See what I did there?

In These Times is doing a feature issue on “The Right-Wing”, and the essay about former leftists moving rightward (Losing the Plot: The “Leftists” Who Turn Right) is getting a lot of traction.

Fair enough; it’s quite good and you should read it.

It whiffs pretty badly, though, in that it really misunderstands its subject; by framing all of its subjects with “left” and “right”, it oversimplifies them so far that it itself creates the confusion the authors are trying to discuss over how people who were formerly such good “leftists” could have migrated to the “right”.

Because “left” and “right” is bad framing.

“Left” and “right”, as they exist today, are basically side-effects of an electoral system which inevitably gravitates towards a two-party State, with the populace viewing its affiliation with one or the other party as more a matter of tribal identity than ideological alignment.

A more useful framing is libertarian and authoritarian.

It’s not really surprising to see people rejected by one side move between them, since both groups are authoritarian tribes; when people like Taibbi are renounced by the “left”, it’s easy enough for them to realign with the “right” since this is more a matter of personal identity than it is of political affinity.

There are enough areas of agreement for them to be comfortable on either team, since the underlying ideology is the same: that the State should be used by the team in power to force its preferred behaviors on the populace. And as long as some of the leaders on their new side publicly agree with some of their positions, they’ll find a way to fit in.

Since neither party is particularly committed to any coherent ideology, most partisans will be able to at least partially align with either.

This is the core tragedy of modern democracy: that choosing a political party has become no more meaningful than choosing a sports team.

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