In Review

In Review: Between Left and Right

When I describe Barack Obama as a principled centrist working to move the center left, I confess, I am seeing in the President’s political orientation my own primary commitments. As a professor, as a participant observer of the opposition to previously existing socialism around the old Soviet bloc, and as an engaged American, this kind of center-left position makes the most sense to me.

I oppose true believers, of the left and the right, and am confused by those who see only their own position as intelligent and insightful, viewing their opposition as, at best, mistaken, and, more likely, as fundamentally mendacious. Working in the academic world, in my daily life, I mostly see this in my leftist colleagues who are certain about the superiority of their own political commitments. On the larger political stage, the fallacy of political certainty seems to be primarily a right-wing disorder, vividly epitomized in the Republican debates and on Fox News. The new direction of MSNBC, I should also note, has become a mirror image of Fox. I find it almost as hard to watch for more than a few minutes.

I look for alternatives to this, and I believe that this is not only a matter of personal taste or my specific political commitments. Hannah Arendt’s essay on truth and politics highlights the depth of the problem, as I have already reflected on here and here. Confusing political opinion with political truth and empowering that truth is a primary cultural characteristic of modern tyranny, and basing politics on factual lies, avoiding factual truth, is another definitive cultural characteristic of the tyranny of our times and of the recent past. For this reason, I am self critical about my own convictions and quite critical of many of my friends on the left, and also for this reason, I am on the look out for opponents on the right worthy of respect, from whom I can learn. Thus, my posts looking for conservatives (here, here and here), and about Corey Robin’s attempt to understand the reactionary mind, and the post by the distinguished and controversial paleo-conservative, Paul Gottfried.

The matter isn’t finished. I hope these posts will be only the opening of contributions about and from the right on the events of the day at Deliberately Considered. “Mario” has agreed to post an answer to the question I posed to him.

He compactly asserted in his comment to one of my recent pieces:

I think you will find that many American conservatives are fundamentally (a) concerned about being able to live in traditional ways — in the ways or manners that they have inherited from their parents and grandparents, and respectful of established societal codes of conduct shared with their neighbors and communities — and, perhaps more importantly, (b) suspicious of any attempt to improve or re-engineer society based on an ill-defined idea of progress or some ideological model of a future utopia. History has shown us repeatedly that such projects usually require the violation of a certain group’s rights — and often lead to bloodshed.

And I asked how these commitments could be applied to considering deliberately the events of the day in a way that might convince people who are not conservative? I actually agree with some of the implications of the two points, but not all of them. Perhaps a real discussion could be opened. Next, I will work on the opening in a response to Paul Gottfried’s post.