As I've said many times on this blog, in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, I became interested in politics - more than any other time in my life. The results of the 2016 election were not only shocking, but infinitely fascinating. Since then, I have spent hundreds of hours listening to podcasts, talks and debates from all sides of the political spectrum. I have tried my best to be informed on the issues. My goal is to try to understand why people believe what they do. I don't claim to have an infallible handle on the current situation in the US and the world, but here is my current perception charted out to the best of my ability:
There is always some overlap among these points in the spectrum, but here are my rough definitions:
A: Far left/progressives (leftists).
B: Classical liberals (liberals)
Some of my thoughts in bullet-point form - I will reference the positions on the above spectrum with letters in parenthesis ():
The "feared" extremes of the left (A) and right (E) in this country are actually very vocal minorities on the fringes, and much smaller than the opposing sides make them out to be. I'd define these extremes as the white nationalist/alt-right movement on the right (E), and the ultra-progressives on the left (A).
Those spanning B through D I believe make up the majority of the population in this country (I place myself somewhere just to the left of D). There are differences between these individuals on the spectrum for sure, but they are agreeable enough able to have civil discourse.
The white nationalist/alt-right fringe (E) is laughably small, poorly organized and their platform is devoid of any persuasive reasoning to most logical people. Most importantly, they have almost zero institutional power in the western world (aside from their collective votes, which are probably only enough to swing the closest of elections).
Contrast the fringe alt-right (E) with the fringe far left (A). The ultra-progressives, despite being far to the left of the majority of Americans, have a very large amount of institutional power. They have near-complete control of academia, the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, big tech and upper management in the corporate world. Unlike the alt-right fringe, the ultra-progressives actually do wield the power to strongarm their policies into laws and corporate culture as they see fit (IE, the wedding cake cases in Oregon and Colorado). Not only do they possess this power, they use it on a routine basis! On top of this, the more party-loyal center-left population (B) has traditionally been willing to vote on the progressive side (Democrat), making the far left a formidable force. The more conservative side of this country has had a real reason to fear the phenomenon of the far left, and are casting their votes accordingly to stave off this very real threat.
Because of the relative size and power of the far left (A), I feel they are deserving of much more scrutiny and criticism than the alt-right. Everyone knows why the alt-right and white nationalism is wrong, there isn't a need to debate it. The far left, however, has a more mainstream acceptance to where logical debate is necessary. That's why you'll see me focusing more on that side in my blog posts.
Despite the tiny size of the *actual* alt-right (E), those on the left of the political spectrum (A) magnify this group to the point of having an irrational fear of them. Part of this is due to the fact that the ultra-progressive left usually labels anyone not in lock-step with their full suite of policy positions as "alt-right" even if the person self-identifies as a classical liberal like Dave Rubin (B), a libertarian like John Stossel (C) or moderate conservative like Candace Owens. A staunch conservative like Ben Shapiro (D) is labeled as solidly alt-right by the ultra-progressives, even though that person usually disavows the primary characteristics of the alt-right (mostly white nationalism/*actual* Nazism). Shapiro is labeled this way even though he is Jewish and openly criticizes the alt-right directly! Why this is done is a mystery to me - part of it is deliberate disingenuousness on the part of the far left media.
This all has the effect of the left fearing a phantom monster mainly of their own creation. By lumping everyone "to the right of Karl Marx" as alt-right (B through E), they end up with an "alt-right" that is half of the population!
Classical liberals (B) are disavowing far-left progressivism (A) in large numbers. I keep going back to commentator Dave Rubin because he's a textbook example of this. Rubin was once undeniably ultra-progressive, even being a pundit for the Young Turks (a popular progressive Youtube channel and activist platform). Rubin's deconversion from ultra-progressivism is echoed by an increasing number of vocal, intelligent liberals. The majority of these de-converts still identify as liberals both in name and in policy positions (pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage, etc), but are finding more common ground with conservatives and libertarians in their strong opposition to the characteristic policies of ultra-progressivism (identity politics, social justice, intersectional feminism, pro-socialism, pro-communism, anti-capitalism).
The far left (A) tends to see Donald Trump's election as an alt-right phenomenon, as if the alt-right has somehow "infected" conservatism. I don't see this as being the case. As I said above, the far-left progressives already have massive amounts of institutional power. To the average conservative (and even a moderate liberal), the prospect of this power expanding unchecked to the control of the government is a concerning one indeed. At the very least, Trump is simply balancing the power that the progressives already have in non-governmental realms.
I believe that far-left progressives mean well. They want equality and fair treatment, and I see nothing wrong with that. Where they go awry is in how they a.) greatly overstate the degree of problems b.) blame the collective for actions of an insignificant minority (identity politics) and c.) but blind faith in radical reforms to usher in their pined-for utopia (like overthrowing capitalism, for example) without considering the comparatively greater harms that might be done if their visions actually come to fruition.
The one phenomenon I have not been able to figure out is the absolute hysteria about Trump on the far left (A) and even among more moderate liberals (B). Larry Elder has dubbed it "Trump derangement syndrome". I get losing the election and putting up with the candidate you really don't like being in office. But the way leftists paint it, Trump is a dictator-in-the-making threatening the very existence of our democracy. I just don't see it, and haven't read or seen any evidence to suggest that is true by any stretch of the imagination. Trump is certainly boorish and doesn't hold back in speaking his mind (again, I didn't vote for him and don't like having to defend him), but I see mainly ineptitude with him rather than malevolence. As Ben Shapiro likes to quote, "never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".
The left is looking at everything Trump does through conspiracy-colored glasses almost on the level of a 9/11 truther. I think the Trump fears are just at cringe-level ridiculousness at this point. Everyone and their brother on the left - including at official levels like the FBI - has been turning over every rock they can looking for something to pin on him. I think if I was Trump at this point, I'd be saying enough is enough myself! I'm not saying Trump is squeaky-clean in all respects, but comparing him to Hitler is just unhinged. If you have some reliable information to change my mind, please clue me in!
Interesting listening and reading
I wanted to pass along links to my favorite political commentators - note that these run the spectrum from B through D! All feature civil dialog with opposing sides, and present their cases with logic and reason. I do not always agree with what is being said by these figures (I am coming from a Christian perspective) but these have been very helpful to me in understanding what is going on in the world. I trust these sources 100% over the mainstream media, which has labeled nearly everyone on this list as "alt right". You can listen for yourself what these people are actually saying and decide if that label is accurate or not. Again, if you disagree, I would love to have it pointed out where any of these espouse something resembling an "alt right" position.