Monday, June 19, 2006

Been Right So Long

-It Looks Like Left to Me -

The United States of America is suffering from a condition that I will describe as POLITICAL PARALLAX. I highlight this in the hopes that it will become the accepted term used to describe a phenomenon that though undiscussed is becoming increasingly hard to ignore. My definition of the term is this; everyone, I believe, accepts the fact that America has moved to the right politically for some time now, but Political Parallax is the idea that the gauge or measuring stick used to define that move has also moved to the right. This has had the effect that no-one in the US fully appreciates how far the rightward shift has gone. The reason that no-one grasps the facts is that the shift is the result of a delilberate effort on the part of the right, with a certain amount of collusion from the left.
It's easy to see how this perspective shift has occurred once it is recognized as the result of decades of subtle psyops (from the military term for psychological operations) primarily based on the manipulation of language. A watershed moment in this development came in the 1984 re-election campaign of Ronald Reagan, when the Reagan campaign began talking about liberalism as 'the l-word.' The message being sent was that liberalism was some smutty, dirty thing like S-E-X, that one couldn't openly talk about in public, and certainly not in front of the kids. Whether or not this meme helped Reagan in the short term, it certainly helped the conservative movement in the long term. Incrementally over the last couple of decades, America has heard Republicans talk about liberalism as though it were leprosy. And increasingly America without conscious thought, let alone debate, has come to accept this absurdity as though it were fact. Which, I should emphatically state, it is not.
The Democratic party, it must be said, was apparently unaware of this Republican tactic or its implications, and seemed to be playing the same game under different rules than their opponents. It was like a game of football with one side playing touch rules and the other playing tackle, or even rugby. Democrats would sometimes protest mildly about the unfairness of the game, but they failed to recognize one key thing. The Republicans had made a deliberate decision to NOT play fair. And I must say, they have stuck by that decision assiduously. Their only rule was, has been, and is to win.
This is not to say the Democrats did not respond at all. They did respond, but in the worst way possible. They accepted, whether consciously or not, the absurd idea that liberalism was wrong, and they themselves began moving towards the right. They called this approach 'centrism', and rationalised it as a way to stay relevant, a way to respond to what they saw as the shifting tide of public opinion, and a way for many of them to stay in office. Which brings me back to my original point; as the Democrats moved towards the center, and as the Republicans moved towards the right, the center itself moved towards the right. The Republicans had successfully moved the goalposts of American political discourse.
It is of course nigh unto impossible to quantify the 'right' or 'left' -ness of any given policy or position in politics, so I've kind of put myself on the spot to demonstrate this assertion. Further complicating the analysis is the redefinition of the idea of conservatism over the period in question, and the existence of the libertarian movement which is in some ways very right-wing and in others very left-wing. It might be advisable to start with some simple definition of terms.
In my view the defining characteristic of a society lies in the distribution of wealth and power among its citizens. On the left end of this spectrum is communism, with all members of a society having a small but equal share of both. On the far right would be feudalism and/or totalitarianism, with a tiny minority of the population owning all or nearly all property within a country, and treating the rest as slaves, serfs, indentured servants, or whatever term you want to apply to the destitute and powerless. As a secondary defining characteristic I would point to the degree of economic mobility enjoyed by those citizens. Can someone in a lower echelon advance by merit to a higher one, due to their inate talents and hard work? Will someone from a privileged background retain their advantages, despite being retarded and lazy? Review the career of the current US president before answering that last question.
If we measure the position of US society in practical terms rather than theoretical, it looks very much as though there has been a steady and increasing movement to the right. The wealthiest people in America are much wealthier than they were in Reagan's time, measured both in income and in capital holdings, yet they pay a smaller proportion of taxes than they ever have. The number of people below the poverty line has increased dramatically, as have the number without health care, the number without any pension, the number who do not own their own home, etc. Every few months you might see a small item in the paper, no more than 2 column inches, buried on page 37 or so, saying that the gap between rich and poor has grown larger according to (put name of some social policy institute here.) I'm 53 years old, and I've been seeing this same item in the paper for as long as I can remember. I can NEVER remember seeing an article saying that gap has gotten smaller. Here's an article with data supporting this assertion:

Distribution of Wealth:


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