American Elephants


“Left 3.0:” An Essential Article Explaining the Newest Version of the Left. by The Elephant's Child

Tod Lindberg had been editor of the Hoover Institutions’ Policy Review  since 1999, and important articles are a given. This piece from the last issue of Policy Review one year ago, which attempts to distinguish the current version of the Left from its previous iterations is particularly fascinating. He calls it Left 3.0. I’m always a ready-made audience for anything explaining the Left, because it seems so inexplicable that they can possibly think as they do.

Mr. Lindberg does not attempt a history of the Left. You’ve probably noticed the changes, but not really focused on what’s different.

The Left side of the American political spectrum has undergone an extraordinary transformation over the last dozen years. Perhaps because it remains a work in progress, the extent of this transformation has gone largely unremarked and seems underappreciated even among those who have been carrying it out. Forty years after the forces of the “New Left” managed to deliver the Democratic presidential nomination to their preferred candidate, George McGovern, only to see him lose the general election to Richard Nixon in a 49-state landslide, the United States is home to a newer Left. It’s political hopes repose not in a man able to muster less than 40 percent of the vote nationwide, but in the convincingly reelected president of the United States, Barack Obama. This newer Left is confident in itself, united both in its description of the problems the country faces and in how to go about addressing them. This Left is conscious of itself as a movement, and believes it is on the rise. It has already managed to reshape American politics, and its successes so far have hardly exhausted its promise. Policies are changing under its influence. And it opponents do not seem to have found an effective way to counter it politically. …

If classical liberalism emerged in part as a rebellion against hereditary privilege, modern American liberalism is foremost a rebellion against the privileges of wealth. The most important innovation of the Left, a principle held fast from the time of the French Revolution onward, has been its insistence that political rights could only be meaningful if accompanied by a degree of economic equality that systems based on political rights alone would not automatically create or protect. …

Implementation of the animating passion for equality requires the power of government. The Left shares the suspicion of government power at the hear of classical liberalism, but only up to a point. Individuals need rights to protect them from overweening government intrusion, true, but government power in the proper hands can do good, and indeed the proper hands must wield the power of government in order to do the good of pursuing equality. The proper hands are the Left’s, it hardly needs saying.

Mix yourself a good stiff drink, and take the time to figure out just what the Left is up to. Excellent article, altering and illuminating the other side of the political spectrum.

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