Left and Right in the Age of Trump

Is everyone critical of President Trump by definition on the Left?

A friend and neighbor forwards today’s newsletter from The Flip Side, which is purportedly “on a mission to help bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives” and “a one-stop shop for smart, concise summaries of political analysis from both conservative and liberal media” whose “goal is to become a news source for liberals, moderates, independents, conservatives, and even the apolitical.”

While I’m sure some of our readers would agree with their characterization of OTB as “From the Left,” I found it rather amusing. But, as I noted in responding to my friend’s email, “In the early days of the Iraq War, the ‘Right’ was everyone who agreed with the war and the ‘Left’ everyone who opposed it. Now, I think we’re defining it in terms of Trump.”

On a deeper look, though, I found it even more bizarre. Everyone represented as “From the Right” is avowedly partisan, whereas Jack Tapper and NBC News are at least ostensibly straight news. OTB is at least a commentary site.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Heh. Welcome to the club James. 😉




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  2. CSK says:

    I’m not sure why the OTB comment could be construed as either left or right, given that I’ve heard similar sentiments from both sides.




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  3. george says:

    Politics is team sports for most people (or at least for most of the 10% who follow politics, the other 90% think politics is simply a waste of time, neither as entertaining or as important as sports).

    And team sports is about supporting your team, right or wrong. If someone on your team gets called on pass interference then its a bad referee. If someone on the opposing team gets called on the same type of play then its proper refereeing. If your team’s quarterback is an a-hole it doesn’t matter, because his job is just to guide the team to victory. If your opponent’s quarterback is an a-hole then he should be kicked off the team, because it degrades the game.

    And as far as I know, politics has always been this way. Its not going to change, because party unity leads to power, and power is what politics tends to be about.




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  4. Kylopod says:

    I have never heard of this site before, but the impression it gives here is that it’s engaged in lazy bothsiderism that either wittingly or unwittingly aligns with right-wing narratives—the idea that neutral mainstream news is presumed to be “liberal” and treated as the equivalent to hardcore partisan diatribes on the right, and the idea that anyone who differs with the current power centers of the right is automatically part of “the left.” This is the kind of slanted framing that Fox News used to engage in, back when it used to pretend to be “fair and balanced.”




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  5. Eric Florack says:

    A team sport it maybe, politics these days but as someone else know that it always has been.

    The trouble currently is that the team memberships are somewhat ill-defined.

    As I have been saying for years now and have been proven right again and again on this point, the one thing that the GOP establishment refuses to be is conservative. And yet, they labeled themselves as being of the right.




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  6. Kit says:

    James, I’d say that half of OTB being considered on the Left is that the Right left you. But the other half comes down to: What can the GOP offer a man like you? You’re too young to be afraid of any change. You’re too successful to make common cause with the dispossessed. You’re too educated for Fox and Friends. And you’re too old to swallow the simplistic slogans that appeal to young men. If you want to try to think for yourself, the Left is the only game in town these days.




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  7. Kylopod says:

    @Eric Florack:

    the one thing that the GOP establishment refuses to be is conservative. And yet, they labeled themselves as being of the right.

    If you had any understanding of the historical usage of these terms, you’d know that “conservative” and “right-wing” have never been synonyms. Trumpism, for example, may or may not be a “conservative” belief system, but it sure as hell is a right-wing one.




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  8. Franklin says:

    @CSK: The proof of your statement is in fact provided right there, by the Daily Wire and Hot Air.




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  9. george says:

    @Kylopod:

    And in fact the whole idea that the wide variety of human political thought can be put onto a single, linear spectrum is ludicrous. No one would say that scientific thought or literature or music or even sport can usefully be put on a linear spectrum, but somehow politics can be usefully described that way? Its one the of silliest things out there; its basically suggesting politics is several orders of magnitude simpler than any other aspect of humanity.




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  10. MarkedMan says:

    This is fairly typical of the dual judgement system employed by almost everyone, albeit subconsciously. Progressive policies are judged on results. Conservative policies are judged on rhetoric and feelings.

    Here’s a Left/Right divide to think about. Obamacare is the ultimate example of Progressive policy making. It is incremental and based upon decades of research. Brownback’s Kansas experiment is the ultimate example of Libertarian, Republican and self processed Conservative policy making.

    Here’s the difference. The people responsible for Obamacare have been examining results and doing everything in their power (absent any legislative help due to Republican intransigence and hostility) to promote and preserve the best features of it and to identify and move away from those pieces that were less effective or failed. The people responsible for the Kansas fiasco are… absent. They are pretending it doesn’t exist.

    Another example: No Child Left Behind has had some profoundly good effects and some profoundly negative ones, and you will find no shortage of interviewers asking tough questions about it and policy makers seeking to figure out how to improve it. On the other hand, Charter Schools have been sold for a generation as the Conservative miracle. But a decade and a half into it the results are pretty clear: the schools vary widely in quality but on the average perform about the same as the public schools (which also vary widely in quality). Yet I have never seen an interviewer bring up the endless Republican promises for miracles and compare them to reality. Ditto for the deregulation of banks, the privatization of energy companies, trash hauling, parking meters, tolls, etc. Time after time after time the Libertarian/Republican/Conservative braintrust gets these policies enacted, but they never hold themselves responsible for insuring their success, nor does the media.




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  11. Charon says:

    I find it strange that anyone would call a site left given its hosts are Republican or Libertarian. I guess someone just looked at the comments.




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  12. Ben Wolf says:

    “Left” does not indicate any particular opinion of Donald Trump, partly because there are many Lefts rather than one of increasing or decreasing intensity along a one-dimensional spectrum. Same goes for the Right.

    There is a Right and a Left within socialism, within liberalism, within conservatism, and pretty much any other ideology. And where one ends up within those ideologies is, generally speaking, a measure of authoritarian (Right) or traditional libertarian (Left) political orientation.

    So many conservatives who are critical of Trump might fall within the left wing of the ideology. On the other hand we have individuals, some of whom have commented in this thread, who embrace a form of radical authoritarianism that falls well outside even right wing conservatism.




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  13. Ben Wolf says:

    For anyone who might be confused by some of the terminology in my last comment, “libertarian” as known in the United States has no connection to traditional libertarianism and is in fact its exact opposite. If you say “libertarian” in Europe everybody understands it to mean anarchist-socialist.




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  14. gVOR08 says:

    The Flip Side sounds like The Week, a news magazine dedicated to the proposition of bothsides, and essentially useless.

    There’s an operation called Media Bias/Fact Check that purports to rank sources. I have no idea of their funding or origin. They rate OTB “Left Center Bias”.

    The problem with any of these efforts is the definition of “center”. Is it an average of where everyone is now? Or is there some historical continuity? As the Right runs further and further off the rails is “center” half way to where they are today or where it was a decade or so ago? Or some running average. I don’t know. I doubt Flip Side or Media Bias know either. In practice it will tend to be today’s center.

    Your problem, James, and Doug, and especially Dr. Taylor, is that you’re rational and fact based. I fear that these days that does make you left of center. Maybe even screaming lefties. Welcome aboard.




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  15. Kathy says:

    Somewhat related and somewhat off-topic: is anyone else just sick and tired of hearing about the Creature in the Oval Office every single, effing day?




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  16. Joe says:

    It appears to me that the conclusion attributed to Outside the Beltway which ends the column “from the LEFT” is essentially the same summary conclusion attributed at the top of the column “from the RIGHT.”




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  17. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kit:

    If you want to try to think for yourself, the Left is the only game in town these days.

    Ever heard of the Ultimatum game?




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  18. SKI says:

    So I took a look at *why* they called OTB Center-Left…

    Notes: Outside the Beltway is an online journal of politics and foreign affairs analysis. They claim their views are Classical Liberal: a strong belief in free trade, limited government, and respect for human rights. In reviewing articles I found a general left-center position with multiple articles criticizing President Trump. Outside the Beltway also criticizes climate change denial and respects human rights, which falls more in line with the political left. On the flip side they have articles in support of the Citizen United decision based on their interpretation of the constitution. This aligns more with the political right. Overall, our review turned up more left leaning articles and therefore we rate Outside the Beltway left-center biased with well sourced factual reporting. (D. Van Zandt 7/22/2017)

    In other words, criticizing Trump, believing in human rights and recognizing truth about science are all signs of being party of the “political left”.

    SMH…




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  19. SKI says:

    @Charon: Actually, they didn’t. They looked at the topics – with some pretty ahistorical definitions/perspectives.




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  20. Charon says:

    @SKI:

    In other words, criticizing Trump, believing in human rights and recognizing truth about science are all signs of being party of the “political left”.

    So Jen Rubin is a lefty now? Whatever.

    That Overton Window sure has been moved.




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  21. Kylopod says:

    @Charon:

    So Jen Rubin is a lefty now? Whatever.

    Exactly.

    The basic problem here is that the left-right spectrum, for all its limitations, is traditionally supposed to represent a person’s ideological preferences, not necessarily which “team” they’re rooting for. There are many people on the far left who never support Democratic candidates, and many people on the far right who never support Republican ones (though Trump has attracted an unusually high level of support from the far right). Besides, people can support or oppose a president based on assessments of his character or competence rather than his policy positions. Jen Rubin and other conservative critics of Trump oppose him on the grounds that he’s corrupt, unstable, and unfit for the job, not because they necessarily disagree with his policy agenda. Yes, Rubin accepts climate science and holds relatively “liberal” views on immigration and gay rights, but that didn’t stop her from backing Mitt Romney in 2012.




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  22. Kathy says:

    @SKI:

    In other words, criticizing Trump, believing in human rights and recognizing truth about science are all signs of being party of the “political left”.

    It kind of makes sense when the party of the political right:

    1 Has a Trump cult of personality
    2 Tramples on the rights of everyone in sight, except their donors
    3 Is hostile to scientific data that (some of) their donors find objectionable.

    I wouldn’t equate the left with the opposite of the above positions (the left can ignore science when it wants to), but rather anyone, including Republicans (if any), who also are critical of trump, respectful of rights, an cognizant of scientific fact.




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  23. Barry says:

    @Eric Florack: “As I have been saying for years now and have been proven right again and again on this point, the one thing that the GOP establishment refuses to be is conservative. And yet, they labeled themselves as being of the right.”

    ‘Conservative’ and ‘right-wing’ are not the same thing. I agree with you that the GOP is not conservative.




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  24. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Progressive policies are judged on results. Conservative policies are judged on rhetoric and feelings.

    No, it’s a bit more subtle (and worse) than that.

    Progressives, like Liberals in general, care about results — they think you can determine empirically whether a policy is good or bad, by looking at the outcomes it produces. It’s very biblical, in its way: “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

    Conservatives (today) genuinely don’t care about results — they judge policies by whether they are fair/moral/correct, regardless of whether ‘correct’ policies make everyone miserable. In the limit, they would genuinely prefer a world in which almost everyone is miserable but (say) property is respected and people are held responsible for their own actions, to a world in which almost everyone is happy but there are significant numbers of freeloaders and unpunished libertines.

    This leads to a lot of talking past each other. You can’t convince people that heavy progressive taxation is a better way of achieving a prosperous society if they care more about the fact that some people don’t pay “their fair share” than they do about society prospering.




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  25. Kit says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Ever heard of the Ultimatum game?

    Actually, I have heard of it. But I must be a bit slower that usual this morning: why do you ask?




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  26. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kit:

    What sort of split does “the Left is the only game in town these days” indicate?




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  27. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Sorry, but I felt a small edit might make this more accurate:

    Conservatives (today) genuinely don’t care about results — they judge policies by whether they are fair/moral/correct, regardless of whether ‘correct’ policies make everyone miserable. In the limit, they would genuinely prefer a world in which almost everyone is miserable but (say) property is respected and poor people are held responsible for their own actions…




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  28. JohnMcC says:

    @Kylopod: Well, Ms Rubin joins a cadre of formerly-right-wingers who have the disorienting experience of seeing their vehicle chugging down the road without them. Max Boot is a bete-noir of mine from the 2003 disaster but he is saying goodbye to the R-party. I think I recall Dr Joyner here voicing a similar emotion. I don’t personally mistake those nice folks as allies of mine and yours but on a very important day they might well be on ‘my’ side of things. (Or — might not be). No one believes Ms Rubin, Mr Boot or Dr Joyner have suddenly ‘woke’.

    @Kathy: Get back far enough in the woods or up to the headwaters of a river. Leave electronics locked in the car. You won’t hear that ugly person’s name. You might run into me up there and I won’t breath a word about politics. Promise.




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