It has happened a lot to me lately. Just as a thought crystallizes itself and I set out to write a long winding post about it, I discover that somebody has just written something on exactly the same topic, often better than I would have, and often with the same conclusions I would have made. So, I was just about to write a post about straw-men that conservatives raise to label the liberals and paint them in the most frighteningly bad light, when I saw this:
Right Wing, Left Wing, Chicken Wing
A new poll reveals that most Americans don't know their right from their left ... wing.The right knows this and leads the manipulation race.
The Harris polling agency last week released the results of an interesting study. In a survey of 2,209 adults, they discovered that most Americans only have the vaguest idea of the meaning of two important pairs of words that play crucial roles in the national political discourse: conservative and liberal, and left and right.
Respondents were asked to define the labels according to what their positions were on seven "political issues": abortion rights, gun control, cutting taxes, gay rights, same-sex marriage, affirmative action and moral values. This list of issues is preposterous in itself as a symbolic reflection of the political landscape, but that's a discussion for another time. To me the most instructive category was "moral values." According to the survey, 78 percent of respondents believe conservatives support moral values, while only 40 percent said the same about left-wingers. In fact, 29 percent said they believed left-wingers actually opposed moral values.
If people are confused about what left-wing means, there might be a reason for that. If you can call both Leon Trotsky and Eric Alterman left-wing and be technically right in both cases, then clearly the word is doing injustice to one of them.
I have written several times before why modern liberalism has nothing to do with 19th and early-20th century socialism/communism (http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/11/two-americas-past-present-and-future.html, http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/11/election-analysis-part-ii-state-of.html, http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/11/election-analysis-part-iii-temporal.html), or with postmodernism/deconstructionism (http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2005/02/postmodern-conservatism.html), or with animal rights movement (http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/08/interesting-exchange-about-animal.html). Yet, the popular perception, thanks to Frank Luntz and the language-constructing machines euphemistically called "conservative think-tanks" (similar to the place where Winston Smith works) is that Democrats today are exactly that: pinko-commie, gay-loving, Bible-burning, latte-drinking, Volvo-driving, tree-hugging, gun-banning, baby-killing spawns of the Devil. Ehmmm....have you ever read Kerry and Edwards' stands on any of this? Or any of the congressional Democrats? Excuse me, but today's Democratic party is slightly right of center (in comparison to most of the world throughout last few centuries of history), while the Republicans have gone so right, they have fallen off the line (remember: this line goes into infinity). We need to pull both parties to the left if we want a normal country again.