LUMPENPROLETARIAT—The political science concept of the political spectrum must occur to everybody sooner or later, in their thinking about politics, if they think about politics at all. Surely echoing the view of other reliable scholars, Dr. Noam Chomsky has commented that the “general population doesn’t know what’s happening. And it doesn’t know that it doesn’t know.” Dr. Chomsky, of course, co-wrote Manufacturing Consent about how the range and bounds of discourse are framed and constrained by institutional abuse of power even before discourse or debate begins, often without the awareness of the participants or observers.
So, Americans know there is a political right-wing and a political left-wing. Americans have, perhaps, some vague notion of something called anarchism, but we’re not quite sure what it is. ‘Vandalism, maybe?’ ‘Isn’t anarchy like chaos?’ we might wonder. Unfortunately, most Americans seem to know little else about the diversity, range, and domain of political spectrum possibility, or political compass possibility. Perhaps, we, Americans lack political imagination.
Inclusiveness and political diversity in government are signs of a healthy democracy. Exclusion of political alternatives, especially by a colluding cartel of two corporate political parties, is a red flag, a sign of a stagnant, unhealthy, and/or dying democracy, perhaps even a failed state, as Chris Hedges, et al. have suggested. And two-party systems are antidemocratic because they collude to exclude political alternatives, political competition, and, ultimately, the will of the people.
Scholars, political scientists, and others are aware of the known entirety of political possibility. But corporate for-profit media outlets, where most Americans seek news and information, predominantly expose their audiences to only the two corporate parties, which we must remember is an antidemocratic media practice. As a result of corporate media censorship of political alternatives and American lack of political imagination and curiosity, as a result of the process of manufacturing consent, our capitalist rulers and antidemocratic, dominating systems of power have almost completely cut out the left half of the political spectrum since the Second Red Scare and McCarthyism.
In American politics, the political bifurcation of discourse into “left” and “right” is mostly political theater because both parties overwhelmingly support the same policies on behalf of the same corporate funders.
Let’s consider the graphed model above to help drive the point home that there is no “left” in the USA, at least not in electoral politics, which is the primary lever of power in American politics. When American pundits bash ‘the left’, they’re referring to Democrats as “leftists” because they want to smear the real left, so that Americans will never even learn what the real left is. Tulsi Gabbard and Mike Gravel are both Democrats. The only socialist on the map is Howie Hawkins from my hometown of San Mateo (like fellow San Mateo High alumni Kris Kristofferson and Alicia Silverstone). But ain’t nobody heard of Howie Hawkins. You certainly never hear about him in the dominant media, like you do Sanders, Gabbard and even Gravel. But, of course, Sanders has become a tool of the Democrat Party bosses, since he sacrificed his integrity when he refused to challenge Hillary Clinton’s collusion with DNC bosses to sabotage the 2016 Sanders presidential primary campaign.
The graphed model above is an example of a simple political compass or political spectrum map of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. We can’t help but notice there are only four candidates on the left of the economic scale (favoring cooperation, instead of competition), and only five candidates on the bottom of the social scale (favoring a maximization of personal liberty, instead of obedience to authority).
So, we see there actually is no American “left”, no leftist political parties with significant electoral impact. The political drama we see on TV and our portable digital screens is political theater and political posturing between Democrats in the center and center-right arguing with everyone else on the right, without ever actually opposing them electorally or in any meaningful sense. The Democrats only punch downward at the Green Party and any other electoral politics to the left of them, as noted above.
The general population is aware that there’s a “left” and a “right” or “liberals” and “conservatives”. But the general American understanding of the various philosophies found in the differing positions along a 2-D (single-axis) or 3-D (multi-axis) political spectrum model is often weak. For example, former President Obama was often attacked as being a “socialist“, when Obama instituted a predominantly pro-capitalist, center-right, or even extreme right-wing agenda. Indeed, Obama is widely recognized by political scientists as being to the right of Reagan on the political spectrum, if we compare their respective policies. Further complicating matters for American political observers and/or participants is the fact that individual politicians can vary politically. For example, Obama may be viewed as progressive or liberal on certain token social issues or identity politics, but very conservative or right-wing on deeper structural foreign policy, economic, or Constitutional matters.
Understanding and modeling diversity of political and economic philosophies can get complicated. But it can actually be fascinating to think about. And it’s terribly important for the wellbeing of society. A deeper understanding of the various competing political philosophies in our society, not only helps us make more informed political choices, but it better protects our ongoing American experiment towards true democracy from misinformation, disinformation campaigns, and other gaslighting abuses from narcissistic, craven politicians and cynical media.
Featured video: “America’s Stunted Political Spectrum” by Second Thought (YouTube channel)
[15 OCT 2020]
[Last modified on 17 NOV 2020 at 09:15 PST]