The left and the right originated in 1789, on the eve of the French Revolution. The members of the National Assembly began to congregate on separate sides of the Legislative Assembly.
Those who sought liberal reform and the decentralization of political power sat on the left of the assembly, while the opposing camp gave their sympathies to the King, and sat to the right.
But can we still imagine the left united by a desire to bring down big government, and save the individual from the crushing weight of the Leviathan? Is it possible to recall the right’s collective desire to protect the people from themselves?
No man descends into the same assembly twice, and we are left asking ourselves if there is anything consistently sacred to the right or the left?
Both are hardly recognizable from their origins. Throughout their history, the left and right could not really be divided because of their stance on civil rights, war, religion, or even economics.
The contemporary view of the left as the defender of civil rights is not substantiated by their history. Far from being rooted in a long-standing tradition, the left had often countered the struggle of civil rights movements.
Rather, it was the Republicans who liberated the slaves and gave them the vote, not the Democrats.
If socialism is the defining feature of the left, then the left is dead
It was almost a century later that the left took up the cause of the blacks in America, in The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even women’s suffrage was the result of the Republican agenda. The Dixiecrats of the left understood themselves as the moral defenders; hence, they resisted the change of the social order.
It was not until the Obama administration, that a Democratic President openly backed gay rights. Thus, the political adoption of such rights by the left is a novelty and by no means a central dogma of leftist thought.
Further, the left and the right can hardly be differentiated by their allegiance to civil rights. Considering that the left is united by various rights agendas, arguably more so than the “socialism” they halfheartedly support, their past seems so far behind them.
It is hard now to imagine the identity-politics-driven left not opposing anything that might trigger someone. This is all the more reason to remember that civil rights were hardly a leftist cause. Thus, rights may be dropped by the left as easily as they were picked up by them.
The perception of the left as peaceful and the right as warlike is also an illusion. Historically, the left has been just as willing to beat the war drum. It was the Democrats that rallied America into both World Wars, contrary to the contemporary perception of the party as doves.
America’s favorite pastimes – bombing countries into democracy
The notion of the right as the party of hawks is a legacy of the Cold War, since they were the antithesis of the Communist menace.
Besides the fact that Hillary, Kerry, Biden, and other prominent Democrats voted for the invasion of Iraq in 2002, the left has eagerly taken up one of America’s favorite pastimes – bombing countries into democracy.
Both the left and the right are possessed by the idea that if they bomb away some Middle Eastern regime, then little “westernizers” will come out of the ruins and joyfully establish a democracy. The bombing is too familiar, but the democracy never seems to follow.
In fact, once the smoke clears, we find only two major factions: militant remnants of the old regime and Islamic radicals, not pro-Western Democrats. Libya knows this story all too well.
What remains is demagoguery and political opportunism
And as the bombing continues, its plain to see that neither the left nor the right cares for peace more than the other.
As for religion, once again there is no central divide. Although the left was secular from the start, and is perceived to be such still, it has also been avowedly Christian. Remember that is was the South, the Southern Baptist Bible Belt, which stood as the fortress of the left in America.
The reason why this Democratic stronghold became Republican was because President Ronald Reagan appealed to their moral conservatism.
In the 1980s, Reagan swayed the morally conservative Democrats, known as the Boll weevils, into the arms of the laissez-faire Republican Party. Thus, neo-conservatives grew out of both the right and the left.
Moreover, with evangelical Ted Cruz getting booed off stage for telling people to vote their conscience during the Trump campaign, it is no surprise that the right is distancing itself from Christ, their favorite hippie. In fact, it was Clinton who ended her concession speech quoting scripture.
As the left and right keep forsaking their religious orientations, it’s easy to see that not much remains sacred. The divide is almost indistinguishable when both are viewed through the eyes of the Almighty, i.e., the U.S. Dollar.
The Red Scare of the 1950s has its roots in liberals seeking to purge away socialists
Perhaps one of the greatest differences between the left and the right is their perceived socialist and capitalist orientation.
In the words of Gore Vidal, “there is only one party in the United States, the Property Party…and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt – until recently…and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.”
Throughout the history of the United States, the liberal left aided the right in purging away socialism from its ranks. The left’s relationship with socialism picks up at the turn of the century.
Remember that the Democrats did not have the best reputation towards slaves or labor, but they began to find allies amongst the industrial workers in their struggle against the party of big business. They were not the loudest saber- rattlers against the capitalist menace; the socialists and anarchists were.
Instead of getting along in their struggle against big business, the groups descended into fighting each other for power over the labor movements. Liberal reformers sought to oust socialists from within their ranks, and they continued to do so throughout U.S. history.
This is all the more reason to remember that civil rights were hardly a leftist cause
As usual, the liberal (Hillary Clinton) who stiff-armed the socialist (Bernie Sanders) was on the pay roll of the U.S. Capitalist elite. Since Clinton obtained her funds from banks like, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs, then is she really a socialist?
Real socialism (whatever that might be) is not likely to come from the Democrats. If socialism is the defining feature of the left, then the left is dead.
Contemporary “socialism,” therefore, is an illusion which has forgotten what it really was.
Socialism is a metaphor, entirely worn out, and without sensuous power; a coin which has lost both its sides and now is only metal. The truth is both the left and the right only really answer to crony capitalism.
Ultimately, there is nothing really separating the “left” and the “right.” What remains is demagoguery and political opportunism.
It must now be time to transcend this false dichotomy and build something new from its ashes. Just as Nietzsche saw beyond the moral dichotomy of his day, we must see past the political dichotomy of ours.
Remember, a group of men also stood above the left-right divide of the revolutionary French Legislative Assembly who, like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, were men of the mountain.
Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred
While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked.
(Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”)