How the Left Lost Me
Monday Notes
How the Left Lost Me
But why I’m not ready to leave the left.
Published on: May 23, 2022  |  

What can I say? It's true. I've diverged from the left. That doesn't mean I don't consider myself of the left. I'll always be that; that is how I became who I am. For better or worse, it's part of what made me something of a moralist in how I approach matters of intervention and foreign policy. But it is becoming harder for me to associate with a "progressive" or "left" foreign policy when much of the left has, to various degrees, embraced a skepticism around the use of American (hard) power as a core conviction.

Perhaps it was inevitable, or perhaps Russia's invasion of Ukraine clarified matters. But this also has me thinking about what it means to be on the left, a Democrat, or a liberal. Who decides the boundaries of faith and the boundaries of excommunication, so to speak? If the Democratic Party is changing and comes to be defined by wokeness, a lukewarm attitude toward free speech, intermittent bouts of COVID fanaticism, and a disregard for religious conviction, then does taking issue with each of these orientations make one less of a Democrat? Or, does it simply mean that the party has diverged considerably from the concerns and preoccupations of the median Democratic voter?

Rather memorably, Elon Musk made use of an endearing stick figure chart to illustrate his political orientation.

He seems to be claiming that nothing about his views have really changed, yet where in 2008 he was center-left, now he finds himself on the center-right. Presumably this is what's led him to announce recently that he'd be voting for Republicans. The argument here is that Democratic Party has gone so far left that those who would have previously been normie Democrats now have no place in the party.

But isn't it normie Democrats who, at least in part, decide what the Democratic Party is? Most such normies are skeptical of Yale-style hyper-wokeness, don't want to defund the police, and have relatively "moderate" views on culture war-related topics. This is not surprising. Actual ideologues tend to be overly politicized and well-educated. (This is why low-information voters are a boon for any self-respecting democracy). At some basic level, you need to have enough disposable income to indulge in the luxury of saying and thinking crazy things.

Who defines what a party is or what it becomes, and should we so readily cede territory to those who are trying to change what it means to be a Democrat (and, for that matter, what it means to be a Republican)?

It is worth noting that none of the divisive issues mentioned above are primarily about economics, which used to be how Americans ordered themselves along a left-right spectrum. This is why America's forever culture war is as fascinating as it is frightening. Today, one could theoretically be a full-fledged economic populist or even something of a socialist but be perceived as right-wing because of their positions on matters of culture, identity, and religion.

It seems to me that this is the sort of development that should be resisted. Those who take exception to the new orthodoxies, in either party, shouldn't cede their ground. And, in order not to cede it, they have to know where they stand. I know where I stand. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to stay right here.