What’s left, right and plain wrong in the U.S. presidential campaign

Republicans have become the fantasists and Democrats, by default, are now the true American realists

Of the left, the right and plain wrong

John Moore/Getty Images

From the north side of the border, it can be difficult for a Canadian to parse exactly what Americans mean when they talk about left and right in politics, especially in this hyper-partisan presidential season. Whatever core ideologies U.S citizens attach to the different halves of the dichotomy, it’s a pretty good guess that they’re not the Canadian ones. We, after all, have a conservative government, but we also have universal health care and gay marriage. If we had to characterize the American notions of left and right, we’d probably refer to reflections of what each side traditionally says about the other, what Republicans say about Democrats and vice versa. What Republicans traditionally say is that Democrats are airy-fairy types, more concerned with idealism than reality, as in Barack Obama’s now worn-out words, “hope and change.” What the left says about the right is that they are concrete, unfeeling, and far too concerned with what was, not what should be. The left, you could say, are the stereotypical fantasists, the right, stereotypical realists. Except that the 2012 presidential election campaign has effectively turned that conception on its head. On the campaign trail and at the respective party conventions, the Republicans have been remarkably out of touch with reality. Democrats, by default, have become the true American realists.

Consider one of the main crises the Republicans have been citing throughout this campaign: voter fraud. They imply that fraud at the polling booth—ineligible voters casting ballots—is epidemic in the U.S., and that it consistently threatens to distort election results. Their solution has been to propose and pass a series of laws in Republican-controlled states stipulating that to vote you have to have a driver’s license or a passport. But in fact there is no crisis—nor has there ever been a crisis—around voter fraud in the United States. A widespread study by the U.S. Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 found that of the 300 million people who cast votes in that time period, only 86 were convicted of voter fraud; and the majority of those people weren’t even aware of their ineligibility to vote in the first place. So why the sudden urgency for voter ID laws? Because, as Rolling Stone magazine has pointed out, “the estimated 10 per cent of Americans whom the laws would render ineligible to vote belong to constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic—including 18 per cent of young voters and 25 per cent of African-Americans.”

That this manufactured crisis is incidentally racist and inherently fantastical is obvious. You can’t slice it any other way. Eighty-six fraudulent votes, and a quarter of U.S. African-Americans are facts, not opinions. Anyone who points this out—Democrats or, say, the popular press—is simply reflecting reality. How do Republicans respond to this exercise in fact-checking? They claim the media is making their platforms look discriminatory because the media has a liberal bias. The truth? The media doesn’t have a liberal bias. It has a reality bias. Journalists are naturally disinclined to believe people who believe in fantasies.

Enter the unlikely realists, the Democrats and liberals. The reason mainstream media is perceived as liberal is because America’s liberal party has come to speak for the mainstream—or what Daily Beast writer, Michelle Goldberg, has dubbed America’s “reality-based community.” The majority of Americans believe gay marriage should be legal. The majority of Americans believe in evolution, and the majority of Americans do not oppose, with certain restrictions, a woman’s right to have an abortion. The liberals aren’t leading the charge, they’re just acknowledging it.

Once, Republicans did this too. There was a time when leading members of the party acknowledged the reality that discrimination was not only immoral but bad for their country; that a woman recently pregnant and raped might not want to have her baby. The keynote speakers at the last three Republican Conventions before this one were pro-choice. (Mitt Romney overlooked Condoleezza Rice for the vice-presidential ticket this year because of her liberal view on abortion.) Gerald Ford was pro-choice. Richard Nixon was pro-choice. Mitt Romney’s Republican father, George, was a civil rights activist (Mitt maintains that marriage for gays is not a civil right). George Romney was a fervent supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr. He deplored discrimination of any kind. More importantly, Republicans, like Canadian conservatives, weren’t only capable of harbouring two apparently contradictory ideas at the same time (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s definition of a first-rate mind), they were also willing to acknowledge that the moral reality of their times had shifted to include options they might not be entirely comfortable with. They were willing to acknowledge the inconvenient truth outside their wish-fulfillment never-never land, and to deal with it.

This was no accident. “Conservative” and “liberal” were always meant to denote different approaches to an accepted reality. They weren’t meant to distinguish people who fabricate bogeymen from people who don’t. Or worse, to advance the interests of people who uphold wrong, and call it right.


What’s left, right and plain wrong in the U.S. presidential campaign

  1. Barry Goldwater, known as an extreme conservative in his lifetime, would be appalled at what his Repub party has turned into.


    Goldwater warned against this crowd, but someone wasn’t minding the door. Now Repubs are known as wackos who are anti-science, anti-intellectual and generally ‘know nothings’.

    Here’s the short version of the 1956 Republican party platform


    • As others have pointed out, this article is totally bogus. All polls show just the opposite of what the article states. The writer is either very ignorant or supports the liberal agenda.

      • The article isn’t bogus, your beliefs are.

  2. Anyone supporting the current administration is definitely a “know nothing” when it comes to fiscal management that is changing the stance of a global economic force to that of a debt ridden has-been. The comments in the last half of paragraph 4 are also very interesting in that what most Americans believe and oppose is the exact opposite of what is written in this article and not just by a small percentage either . . . definitely smells like more propaganda pumped our by the same US govt. owned media machine to help prop up their policy followings this side of the border.

  3. Glad to see that you left your bias at the door. Not! First, there is a history of voter fraud in the U.S. Read up on the Democrats in New York City and their corrupt Tamminy Hall operation. Read up on Chicago and how the Democrat machine under Mayor Daley and his successors(including his son) were very good at having dead people vote Democrat. Read up on the 2008 Minnesota Senate race where the Republican led after two vote recounts until suddenly some ballots turned up in the trunk of a Democrat election official which narrowly gave the election to Democrat Al Franken. No one is being excluded by the i.d. laws. The state government are offering to distribute the i.d.’s free of charge(a little word of advice no one down here takes Rolling Stone Magazine as a serious news source. They are known to have a strong left-wing bias. Just check when if ever did they endorse a Republican candidate for office over the last 45 years? Also, the same goes for the Daily Beast). Did you read any right of center magazines or newspapers to get a balanced view? I doubt it because I don’t see you sighting it. A good article would have presented the reasoning of both sides. Instead, you have set up a left-wing hit piece and set up the usual line that the Republicans act out of racism. What is your assessment of the Democrat convention where some guy was distributing pins that say “vote black” or is that not racist? I’m conservative but I read the New York Times almost every day and get Time Magazine to get alternative points of view.
    Liberals are by no means the mainstream in the U.S.. Gallup has consistently showed that self-identified conservatives outnumber liberals by about 2 to 1(42% to 22%) in the U.S.
    In addition, some of your polling numbers are wrong. A recent Angus Reid poll showed that Americans by a 51%-26% supported the biblical version of creation over evolution. In addition, the abortion numbers are also off. Several polls have shown that limiting abortions to cases of life of mother, rape, and incest get between 45%-60% of the vote. Polls also show that over 65% of Americans oppose unrestricted abortion after 8 weeks(when made aware that the unborn child has a beating heat and brain wave activity at this point). In addition, lets look at some other polls. In the latest Rasmussen Reports poll, Americans support the death penalty for murder by a 67%-25%. Another poll showed that around 70% of Americans support school prayer. Finally, look at the recent polls on gun control. Americans by a 73%-26% margin oppose a handgun ban. By a 65%-30% margin, they support law abiding citizens carrying concealed weapons without serious restriction. This is just the social issues side. I can also site economic polls for you. These polls show opposition to another stimulus. Support for overturning Obamacare. Support for balancing the budget by sharp cuts rather than tax hikes. A poll even came out showing that people slightly favored Paul Ryan’s medicare reform plans by like 47%-42% or so.
    If you want a real story, try examining why the Democrats have lost their dominant role in American politics. The party dominated the U.S. political scene from 1932-1980(at both the federal and state level). During much of this time, they had double digit leads of up to 25 points in voter party registration numbers. Now, the numbers are virtually even. I know about this change firsthand. My relatives were originally all Democrats. They first voted Republican for Eisenhower. However, they really jumped ship in the 1970’s and 80’s. They saw a Democrat Party that made excuses for criminals rather than cracking down on them. In foreign policy, my relatives were angered by a Democrat Party that seemed to want to simply placate the Soviet Union. They saw a government that kept taking large amounts in taxes and blowing it on programs that didn’t work(as well as letting much of the money disappear through government waste). My relatives saw a Democrat party that used to be pro-Catholic Church turn against religion in society. Democrat appointed judges took prayer out of schools and signed off on virtually unrestricted abortion. This last one especially turned off my grandma who had actually worked on Democrat campaigns(Religious pro-life, pro-school prayer Democrats need not apply). In 2012 Charlotte, the Democrats further hurt themselves among many Americans when the party seemed to have a serious disagreement about any mention of God should be in the party platform. You want to hate the Republicans because they oppose gay marriage and abortion. Fine, I think it is ridiculous that you don’t have the death penalty in Canada. However, the big issue is the economy and on that the Republican playbook is not that dissimiliar from what Paul Martin and Steven Harper have done.So, the big issue is Obama who espouses the Pierre Trudeau economic blueprint versus the the Republican Harper/Martin plan.

    • All wonderful reasons why you’re all going down the drain faster than you can say Mandarin.

      • No, any possible decline has to do with your social democratic buddy Obama. He is making the same economic mistakes that have been made in Europe. Trudeau tried this same crap in Canada and it took years of financial reform to bring the country back. The truth is that the Conservatives in Canada are doing a better job than the Democrats in the U.S. Personally Mr.Desmond, I think the main problem with Canada is the systemic social liberalism that has infected Canadian society. I think that liberals have created a society that coddles criminals, penalizes gun owners, and mocks anyone who holds traditional views on abortion, school prayer, or the role of faith in the public square. It has led to rabid human rights commissions that are less about human rights and more about shoving the PC thought police playbook down your throat. I congratulate Harper for making some improvements on this. Although, he has far to go. The point in my last paragraph was about leftists who turn around and spit on the traditions of the same people who put them into office. The Democrat’s failure is their own not the American peoples. Likewise, the Liberals in Canada also lost touch with the people. I don’t expect you or EmilyOne to understand this. You are simply good leftists who just sign off on whatever the NDP, Liberals(walking dead party), or mainstream Canadian media tell you. You will simply follow their lurch to the left(because to you there is no line that is too far left). Others of us have the freedom of thought to know that when a party denigrates what we hold dear than it is time to leave that party.

        • Given that Canada is a den of sinful, mindless, PC, socialist heathens, you can see why our standard of living, our levels of education, child poverty, poor health, premature death, violent crime, hate crimes, racial and ethnic violence, environmental degradation, gun related deaths, teen pregnancies, and banking system collapse are so much higher than in the US.

          Oh wait, they aren’t.

  4. They were willing to acknowledge the inconvenient truth outside their wish-fulfillment never-never land, and to deal with it.”

    Great, now lets see this from the degraded secularist faction so eager to wish away reality with all kinds of completely untethered & fantastical assertions.

    Realists of the unlikely, indeed.

  5. The Democrats and the Canadian Liberals suffer from the same disease that has screwed the Social Democrats in Sweden. They have failed to listen to the voters. In Sweden, the center-left Social Democrats held power from 1932-1976, 1982-1991, and 1994-2006. Now however, they have lost their second national election in a row(and seen a continued decline in voting percentages). In the past, the Social Democrats were the go to party with promises of big spending on social programs and a caring society(neutral socialist) where everyone has a place. By the mid-1980’s, the Social Democrats began to run into trouble. The government controlled almost 85% of the economy and Sweden was increasingly falling behind its competitors. In 1991, a right-leaning coalition was elected that promised to make changes to the system. This coalition was voted out after 3 years because of both demoguging by the left and divisions among the center-right parties. However, the economic reforms that had been implemented were kept. In addition, a nationwide school voucher program was maintained due to its popularity among the public. From 1994-2006, divisions among the parties on the right kept the Social Democrats in power. However, the Social Democrats began to find themselves increasingly on the defensive over economic issues(and unable to adapt). In 2006, the four main center-right parties(finally got their act together) and merged into the Alliance. They won the 2006 election. The Alliance government has strongly pushed privatization and economic competitiveness. The government’s share of the economy has fallen from almost 85% to 53% of GDP. It continues to steadily go down. Major cuts have been made to corporate tax rates. Some steps have been made to increase private sector involvement in both education and healthcare.The result has been that the Social Democrats have been replaced as the most popular party in polls for the first time in decades by the Alliance’s largest party(the center-right Moderates). This is a party that supports small government, pro-business policies, and a harder line on criminals while supporting liberal policies on gay marriage and abortion.The Social Democrats had the advantages of both a weak and divided opposition and the support of the public. Over time, they stopped listening to the public. Their only saving grace was that their opposition was weak and divided. Once the opposition got competent leadership however, they were toast. The lesson here is that ideologues can’t disregard the voice of the people.

  6. Actually, only 15% of Americans believe in Evolution, according to the latest Gallup Poll. This proves they are quite a backward bunch.

  7. What’s a JournoList cantata doing in a Canadian magazine?
    I thought you only had to accept DNC marching orders if you worked for the Old Gray Lady, or NBC, or something.
    “The GOP have become extreme”, “The GOP are racist bigots”, “The GOP hate women”, The GOP are religious thugs”; it’s like singing straight out of the Media Matters hymnal.

    Never mind the fact that the Democrats have become the extremists in the last decade on issues such as market over-regulation and radical secularism; Ignore the fact that a majority (including womyn!) now think that the late-term abortions the Democrats (and obviously Ms.Teitel) favor are simple infanticide; it’s the fact that the Obama administrations leftish ideologues have made such an utter hash of economic recovery (they managed to make the previous Bush W. administration look competent), that should be the issue.

    So we can’t have an article stating that both party’s have staked out radical positions, should really focus on the economy, and that Romney is rather moderate, in spite of DNC/media collusion to paint him as a fascist gaffe machine.
    It has to be Extremist Romney Fantasists for Mormon Jesus want save babies by enslaving women and ruling their bodies like kings.
    Such puerile nonsense.

    • “(they managed to make the previous Bush W. administration look competent)”

      Um, yeah. You might want to look a little deeper into that one, and maybe check the actual numbers. Bush presided over the full-scale meltdown of the American economy, and under Obama the Americans managed to avoid a total depression. The fact that it has taken more than 4 years to fix the mess that Obama inherited says more about Bush than it does about Obama.

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