THE RIGHT HONORABLE PINKO

It's a sad commentary on the ideological breadth of American politics that people accuse the Democratic Party of being Marxists, socialists, or any equivalent thereof. Granted, most of the people applying those labels haven't the slightest idea what they mean – Commies are the bad guys in Red Dawn, right? – but regardless of the proper term there is little doubt that Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are indeed leftist zealots…in America, anyway.

The fact remains that American politics is slanted so far to the right that our "liberals" and "conservatives" are unrecognizable to most of the democratic world. To some extent this is an artifact of the two-party system (Thanks, Duverger's Law!) in comparison to multi-party systems. The latter tend to keep some of the crazy out of the major parties by providing electoral incentives to small parties. Countries like Italy, for example, have proportional systems that practically beg for minor parties to form. We also have a far more extreme brand of Christianity intertwined with our politics; many countries are highly religious but not many countries have Southern Baptists. The end result is that the Democratic Party is a socialist conspiracy in the U.S. but would barely qualify as a mainstream conservative party elsewhere. The Republicans would be a fringe nationalist party in most of Europe or Asia…and we have an active splinter group trying to drive them further to the right.

Take a look at the new British PM David Cameron. He is:

1. Pro-choice
2. About as far left on the environment as any American liberal
3. Candid about his limited interest in religion ("I believe in God and I try to get to church more than Christmas and Easter, but perhaps not as often as I should, but I don't feel I have a direct line.")
4. Open about the fact that taxes can't be cut during fiscal emergencies ("I don't think it's sensible today to write a Conservative budget for 2009 or 2010, with specific pledges on tax reduction.")
5. Opposed to capital punishment
6. A supporter of the National Health Service (which even Thatcher couldn't touch)
7. Staunchly opposed to far-right proposals for National ID cards, describing them as ineffective and in violation of basic human rights

Sure, there's a healthy dose of economic conservatism – free market this, deregulation that – to remind voters that Cameron is in fact representing the party of St. Margaret. I'm not arguing that he is not a true Conservative. The point is simply that British Tories are as liberal, if not moreso, than the average American Democrat. Given how completely the Democrats have surrendered on New Deal economic liberalism to basically reinvent themselves as the party of Reaganomics Lite, one might be hard-pressed to point out the significant differences between that party and the British Tories. David Cameron wouldn't simply be a liberal in the American context, he'd be a member of the loony left. No death penalty? Not a churchgoer? Pro Choice? Someone get a rope, we've found a witch.

It must be nice to live in a system in which even the conservatives are inclined toward common sense. As easy as it is for political elites and activists to browbeat the Democrats into moving further and further to the right with every election, it's no wonder that our conservatives are absolutely bonkers and the Democrats are barely able to call themselves centrists. That Barack Obama is a pinko commie Marxist socialist to much of this country proves that Americans will repeat anything they hear on AM radio and that our party system has the ideological diversity of an NRA meeting in Abilene, Texas.

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32 Responses to “THE RIGHT HONORABLE PINKO”

  1. party with tina Says:

    I understand your sentiment, but I would never really try and look to British or Italian politics for "sanity" or "common sense." I understand your interest in politics, but I honestly think a country like Malaysia would suit you best.

  2. ladiesbane Says:

    Consider that the Republican party used to be the party of Lincoln. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and a hero ain't nothin' but a sandwich. Look at the man's deeds, not his words, or his labels: a notion I would propose to conservative opponents of our current president.

  3. Comemela Says:

    Ladiesbane – Holy fucking shit… that's what passes for wisdom in the GOP these days

  4. Prudence Says:

    Hey, party with tina,

    What do you know of Malaysia? I grew up there and would love to hear your take on the challenges of their multicultural, post-colonial political system.

    I'll be waiting.

  5. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    One thing about social policy in the U.S. is that a lot of the more redistributive policies are sort of hidden, in things like the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, the mortgage deduction, and charitable donations. Our welfare state is not quite as small as it looks on the surface, and as right wing as the Republican rhetoric is re: the intrinsic evilness and incompetence of government, I've yet to hear a tea party person rail against the EITC. So…maybe they don't really know it exists? So…that's something, at least.

    Still though…this post was very good. Very depressing. But very good.

  6. Prudence Says:

    I think you're far more optimistic about Cameron than I am, Ed. I can't see how they'll get anything done, the Tories and the LibDems seriously diverge on on many of the key issues– university funding, NHS, Europe, to detail just a few. BUT, if there's an upside to this coalition shenanigans, it's that perhaps Clegg will stop Cameron from privatizing the shit out of whatever Maggie Bitchface Thatcher didn't flog for a penny to her rich friends and party donors. The moment that old windbag dies, I'm having a HUGE party.

  7. anotherbozo Says:

    Brilliant post, Ed (brilliance being defined as a hunch I've had, here fleshed out with hard facts and well-organized discussion) I've sadly come to regard Obama as a Rockefeller Republican, but maybe he's further to the right than that, if the analogy makes any sense in the first place. With the distribution of other political identities made accordingly. We 60-somethings are happiest with short memories. When I was in college even the Democrats were fascist pigs.

    In a better universe, I'd be reading this in a major magazine like The Nation or at least Harper's, not on a blog. But maybe you have more readers than those marginalized artifacts.

    Anyway, huzzahs.

  8. Hazy Davy Says:

    I kept pushing the "Like" button, but taco meat fell out.

  9. ladiesbane Says:

    Comemela, I tried to express my bitterness about Obama's appeasement of the minority who did not vote for him; also, that labels matter far less than behavior. I don't agree that the GOP finds wisdom in "labels don't matter", or they wouldn't be so quick to employ them, but I'm sorry my point wasn't clear.

  10. comrade x Says:

    A friend of mine compared the Dems and Repubs to Sith Lords, only Darth Obama was a little less into the Dark Side than Darth Cheney. They both are for building the Death Star but Darth Obama wants it to get an exemption from the MMS first.
    O.K. I admit, you really have to be a geek to get that one.

  11. Ed Says:

    Many Bothans died to bring us that comment.

  12. Ravi M. Singh Says:

    This piece is absolutely bang on. The simple fact of the matter is that neither party seems to have any common sense left for the most part and in some cases calling Obama a liberal is something of a stretch, let alone a Marxist or socialist. It also seems that we've come to a point where anything not straight out of Ayn Rand or Robert Nozick is just putting us on a path to communism or destroying the entire fabric of America, whatever that fabric happens to be.

  13. Bugboy Says:

    "It must be nice to live in a system…"

    I hate to sound like a cynic but…we aren't living in a system…it's a circus.

    Plain and simple the minute GOP is out of power, the Machine roars into gear to slant the American Public's worldview, via the media. I cannot tell you the people that I have talked to that miss the point of media: to sell you MORE MEDIA!

    Most Americans are oblivious to the power of marketing over their lives.

  14. Barbed Wire Says:

    I have been to Abilene, Texas sir and…

    …well…nevermind. My experience there leads me to believe Abilene means, I go both ways, in Spanish.

    Hell, the bars close at midnight

  15. Anthony Says:

    Though they may share similar views when it comes to the proper role of government, I don't think Robert Nozick – a gifted philosopher – deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ayn Rand.

  16. Brandon Says:

    Good post, Ed. Your discussion of electoral systems versus cultural factors to explain America's relatively right-leaning political spectrum is an interesting one. The conventional wisdom is that majoritarian electoral systems like the one we use actually lead to more moderate parties, while proportional systems produce more radical parties and an ideologically splintered system. But you're right that in a multi-party system any parties with a realistic shot at being asked to join a coalition will have an incentive to moderate their more radical views, at least after the election.

    I think for a large part of our history our two-party system was masked by the fact there were ideological factions "within" parties. But the Republican Party has seemingly become more homogeneous AND conservative recently. I think we have to look to culture factors, namely the impact of religion, to explain why that has happened. But maybe our system of checks and balances has something to do with it, also. The fact that a minority party in the Senate CAN veto practically any legislation gives them an incentive to be ideologically extreme jackasses.

    Oh, and I'm not sure if you cited Italy as an example of a country where ideologically moderate and rational politics prevails, or merely as a country where coalitions are necessary. But if the former, they have their own fair share of nuttery. Their PM, Berlusconi, needs no explanation for those who follow the news; plus, his party has had to invite some pretty far right, anti-immigrant parties into their coalition. On the left, there's a long-running Communist Party that always gets around 10% of the vote but which all of the other parties, even the left ones, purposely exclude from coalitions.

    And Prudence, you're right that this coalition in Britain might not be able to accomplish much, due to the intractable differences between the two coalition partners. But I don't think Ed's argument relates to that, he was merely trying to explain why the ideological spectrum in Britain seems shifted to the left compared to the US.

  17. moonbat Says:

    We in tech support have been begging your country to upgrade to Democracy 2.0, which features true multi-party support, with proportional representation, and other advanced features. Until you do, our engineers have confirmed that you will continue to experience the severe system degredations that you are now sadly accustomed to, and which will likely worsen, culminating in a final crash.

    We have mentioned many times that Democracy 1.x is no longer supported, and all customers running this archaic system do so at their own risk.

  18. JohnR Says:

    anotherbozo says: "I've sadly come to regard Obama as a Rockefeller Republican, but maybe he's further to the right than that"

    I think you're pretty right. It seemed clear to me during the campaign that Obama was more conservative than most of my acquaintences thought, and I think his actions since the election demonstrate that. He talks nicely, but he's just not comfortable with radical solutions to anything (with 'radical' defined in terms of "sudden, dramatic changes of course"). Perhaps he'll end up steering the supertanker of government back onto a more reasonable course, but I don't think he'll have that chance. I really don't think he had any idea just how impossible it was going to be to deal with the wild-eyed right/GOP. They don't want to deal; they only want to rule. We're starting to see hesitant observations by some of the main media guys that the US has maybe moved into a dangerous area politically, but even the most nervous talking head doesn't seem to realize just how dangerous it is. I keep thinking I'm being overwrought, but reading over the seemingly unstoppable march to WWI, and then looking over the post-Reagan rise of the Right, I see hard times ahead. Perhaps if somehow North Korea can be prevented from going to war there may be hope that the US won't end up as a theocratic fascist state in my lifetime, but I am almost certain that neither of these two possibilities can be prevented any more. I hope I'm wrong.

  19. Jeff Says:

    A great example of a successful, stable multiparty system is Germany. There, there are conservative parties (though, being openly Christian parties, they also support the social welfare, "love-thy-neighbor" policies), Social Democrats that are actually socialist (I find it really funny that around the world red is the color of socialist and communist parties, while here it's code for conservatives), and a Liberal party that is what liberalism is supposed to be (support a free market with regulations and expand civil liberties). Over the decades they have all managed to coalition with one another productively, perhaps because, since each party has so many opponents, it cannot demonize them all to the point of never being able to work with any of them. That, I find, is a major problem with two party systems: so much energy is spent on defeated this one foe that working with any part of them will be seen a betrayal, rather than seen as a shift in policy priorities.

  20. George Says:

    Its a bit hasty to call British political culture sane, even in comparison to the U.S. We have almost exactly the same problem concerning the rightward shift of parties: our 'labour' party are supposed to be a socialist (or at least social democrat) party but since 1997 they have been more Thatcherite than Saint Maggie herself. Tony Blair was to Thatcher what Obama is to Reagan yet his party still has the balls to call itself socialist, at least Obama admits that he is a neo-liberal asshole.

  21. jazzbumpa Says:

    News flash folks — Obama is to the right of Clinton, and HE was to the right of Eisenhower.

    We will never upgrade to Demo 2.0 because all the money is invested in the pre-release beta of fascism ultra.

    We are down a road to either major depression – 1929 or worse; fascism courtesy of the teabaggers who will fucking love it; or actual blood in the streets.

    And maybe WWIII.

    WASF,
    JzB

  22. HoosierPoli Says:

    You look at a place like Germany, where the only serious policy debate is "How much free money should we give our millions of lazy Muslim immigrants in addition to their state healthcare and housing credits?" and you seriously have to wonder what the USA would be able to do if we didn't spend 500 billion dollars PER YEAR on pointless wars fought with purely mythological weapons systems. American politics is broken, and the American people will blame everyone but the people who really deserve it: their own fucking selves.

  23. HoosierPoli Says:

    "A great example of a successful, stable multiparty system is Germany. There, there are conservative parties (though, being openly Christian parties, they also support the social welfare, "love-thy-neighbor" policies), Social Democrats that are actually socialist (I find it really funny that around the world red is the color of socialist and communist parties, while here it's code for conservatives), and a Liberal party that is what liberalism is supposed to be (support a free market with regulations and expand civil liberties). Over the decades they have all managed to coalition with one another productively, perhaps because, since each party has so many opponents, it cannot demonize them all to the point of never being able to work with any of them. That, I find, is a major problem with two party systems: so much energy is spent on defeated this one foe that working with any part of them will be seen a betrayal, rather than seen as a shift in policy priorities."

    You left out the fact that the Greens are ten percent of the Bundestag, and there is actually a literal, functioning Communist party (a holdover from the GDR days, they call themselves Die Linke now). The most credible conservative German party is probably to the left of the Democrats, but Germany is just generally a more liberal country, especially since they now understand the mortal dangers of nationalism.

  24. Elder Futhark Says:

    I been calling Obama "Reagan Darque" since 07 of 2008 and did anyone of you dumb fucks listen??!!

    Oh wait, I wasn't here back then.

    Eh-heh. Ha. Ha ha… Never mind.

  25. Crazy for Urban Planning Says:

    I've long considered all of our Political Parties more similar than dis-similar. It's tempting to blame the New York Bankers that run around the world "bailing out" countries and then making sure they cut social programs (not military budgets). Ultimately I have to admit I just don't know why the world has shifted further to the right in the last 20 or 30 years…

  26. JohnnyForeigner Says:

    For Prudence, enjoy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-BZIWSI5UQ

    :-)

  27. Jeff Says:

    In mentioning Germany I left out the Greens and Die Linke (DL, if you will) for the sake of simplicity and because the Greens weren't part of a governing coalition until recently ('98-'05), while DL is a party shunned from ruling coalitions (the other parties don't want the taint of associating with the people who ran East Germany). The point is that Germans enjoy a stable multi-party system that provides a full spectrum of choices where elections are far less about the personalities of those running (save perhaps the Chancellor and her cabinet) and more about their actual party platforms. It seems to foster a greater diversity of policy positions and options for the electorate. This is, of course, helped by their Democracy 2.0 model, while Britain (using version 1.0) had Thatcher's Conservatives enjoy a commanding majority of Parliament despite the majority of voters supporting something else (in fact no "winner" in British elections has had an absolute majority of the vote since 1935).

  28. UNE_*.Pissed Says:

    Crazy for Urban Planning said:

    "Ultimately I have to admit I just don't know why the world has shifted further to the right in the last 20 or 30 years…

    Lets start with 3 things:
    1) The abolishment of the fairness doctrine during the Reagan Administration, which ultimately lead to the existence of Limbaugh and FoxNews.

    2) Deregulation of the media by Clinton allowing for the consolidation of most of the Media in the bosom of six Giant Corporations.

    3) Oodles and oodles of wingnut welfare distributed to shills hell bent on destroying any vestige of civil conversation while simultaneously dragging the overton window in the direction of fasciststan.

  29. Pictorial Says:

    You guys are funny as fuck, sitting around bitching about how the world left you all behind. "Everyone is crazy but us."

  30. comrade x Says:

    Yeah, and how is the " world " treatin' ya, Dicktorial? You're probably sitting back, watching " Dances With The Stars" with your Daddy's Silver Spoon in your mouth.

  31. Pictorial Says:

    Silver spoon or, no, how did "Dances With The Stars" come into this?