The political spectrum here in the U.S. has become increasingly muddled over the years. Conservatives adopted the lingo and some of the verities of liberal progressive thought and more recently the rump of the left has toyed with attempting to coopt the aspects of right-wing thought it finds least unpalatable. We’ve got a darling of the right proposing a Wilsonian nation-building scheme in the Middle East and a reflexive left in bed with anti-American protest organizers.
So I’ve started a game. When I’m watching a politician (or, increasingly, an anchor or pundit) bloviating on the TV screen, I try to figure out if they’re one of two new political species I’ve made up: right-wing liberals and leftist conservatives.
For example, when I find myself agreeing with Ann Coulter and Instapundit that Hillary Clinton has adopted the wrong argument in favor of affirmative action (claiming that by “the content of their character” Martin Luther King, Jr., was implicitly including the concept of race instead of excluding it, when a stronger argument lies right there: they we do not yet live in the world that King dreamed of), I am forced to admit that Hillary is a left-wing conservative. She knows in her gut what side she is on and she will adopt inflexible thinking in order to seek the outcomes she favors.
Most of the libertarian types and people like David Brooks are Right-wing liberals. Joe Lieberman is a left-wing conservative. John McCain is a right-wing liberal. I’m not saying there aren’t any pure lefties or righties anymore. Pat Buchanan is a right-wing conservative and Ralph Nader is a left-wing liberal, so these people exist, but they have become increasingly marginalized.
We have a left, such as it is, that harkens back to the days when it was in the vanguard, when Roosevelt cobbled together an unwieldy coalition that did not fully spend its force until around 1994. They are conservative, in their desire to return to a time when liberal arguments circa 1949 could win just about any political debate.
Increasingly, it is the people whose views evolved from the right who are looking for new paths forward, but they are also in bed with those who would happily skip back through the ’50s, past the ’20s, and land us somewhere in the gilded age of the 1890s (again, we find the Ann Coulter type of right-wing reactionary in this camp).
So of course the spectrum is a muddle. People are spread out all over the various axes. The center shifts. It all depends on how you frame the issues and who did the last push poll. But I’ve got my eye on this weird new taxonomy, and I’m going to keep spotting these weird righty liberals an lefty conservatives when they show themselves.