by Jack Curtis
It can be amusing during the sound and fury of current political ideologies to recall those expressed by the same political organizations in the reasonably recent past. For instance, the Democratic Party that represented the southern slave owners during the Civil War and sponsored the postwar Ku Klux Klan now lays claim to the Civil Rights movement and demands allegiance from descendants of those slaves. The Party has long boasted that it represents America’s blue collar workers and it has provided a political home for labor unions. Now however, it presses for open borders and mass immigration by workers willing to accept lower wages. The Democrats stood firm for Catholics and Jews while the Protestants who ran things tended to minimize or exclude them; today their Obamacare forces the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor to fund abortions while Barack Obama was called the most anti–Israel president in America’s history. Regardless, a substantial majority of Catholics and Jews reliably continue to vote for Democratic candidates. Perhaps that’s a clue to the historically temporary nature of democracy?
To be fair, these sorts of contradictions aren’t limited to the Left; imagine the reaction of Republican isolationist Senator Robert Taft were he here to see Presidents Bush’s military adventures abroad … Or current President Trump shoveling out cash to American families and businesses. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” dates from Ralph Waldo Emerson but it’s an easy bet that a lot of politicians said it in Greek or Latin or probably, Sumerian. Politics isn’t about ideology or principle; it’s about power. Voters may forget that; politicians never do. So the political party that once recruited women by cradling women’s athletics into law with Title IX now embraces biologically male athletes competing with females, hoping to capture homosexual voters. So far, only a few women seem to mind. The Left is noticed when it moves into new political territory but the Right, moving in synchrony, takes over that which the Left abandons almost invisibly. Both sell much more than they can deliver.
Of course, societies aren’t static; in Spanish speaking, traditionally Catholic Argentina, doctors who performed abortions went to prison but now that results from refusing to perform them. An ambitious politician needs to keep up with the voters. And who ever heard of a politician who, when it comes to power, lacked ambition? Opportunistic politicians find employment on both sides of issues: Some Argentine politicians represent voters who defend women’s “rights” to abortion services; others represent the old guard that outlawed them. That is the nucleus of America’s two-party political system. It is also the nucleus of democracy; when one side of such disputes gains enough power to ignore the other side, authoritarian government usually replaces democracy. And political issues go out of fashion; a political party that clings too long to an issue losing public interest will go out along with its issue. That is why such parties continually adopt new issues and drop older ones; they need to retain voters and to do that, need to represent current voter interests. Democratic politics is a Red Queen’s race; that guarantees that there will be one party representing the recent past while another represents the proposed future. Any others will fall somewhere between or represent a temporary, single issue. And so in 2020, Democrats are flirting with abandoning the U.S. Constitution for full socialism while a Republican president pushes government, i.e. taxpayer, funding of struggling corporations coupled to minimum guaranteed income for Americans and their illegal immigrants in the current COVID – 19 aid legislation. Both our future and our politicians lie ahead…
Jack Curtis is a CPA and the author of Training Figure Skaters. He also holds a BS in Poli Sci, a MS in Public Administration (Philosophy minor) and blogs at jcurtisblog.
One thought on “Those Astonishing Reversals on the Political Left”
It would take a long time to write a full rebuttal to this post. In the first instance, I’m not even sure what the point is. There are a lot of assumptions underlying this post as well. Let me try to hit a couple of highlights (an earlier attempt got swallowed up by the cybergods for some strange reason).
I think the fundamental error in this post is what seems to be an underlying tacit assumption that American political parties are coherent monoliths. They are not: they are complex, evolving, sometimes contradictory coalitions. Where historically at least, European political parties were ideologically uniform, American political parties have not been.
1. Democrats and Republicans on Race: After a Southern Democrat in the White House signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into Congress and expanded the welfare state, the Southern, Segregationist Wing of the Party left, was absorbed into, and ultimately took over the Republican Party. There’s no mystery why African Americans vote over 90% Democrat.
2. Catholics, Little Sisters, Jews and Israel: In 1960, the Democrats were arguing that Catholicism should not be a determining factor either way-or at least most Democrats. Kennedy was not uniformly popular among Democrats which is why a Southern Democrat was also on the ticket. Little Sisters is arguing that they should be allowed an exemption from the law. There’s a difference here. Similarly at least some Democrats have long supported the rights of Jews as Citizens of the US. That’s different from criticizing or defending Israel. Criticizing Israel is not anti Semitic. And besides, the Democratic Party, for good or ill, on the whole, still has a very consistent record of support for Israel. And no, Ilhan Omar is not the voice of the Party., regardless of whether one supports or opposes her, her position is actually not the position of the Party at all. Support for Israel may not always be uncritical. Who’s a better ally? The people who urge Israel to halt destructive and unsustainable policies, or the people who urge Israel into confrontations in hopes of bringing about the Apocalypse?
If you wanted to take a serious look at contradictions and reversals, it would make more sense to look at how the left wing of the Party has changed from support for non-discrimination to one of active inclusion. I think you’d find those tensions have always been present.