Radical Right and Radical Left: False Equivalency

In a discussion the other day with a friend of mine with whom I often disagree on political matters, they expressed the following:

“I am center-right, and I think that most people are center-left or center right. It is the radical left and the radical right that are causing all the problems.”

I do have to say that in general this friend and I try not to talk politics as it often gets heated, but occasionally we slip as we did on this day. One of the main frustrating points in political discussions with this person is not that we disagree, but that they tend to make empty statements that exhibit no critical thinking but rather only serve to make my friend feel better that both “his side” and “my side” are equal. When my friend said the above, I did quickly point out that there were no radical lefties attacking the capital. There are no radical lefties threatening election and school board official with death for themselves and their families if they do not act on their radical desires.

So let’s examine the goals, implicit or explicit, of the radical wings of each party, what they do to try to achieve these goals, and whether the goals are shared by the majority of the citizenry, i.e. how “radical” are they.

Let’s start with the “radical left” (or progressives if we really want to use more appropriate terms), Here is the website for the House progressives:

  • Provide COVID Relief that Meets the Scale of the Crisis and Addresses the Disproportionate Harm to Black, Indigenous, People of Color and Other Vulnerable Communities
  • Put People Back to Work, Give Workers More Power, and Transform to a Clean Renewable Energy Economy.
  • Ensure Health Care for Everyone
  • Defend and Expand Voting Rights, Strengthen Democracy and End Corruption
  • Dismantle Racism, White Supremacy and Inequality in All Institutions
  • End Endless Wars and Invest in Diplomacy and Peace
  • End Corporate Greed and Corporate Monopolies

Now, to me, none of those things seem in the least bit radical to me. And the methods that are being used to try to achieve those goals are [radical idea trigger warning]: Appeal to the American people to vote for and support progressive candidates and use the normal legislative process to enact such policies, staying firmly inside the rule of law and constitutional norms.

Can we really call any of the above “radical”? Polling has shown that all of the ideas above are popular (51% or more support). And like Obamacare before it, when people were asked if they liked Obamacare, most said no, but when instead they were asked about the individual policies in Obamacare, all of the individual policies were supported by a majority. So this is just ignorance on the part of the people as to what is in Obamacare. The same is happening with the Biden agenda. Ask about the Biden agenda and the popular support will be lower than if you ask about each individual item in the Biden agenda. So are the goals of the “radical left” really radical? Are they “radical” in how they try to achieve those goals? I would have to say no.

Let’s compare and contrast that with the radical right. Please note that 2020 was the first year that the republican party did not even publish a platform at all, so I cannot link to any text that spells out their agenda, but there is this wikipedia article which says:

 the radical right is a political preference that leans towards extreme conservatismnationalist white supremacist ideologies and other right-wing beliefs in hierarchical structure.

So the above along with the actual actions of republicans suggests the following goals of the radical right:

  • Limit voting to make it harder for people of color and other minorities to vote. (This is being done in almost all republican controlled states)
  • Making all covid mitigation (masking, vaccination) optional as a matter of personal freedom (i.e. the freedom to infect others)
  • Limit workers rights (union busting)
  • Limit access to health care to only those who can afford it or who have jobs that provide insurance.
  • End a woman’s constitutional right to choose. (Apparently personal freedom does not apply here, as it does for masking/vaccination, even though no one other than the woman is significantly affected by her decision, i.e. she is not going to make anyone pregnant or end anyone else’s pregnancy)
  • Allow any individual to obtain and own assault rifles and other military grade weaponry.
  • Smaller government with less spending (no matter the cost, ironically… but history has shown that republicans are far less fiscally responsible than democrats as the deficit always goes up more under republicans in power than under democrats)

Now, granted, many of these goals are attempted under the rule of law via legislation, but the attack of Jan 6 and the constant reports of death threats and other terrorist tactics launched at election officials, school board officials, our congresspeople, secretaries of state, etc, along with near constant violent rhetoric from the right (even those who we might not normally deem “radical”). Or, as in the case of Texas abortion ban, they contrive very odd and novel legal frameworks where a law is enforced by people via civil lawsuits to avoid constitutional complications. So in Texas, as we speak, there is a blatantly unconstitutional law that was allowed to go into effect, that got shot down by one federal court, but then allowed by another, and the supreme court is waffling. The point here is that the right has deliberately sidestepped the constitution they claim to love, and has tried to subvert democracy on Jan 6 by denying to accept the outcome of a legitimate election that has shown no evidence of any voter fraud (except a few notable cases of fraud by republican voters) and thus justifying, in their minds, a violent attack on the capital of the united states and congress. Shouting “Hang Mike Pence” while they do it.

Are the above ideas popular? Polling shows they are not. Most Americans want tighter gun control legislation, legal and affordable access to abortion services, access to affordable health care (who wouldn’t want access to affordable health care? We all, obviously, want it for ourselves, but most actually want it for others as well… with the exception of the right), better handling of the COVID pandemic (including mask and vaccine mandates), stronger workers rights (whether through unions or other means). Now I think we all want our government to be fiscally responsible, but the left has actually been better at balancing the budget than the right. Deficits always go up more under republicans than democrats, so….

So are the “radical left” (progressives) and the “radical right” (republicans in elected office) the same and both equally responsible for the societal problems we have today? I think not.

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