good controls in place to limit waste throughout the entire system. On that note, why hasn’t the left worked to make it possible for the government to negotiate prices for pharmaceuticals. The US is one of the top consumers by volume but legally cannot ask for price discounts.

      Education is another area of improvement, however there are countless examples throughout the country where we spend more money on administration and less on classrooms themselves.

      I’ve also seen the left manipulate the marginalized and the abused to advance personal agendas without consideration for all parties involved.

      Over the past two years I’ve worked to try and engage in thoughtful discourse with anyone who expressed a fundamentally different opinion from mine to gain a better understanding of their opinion. This is exceptionally challenging to do with most everyone identifying as “left” if you don’t immediately agree with their position, then what you might have to say isn’t worth hearing. A great irony of perceived marginalized marginalizing others.

      I also believe that while there is a reasonable number of marginalized persons in this country, they get buried in the midst of the far greater number of people that have self marginalized in the midst of radical left propaganda, safe spaces, racism, discrimination, and hypocrisy.

      With that said, I do believe that the vast majority of this country is a whole lot closer than were told in any media. Fear has become a far too utilized tool within our society, our media, and our history.

      That was a bit scattered in response, but I didn’t want to be too pointed, or get hung up on a specific detail, but instead address the whole theme I see here in this articles contents and title.

        Theo Horesh Nov 29, 2018 7:54am

        I don’t believe that what I wrote about conservatism focused on the way it is self-serving, as you suggest. I wrote that the right “concerns itself with the dangers of state power,” with “maintaining the status quo,” and with “commitments nearer to home.” I wrote that the right is skeptical about what humanity can accomplish, “sometimes from a fear of change; sometimes from a desire for order, sometimes an authoritarian drive.” And I wrote, “At its best, the right is concerned with the little things that make the world work. Its humanity lies in the predictability of traditions and the comforts of home, but it can also dominate and bully and oppress the weak.”

        I also wrote that George Lakoff suggests the right organizes its worldview around a set of metaphorical frames focused on “strict father morality;” Ken Wilber suggests that, unlike the pre and post-conventional left, the right focuses on conventional stages of moral development; and John Stuart Mill characterizes it as “the party of order” as opposed to “the party of change.”

        Each of these views provides an opening for a healthy conservatism playing a vital role in the political process. And my own writings provide a fairly deep interpretation of what the right is all about for an article of this length. That virtually no one who commented on the article, except for the author and a handful of his “never Trump” Republican friends, found this to be a respectful view of the right, suggests that we as a society have actually ceased to respect conservatism on its own terms, just as the article suggests.

        I used to believe strongly in dialogue across the aisle, but that is not possible with a disingenuous opposition. A president who has lied over 6,000 times in a two-year presidency, and a party that is afraid to challenge him, are not fit for dialogue. Nor are the followers of such a party when they refuse to refer to neutral sources of data and reason. Of course, this is not always the case, but in my own experience, I have rarely been able to get to the philosophical differences behind my differences with conservatives in recent years, because they are so deeply embedded in falsehoods that had been drilled into them through propaganda.

        And that is precisely why I chose to conclude this article, which began as an attempt to simply explain the differences between right and left, with an explanation of why the vast bulk of my readers will no longer recognize anything of value in the right.

          Theo Horesh Nov 29, 2018 7:56am

          Anyways, thank you for your considered thoughts and engagement. Whatever the prospects may be for dialogue in the present, it will certainly be important in coming decades, so having developed the willingness and skills will prove quite useful.

andrew.j.southall Nov 25, 2018 8:04am

Nice ideas but with a background of a mindset of polarisation and writing for this audience?

We are all humans.

Maybe there is more commonality than you think?

Consider 80-90% of the left and the right want the same thing, they just have difference into how this can be manifested into being ?

    Theo Horesh Nov 27, 2018 5:34am

    Actually, the article was quite respectful of conservative thinking and quite critical of the left. It went further into the deeper values espoused by conservative thinkers than you will almost ever see outside of specialized conservative journals. And it zeroed in on a pretty serious critique of the left. What is interesting to me is that in spite of having done this, it still appeared highly slanted to the left. And this is precisely what I wa arguing: while people might have responded positively to these conservative values a generation or two ago, virtually no one recognizes them as valuable today. This is why conservatives have turned to fascism, which lacks its grounding in values and instead turns to lies and a world of make believe.

Isaweilweil Nov 25, 2018 7:50am

I come from a country that has been destroyed by left ideologies so I don’t understand why Americans claim Trump being a racist fascist when he has supported us in our crisis way more than Obama or any other of the former presidents. Latins over there support him because they have suffered in their own flesh what the left does…please don’t go around saying you have analyzed the left and the right when you haven’t lived the chaos they brought in your own life.

    Bobby Clark Nov 25, 2018 8:08am

    Isaweilweil – I totally agree with you. From your experience, you have substantial source credibility. This author is simply out of touch, as so many of the left are. Deranged positions as the term “always”, as in always support the left. That is simply foolish.

      Theo Horesh Nov 27, 2018 5:40am

      Americans are saying Trump is a racist because he says and does racist things. As a young man, he was taken to court on dozens of occasions because he would not rent apartments to black people. He has targeted Mexicans as “rapists” and “drug dealers.” And he has sought to keep Muslims out of the country, even going so far as to suggest tracking them in a data base.

      We consider him fascist because he behaves like fascists from the past, whipping crowds into a frenzy of hate by scapegoating minorities with lies and bogus statistics. He behaves like a fascist in his militant nationalism, in his mendacious populism, in his anti-democratic authoritarianism, and in his aggressive sexism.

        Theo Horesh Nov 27, 2018 5:45am

        I really appreciate the attention you guys have brought to this post through your trolling. The comments help keep the article circulating and have gotten it thousands of views it seems, so thank you. But I am curious how you organize yourselves. Do you gather on a Facebook page and respond to postings? Do you choose the articles you go after, or is it a more organized mob? Do you always try to shit down posts by mass reporting them as spam? Are you paid and who do you work for? And as always, I am curious what country you are working out of, whether Israel, America, Russia, Macedonia, or what not?

        You see, I want to get to know you and keep you commenting so the article keeps circulating. Anyways, thanks again.

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Theo Horesh

Theo Horesh is the author of the newly released, The Holocausts We All Deny, as well as, Convergence: The Globalization of Mind and The Inner Climate: Global Warming from the Inside Out, a book of interviews with leading thinkers, like Frances Moore Lappe, George Lakoff, Paul Ehrlich, Andrew Revkin, and Peter Senge. He is a human rights activist and host of the Conscious Business podcast, which was recently chosen by the Business Insider as one of 100 podcasts that will make you smarter and more successful. He has been meditating for 30 years and currently resides in Boulder, Colorado. The Holocausts We All Deny is now available for purchase.