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Left and Right Living on Different Planets

People can no longer even recognize the world as seen by their political opponents.

by | Sep 17, 2022 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

If you are among those liberty-loving types inclined to read and watch media offering a different or opposite worldview, alert to what both left and right are saying, you have likely noticed that dipping into The New York Times or flipping from Fox News to MSNBC transports you to what seems like a whole other world.

As you leave the psychic embrace of conservative talk radio or Fox and the ongoing narrative of a country threatened by rising inflation, surging crime, an explosive border crisis, and toxic wokeness, as Rod Serling once famously said on The Twilight Zone, you are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.

Suddenly, you are immersed in a universe where Donald Trump is the secular anti-Christ, and the mortal threats to the country are catastrophic climate change, the abolished constitutional right to abortion, and of course systemic racism and white supremacy. You have entered a zone where up is down and down is up, where wokeness – cleverly termed “equity” so people will wrongly think it means equality –  is celebrated as a badge of honor.

The things each hate about the other are as opposite as the threats each perceives. Never the twain shall meet, indeed, they are planets revolving at opposite ends of the political solar system. And nowadays, we can hardly address the question of whether reconciliation is possible until we figure out whether discussion is even on the table anymore, not to mention intellectually honest debate.  This has played out most recently in the explosive post-Roe debate, with conservatives trying to make abortions as infrequent and unavailable as each state will allow, and leftists proposing to make them more available than ever.

The Tribes of Left and Right

In an age of tribalism uber alles, have we reached the point where these radically divergent worldviews are entirely irreconcilable? Sure, some conservatives don’t much care for Trump, and some leftists grumble about Joe Biden, but broadly speaking, voters on both sides are going to support who they are going to support, no matter if it requires liberal use of selective retention – remembering only those things we choose to remember – or even blinders. Leftists, for example, were not put off when the Russia collusion narrative was unmasked as a hoax. Conservatives do not widely trouble themselves about the vicissitudes of Donald Trump. See, hear, and speak no evil about your own side has become the common theme. Both sides, per those pop philosophers, Simon and Garfunkel, hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest.

GettyImages-1229478091 Left and right

(Photo by Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Beyond the uniquely explosive countenance of Donald Trump, what has happened that makes compromise – or even civilized debate – ever more impossible? The point of no return has arguably been reached with now-polar opposite interpretations of American history. The right has always embraced and safeguarded the vision of the nation expressed by the founders and etched in a constitution establishing rights – most prominently freedom of speech/press/religion – that had never before been enshrined in government. At the same time, for all their liberalism over the years, the left had never openly trashed the founding, or termed the country systemically racist, or called for adding new liberal states, or questioned the very legitimacy of the Supreme Court, to affect their desired result. Until now.

And that need to control the court as a vital instrument for implementing and upholding their agenda, takes us to the most fundamental policy divide between left and right. As always, but now more than ever it seems, conservatives embrace equality of opportunity, while leftists effectively strive for equality of outcome. The former view allows for winners and losers in a free marketplace, and a focus on the need for a level playing field. The latter demands the same end result for all people, no matter their level of engagement, their ambition, or the choices they make. It thus requires a degree of social engineering which has come to be synonymous with left-wing central planners, intent on one-size-fits-all solutions to intractable problems which no government will ever solve. Why do you think we are forced to invest trillions of hard-earned dollars in law enforcement and a gigantic military to protect us from ourselves and bad actors across the globe? Human nature – and frailty – has not changed since the time of Adam and Eve.

New Banner Political Power PlaysTo the baseline question of how the country should be organized, conservatives believe in an organic society, one that springs naturally from the ground up. Leftists believe the opposite, that only governing from the top down will produce a just civilization. The gulf between these prevailing ideologies has grown enormously since Trump entered the political stage more than seven years ago. Conservatives don’t even call their opponents liberals anymore, because their views have become ever more illiberal, more closely resembling those of collectivist regimes where the central authority is supreme and inviolable. But of course, Joe Biden and his projection-happy leftist cohorts try to label Trump and the MAGA-dominated GOP the same way, much like the old playground taunt, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

Right and left are indeed existing not just on different continents, but separate planets. It would be wonderful to envision times once more, like those following 9/11 when the country actually united for the last time in memory, when the twain might actually meet again. But reality bites, and we must thus hope – and pray – that the memorable words penned by the poet William Butler Yeats prove not to be prophetic.

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   

The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

Read More From Tim Donner

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