Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Political Labels

The new book by Jonah Goldberg, "Liberal Fascism," has gotten the country talking about political labels. We get our labels all confused in this country. Originally, a conservative was a royalist, and a liberal was for free markets. When the French Revolution occurred, the royalists sat on the right of the parliament, while the revolutionaries -- who were in favor of egalitarianism and other ideals we would now recognize as socialist -- sat on the left. This is the origin of modern-day Left and Right distinctions. Thus, the Right became associated with conservatism, as both were royalists in origin. But what we had here was a tripartite division: Right, Left, and liberal. The Left and the Right both believed in strong central governments -- they only disagreed about leadership, the relevance of hierarchy, and the importance of religion.

This division was found in Europe, and a different politics was occurring in the U.S. The U.S. was founded as a liberal state, so in the U.S., a conservative was in fact a liberal. In reality, things were muddier than that. The Republican Party was founded on opposition to the spread of slavery and support for a stronger federal government. The Democratic party at that time was for state's rights and was more federalist and conservative/liberal in the traditional American sense, though also illiberal in their support for slavery. The Republican Party remained progressive-populist for quite a while, with Teddy Roosevelt being a prime example of that progressive-populism. The Democrats began flirting with fascism with Wilson, and even more so with FDR, who is the one who really set the Democrats on the Leftward path. However, both the Republicans and the Democrats were essentially interventionist-Keynseans. There is little domestically Nixon did that the Democrats wouldn't love. On the other hand, Kennedy pushed for massive tax cuts, which were delivered by Johnson. Goldwater introduced to the Republican Party what we now know as conservatism, which was really neo-classical liberalism. Those ideas are what won Reagan the White House. The Democrats positioned themselves against Reagan, and thus have come out as "liberals" -- really, Leftists -- versus Reagan's conservatism.

So where does that leave us now? Well, the Democrats are clearly all progressive-liberal-Leftists, while Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson are all conservatives-neo-classical liberals, and John McCain and Mike Huckabee are both populists. If anyone is really a member of the Right, it is McCain and Huckabee.
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