LEFT/RIGHT Labels Don’t Help

Right brain, left brain: we used to have ideas of what each part did, but then we discovered that the brain needs right and left to work together for creativity and logic, as well as expressing ideas.

The left-brain right-brain myth stems from the common idea that your dominant personality traits are related to which side of your brain has more control. Supposedly, left-brained people are more logical, while right-brained people are more creative. This popular idea has been around for more than 200 years and has proliferated in the age of BuzzFeed personality quizzes, but it simply isn’t true. In reality, people use both sides of the brain equally, and logic and creativity are not mutually exclusive. For maximum creativity and maximum logical thinking, a whole brain approach is now encouraged.

What if it were the same thing for Right wing and Left wing political ideologies. We used to think they were in opposition to each other- maybe they are. But is it perhaps true that we are best off if they work together, like the right and left parts of our brains.

Libertarian writer David Boaz argued that terms left and right are used to spin a particular point of view rather than as simple descriptors, with those on the “left” typically emphasizing their support for working people and accusing the right of supporting the interests of the upper class; and those on the “right” usually emphasizing their support for individualism and accusing the Left of supporting collectivism[] Boaz asserts that arguments about the way the words are used replace arguments about actual policy by raising emotional prejudice against notions of what the terms mean.[quoting Wikipedia}

In 2006, British Prime Minister Tony Blair described the main cleavage in politics as not left versus right, but open versus closed. In this model, attitudes towards social issues and globalism are more important than the conventional economic left–right issues: “open” voters tend to be socially liberal, multicultural and in favour of globalism, while “closed” voters are culturally conservative, opposed to immigration and in favor of protectionism. This model has seen increased support following the rise of populist and centrist parties in the 2010s.

With the rise of Donald Trump we see a populist movement, which though culturally conservative, opposed to immigration and in favor of protectionism, all things that would show a “closed” model, also seem to support a radical individualism, and help for the working classes in terms of jobs and tax cuts. Donald Trump has pleased his following by repealing environmental legislation, un-funding watchdog organizations, and generally de-commissioning large parts of the federal government bureaucracy, as well as pulling America out of virtually every international treaty and organization that he can.

His racist sentiments have inflamed latent racism, encouraged police to assault people protesting racial inequality and murder, and approved and modeled pandemic denial, which further harms people of color as well as the elderly.

The free speech marked by a free press has been suffocated with Trump’s assaults on the press and media. Except of course, Fox News, who has been prospering.

His use of the Presidential office for his family’s and his travel and security expenses, has helped to fire the government deficit to the trillions, higher than it’s ever been. It probably has also helped that he has given massive tax cuts to the rich and to corporations, and given stimulus earmarked funds to many corporations, who are anyway profiting from this pandemic. His promised tax cuts to the middle and lower classes never came.

The Trump loyalists are also very anti-abortion (“Pro-Life”), and pro-gun (assault rifles included). The dangers of having inflamed white people parading around with assault rifles has got to be obvious. And banning abortions won’t stop women from ending an unwanted pregnancy. I guess a middle road stance here would be difficult for some to stomach: end late term abortion and ban assault rifles and munitions?

We make a serious mistake if we allow the extremism of Donald Trump’s administration to define a “right” against which Democrats position themselves as more or less “left”. This framing actually offers Trump an advantage because it normalizes his extremism and lawlessness.

The sad reality for far too long has been that no one is asking about the plight of poor and low-wealth people in America. It is no accident that the people who never hear their names or issues taken seriously in public life do not turn out for elections.

To accept the left/right framework is to refuse the moral framing that has galvanized people of all races throughout US history in the struggles for abolition, labor rights, women’s rights and civil rights. If candidates want to make a moral case for their policy proposals, they should show the impact of those policies by race, class and region and show how the vast majority of Americans would benefit from them. They should be clear about how Trump targets his rhetoric and policies at immigrants and people of color, but those policies hurt poor white people as well.

Democrats and other candidates have an opportunity: if they are willing to look beyond conventional campaign wisdom, and mobilize to bring together inactive voters who are young, poor, black, white and brown, all disaffected with a political system that consistently overlooks them. If they will lift up a bold moral and constitutional vision of an America that works for everyone, they can win.

-quoted in large part from Dr. William J.Barber’s article “Left/Right Labels Don’t Help”, THE GUARDIAN, Aug 6, 2019