The Hard Left and Populist Right Agree on All the Wrong Things

You can’t debunk the ragers by starting out raging against them. You have to come at the subject in a completely neutral fashion, and lay it out extremely explicitly first. Then let the readers come to their own conclusions.

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To actually change a mind by logic, you have to take a full argument, allow annotation of it, and continue by allowing interactive debate. This is not what I see, ever – and the problem gets worse by antagonizing.

The last point especially is a sea change from the mid-20th century, when society was regularly moved forward.

There’s such a huge number of debatable claims made here that are claimed non-debatable without “letting the other guy speak”. That’s where the project goes off the rails IMO.

At core, I think the problem today is a newly emergent dismissal of other POVs not merely as factually deficient, but, thereby, morally deficient: e.g. “Their fanboying of Putin prior to his invasion, mindless parroting of Kremlin propaganda, and limp-wristed prevarication after he launched his war reveal just how much of a sham this always was.” … dripping with moral condescension, conflated with mere factual condescension. This sh*ts all over the place here, as it is in most contemporary “journalism”.

This kind of argument fails flat unless it is completely unassailable…which it isn’t, by a long shot. And I am no “fanboy” of Putin. I merely understand the stakes.


The American Left has been in the same approximate position for about a century, now. Since the Left has started referring to themselves as “liberals” (again, that label was adopted about a century ago), the Left has been led by technocratic elites who have been promoting an egalitarian worldview, in one dimension or another. Around the middle of the 20th century, when Socialism was at its high-water mark, these elites thought that the economy could be managed in ways that encouraged not only more equitable distribution, but production as well. In the latter 20th century, electoral defeats as well as experience with Neo-liberal economic policy, started to convince American liberals otherwise - and, good “Reality-based” technocrats that they are, they moved towards a center-right view of the economy and national finances.

Part of the electoral defeats that I just mentioned, was the alienation of the White working-class, as the technocrats embraced civil rights and as Black Americans flooded into the Democratic party. As the White-working class populists jumped ship to the GOP, there was less resistance inside the Democratic party for the party to become more avowedly Neoliberal on economic issues. The Democrats remained (and remain) the party of the working classes, inasmuch as we Democrats have never abandoned the ambition of greater government spending to support public goods and promote greater equality - but the Republican party, firmly in the grip of Reaganite Anti-statism, has thwarted again and again the Democrats’ spending and redistribution plans. Simple example - the Democrats would have put forward a big infrastructure package more than a decade ago, if it weren’t for Republican obstruction.

By my lights, the key to understanding American politics since the Civil War, is this: The Anti-liberal populists were concentrated in Jefferson’s yeoman farmer’s party, before the Civil War. Defeat in that war saw the beginnings of the evolution of the Democratic party away from populism, and towards big-government technocracy. The White populist base of the Democrats could go along with this, as long as they could see themselves as the beneficiaries of things like New Deal programs, the introduction of Welfare-state entitlements, and the minimum wage. But when the egalitarian ethos of mid-century Progressives broadened out from economic egalitarianism, to social justice and civil rights, that was a bridge too far for the White populist base of the Democrats, and they began a migration into the GOP that mirrored Black Americans’ migration away from the party of Lincoln and towards the Democrats.

The result is that, in little over a hundred years, America’s Anti-liberal populists shifted en masse from the 19th century Slavers’ party, to the American Fascism of Trumpism. Conservatives are gonna conservative, populists are gonna fascist, that’s just how these folks roll.

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There is no such thing as universal, or even highly parallel, “alt-Left” and “alt-Right”. The whole idea that you can ascribe a certain set of beliefs to an entire population characterized merely by opposition to the mainstream – cherry-picking the weakest for maximum punch, and then plowing in with withering ad hominem – is ridiculous. But again, this is how journalism works today. I read quite a few of these blogs and find all kinds of views, all the time. People have the infinite variety of snowflakes*.

*Not to be confused with alt-Right’s contempt for alt-Left “weaklings”.

I wouldn’t say never, but the likelihood of true South American style military coup here seems remote. Our military is much more mature and restrained than that. We do have a bitterly divided and futile Congress (although they still do get some stuff done from time to time). But eventually, I predict we will elect a more moderate president once the current panic wears off.

That’s a lot of Chinese triumphalism right there. Would love to see the Chinese do something as foolish as push into Russian territory (which Putin seems to think is the old Soviet borders and maybe beyond). Or go into the mountains of Afghanistan and fight it out with the mujihadeen. Or try to impose their will on militant Islamic states like Iran and Saudi Arabia. They will likely meet the same fate the previous great powers met in those regions.


I’d argue that there is but one consistent characteristic to Left-Right – the ones that emerged from the original French Revolution – that in fact persist to this day (even if in the US it bounces from Dem to Rep and back at various times):

In a democratic society, both freedom (individual “liberté”) and fairness (social “égalité”) are required.
-The Left prioritizes fairness
-The Right prioritizes freedom
Sometimes, for certain things, and to certain extents, freedom should be prioritized, sometimes fairness should. But that’s basically it.

IMO, all the rest is really noise, constantly re-introduced by various kinds of troublemakers to keep the rabble fighting, eternally, for selfish reasons.

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Sure you can, and he does. I know what you’re saying. This essay is not the complete work needed to restore sanity, much more needs to be said and done, still no essay can be ‘everything’, this is merely the author’s opinion of who the ‘bad guys’ are and one does rage against bad guys, no? Extreme explicitness would require a book, this is just an essay.

That’s precisely what QC attempts to do – we debate interactively.

I myself wish QC would occasionally host a debate between opposing sides at the article level – essay and rebuttal essay. As it is, authors give us their view and then we scratch each other’s eyes out debating it.

… which is exactly what the article says.


Yes - you are correct, Ray.

Clowns to the left, jokers to the right, and there you are - stuck in the middle with me.

Still, I think the open minded, civil, middle is the right place to be.


The Presidency is in fact the core of the problem, and really it has been what has plagued Latin American democracy. South American countries for the most part followed the American model of a separate executive (in contrast to the Parliamentary model of an Executive appointed from the legislature), and experience shows that a separate & independent Executive makes a country more liable to fall into tyranny. Warfare invariably tends to augment Executive power, and Latin American countries, with many bordering states, are (much) more liable to fall into war with neighboring-states than North America is. Further, when the Legislature becomes paralyzed by factionalism, power defaults to the Executive (as well as providing occasion for emergency powers, in an acute crisis). The United States has not gone down this route as yet, owing to the genius of the country’s architects, the blessings of geography, and the greater depth and durability of Anglo-Saxon political institutions generally. But with our separate Executive we are definitely on a glide path to recapitulate the Latin American story of democracy. Case in point: a struggle over the Executive succession just last year pitched the United States into almost unprecedented crisis which we already know tempted the military to intervene.

Yeah, well the thing is that in not a few countries, the military is one of the most trusted/most capable institutions. Many people could find consensus around a “temporary” military conservatorship of the Executive, rather than risk a further escalation of political violence.

This of course puts our problem on stark display. If you genuinely do not believe that Biden is a middle-of-the-road politician, it demonstrates just how far we have fallen in our descent into political Faction.


Excellently said.

He is certainly not a radical (especially when compared to others), however I feel its fair to say he has attempted to govern from a more extreme position than the moderate façade he campaigned on.


At this point I see Biden as not really running the show. He doesn’t have the tools anymore.

It looks to me more like we have Executive government by committee. I could be wrong about that, but Biden can’t really hold a conversation for very long. He seems to mostly read bullet points off his teleprompters.

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Yes, I have talked about this extensively in my posts here. One of the key tasks of a taxonomy of ideologies is to ascertain just what is the relationship of Conservatism/populism/Fascism to the Left-Right, capital-L Liberal political spectrum.

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much more needs to be said and done, still no essay can be ‘everything’,
Extreme explicitness would require a book, this is just an essay.

Agreed, no essay (or article, or any other crystalized story) or can. But oh, yes, – a single web address for grounded exploration can most certainly can be the “everything” that is needed. Why we haven’t gotten there, nearly three decades after the web was invented, is beyond me. We still publish, and rely, primarily on text articles and video/audio stories, when we can do so much better.

That’s precisely what QC attempts to do – we debate interactively.

Well, yes and no… We (in Quillette) can have a reasonably connected conversation between, of course, but it’s still serialized, and still 99+% of relevant content is external, and too difficult to review in a cognitive “flow” by a reader (please see also my last comment)

which is exactly what the article says.

Yes, about other writers – but IMHO, he is still doing the same thing with his judgment calls.

On further thought, I realize (1) my point/idea is possibly too difficult to make clear here (through no fault of anyone’s, the author, the readers, or mine), (2) there’s not sense railing against this particular author’s opinions. I’m beyond frustrated at this point in time, and (3) realize I will simply just have to start doing it myself, and find ways of showing it.


I tend to agree. I actually started typing something to that affect, and then decided not to go down that rabbit hole. But yes, I suspect his staff have more power to influence policy than most Presidential staffs.


I have talked about this extensively in my posts here.

Thanks. Will look for it then.

Biden (and the Democrats generally) have been successfully branded as “radicals” by GOP rhetoric. As one Canadian observer put it, the idea that ‘Build Back Better’ represents some radical agenda, is just facially ludicrous; in most OECD countries all the stuff in that bill would just form part of a commonsense annual budget. I know there is a temptation to regard it as “radical” when the political opposition relentlessly hawks that line, but it just ain’t so.

Part of the reason why BBB can be branded as “extreme,” is just the sheer size of the legislation. But that’s just a function of our Congressional dysfunction owing to the GOP’s descent into canonical Faction, in the last quarter-century. They refuse to enact any legislation in the national interest, if the Democrats can get political credit for it. And with the filibuster, even from a decidedly-minority position, they can thwart Democrat-sponsored legislation - even, as we see, when the Democrats nominally have united government. Given the GOP’s pure-factional politics of obstruction, when the Democrats do have both the Congress and the Executive, there will be tremendous impetus to get as much passed as possible, while they have control. It only seems “extreme” because we’re talking about a raft of policy initiatives that have been pent up for 2 decades +.


There’s a long dialogue about it in the comments under the Revolution Betrayed (

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I profoundly disagree, as do millions of other Deplorables. The American Left – if we mean the Rats – have abandoned class solidarity in favor of Identity/Victim/race baiting. Trump saw the opportunity to pick up the white working class and did so. Lenin would have the wokies shot for abandoning socialism – and worker solidarity – in favor of petite bourgeoisie feel-good virtue signalling. Honestly it is my socialist half that detests the woke, they pervert everything socialism is supposed to be.

But the working classes themselves disagree.

Anyway, you sure do have a thesis there. Let’s see how it develops in my mind. It’s one of those things where ‘everything shifts’ so it can’t be taken in bits.

In as few words it could hardly be said better.


I agree, and acknowledged that.

I’ll agree the extreme obstructionism you are talking about mostly started within the GOP during the Obama administration. However since then though? Only throwing shade at the GOP is far to simplistic. Heck, we’re just days from Schumer’s decision to try and pass an abortion bill that is extreme by the measure of most public opinion. He did this in place of trying to craft a more moderate bill that could have garnered his entire parties support and even peeled off a few Republican votes.

Ensuring it did not get any bi-partisan support was the point. Both sides play this stupid game.

Agreed completely. Combined with the difficulty of bypassing the filibuster when it comes to repealing or paring back legislation, this is a sure fire recipe for disaster. I agree, the filibuster needs to go.

Contrary to popular opinion, I do not feel it defends against bad legislation. Rather it ensures and then protects it.