In a recent Denver Gazette column, Eric Sondermann offers a timely thought-provoking essay on the nation’s great divide between left and right, Democrats and Republicans, and intolerance for differing viewpoints. I respect Eric and found his piece wholly tolerable, agreeing with much of it except for some important definitions and degrees of distinction.
Eric is of the political center, albeit the left-center. He’s not a Bernie Sanders socialist or even a progressive. I’m of the right-center, and no fan of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a radical right-wing firebrand. Eric criticizes both Republicans and Democrats, although he tends to criticize Republicans more. (Disclosure: I criticize Democrats more.)
Referencing a phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, “liberty and justice for all,” he explains how Republicans and Democrats see and prioritize those two terms differently, describing Republicans as the party of liberty and Democrats as the party of justice.
I have a somewhat different take. When Republicans speak of justice, they lean on the Constitution’s preamble that seeks to “establish justice,” and the Bill of Rights that goes on to guarantee things like due process of law, property rights, and a speedy and public trial; while banning things like double jeopardy in criminal prosecution, excessive bail, and cruel and inhuman punishment. Our Department of Justice deals with matters of criminal justice.
When Eric describes Democrats as the party of justice, he redefines justice largely in terms of the left’s crusade for “social justice,” with emphasis on expanded government, redistribution of income, and confiscatory taxation. But the U.S. Department of Justice isn’t the Department of Social Justice. The left demands “equity.” While equity sounds like equality, it’s decidedly not equality of opportunity; it’s equality of outcome which is incompatible with capitalism and a free market economy. It’s egalitarianism taken to extremes, fulfilling Karl Marx’s (and Bernie Sanders’) socialist vision of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” To the radical “woke” left, capitalism and meritocracy are symbols of racism and white supremacy. As economist Thomas Sowell (a conservative black man) has wondered, “What is your fair share of what someone else has worked for?”
Eric labels Republicans as the party of liberty, in the sense of “opportunity, initiative, enterprise, motivation, less government intrusion, and allowing people to keep the fruits of their labor.” True enough. “On the flip side,” he writes, “Democrats prioritize leveling the playing field, lifting those lower on the ladder, relying on government for an expansive role, and requiring those who prosper to pay more of the load.” That’s also accurate. But, to Republicans this is a formula for dependence, entitlement, and confiscation rather than the concept of liberty as individual freedom and the protection of private property.
I join Eric in his frustration with extremists in both parties. But, here, he puts his left-center thumb on the balance scale with his choice of language when he declares, “the epicenter of the Republican Party has shifted ‘hard to the right’ and that of the Democratic Party has moved ‘discernibly’ to the left.” Yes, there are extremist Republicans in the party’s general coalition but they’re the outliers and have pushed the party’s center only marginally to the right. The Democrats’ leftward thrust isn’t merely “discernable,” as Eric puts it, it’s been decidedly “hard to the left” since the days when President Kennedy proclaimed, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
While both parties have radical fringes, the Democrats’ fringe is more extreme, more powerful, more influential and greater in number. The House Freedom Caucus consists of 45 ultra right-wing members out of 222 Republicans — that’s only 20 percent — including a handful on the lunatic fringe whose power is limited to obstruction on rules and legislation. By comparison, the House Progressive Caucus has 103 members (plus Sen. Bernie Sanders) out of 212 Democrats — 49 percent — including looney lefties like AOC and “The Squad.” The measure of their power is the party’s wholesale adoption of the radical progressive agenda, which is amplified in the liberal media, Hollywood, TV, public education and academia.
Eric rightly criticizes universities, no longer “bastions of free speech,” he says, where “Disagreeable speakers are uninivited and shouted down.” But it’s only conservative speakers who get this treatment by intolerant leftist students, faculty and administrators, while speakers on the left are welcomed with open arms.
Eric claims too many Republicans resist liberty and freedom for those with different lifestyles and social mores. I wouldn’t say Republicans “resist” their liberty and freedom; that’s protected by law. Republicans and even some Democrats are merely exercising their right to disapprove. By contrast, progressive Democrats have weaponized the cancel culture to silence and oppress those they disapprove of on the right.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.
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