Been thinking about how I want to further open up the conversation about “Leftists” vs. “Rightists,” and I’m immediately bogged down by the labels and how they mean such different things to different people. For example, is “liberal” synonymous with “leftist”? Is “conservative” synonymous with “rightist”? I don’t personally think so. There are liberal-minded libertarians, so where might they fall on the spectrum? And there are plenty who call themselves Democrats and Republicans who wind up supporting nearly identical policies that wind up expanding the scope and power of government in all the wrong ways.
A famous case-in-point: Bill Clinton. He ran on the Democratic ticket and yet when we look at what he actually promoted throughout his time as president, nearly everything he did paved the way to making it possible for George W. Bush to take shit to the next level once he was elected. Important examples include Bill Clinton’s role in supporting:
- NAFTA and CAFTA (North American and Central American Free Trade Agreements, respectively), which virtually destroyed the incomes of small farmers in Mexico and Central American countries by pushing cheaper U.S. produce, which then helped pave the way for so many out-of-work Hispanics to vie for a chance to cross our borders in search of better economic opportunities (which subsequently led to their own exploitation as “cheap labor”);
- GATT (General Agreement on Trade & Tariffs), which shortly thereafter allowed for the formation of the WTO (World Trade Organization) that claimed to be about “liberalizing trade” but actually turned out to be a global scheme devised to cater to major corporate interests;
- helping chip away at and by the end of his presidency effectively gutting the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 with the passage of the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (a.k.a. the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999), which was what had been put in place to restrict affiliations between commercial banks and securities firms, opening our country up to the crazy, albeit lucrative for some, derivatives game that has severely threatened and weakened our markets despite pandering to select corporate interests;
- federal “Three-Strikes” law that did more to fill prisons than to actually seek proper justice in too many cases, at a time when the U.S. prison system’s incarceration rate was already growing nearly exponentially since the 1970s;
- selecting as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, a man who’d previously spent 26 years working for Goldman Sachs, a company that has since been playing an ever-increasing role in U.S. and foreign politics and global economics via lobbying efforts and direct infiltration (as is also clearly evident in the Obama administration);
- selecting as his Vice President Al Gore, a man who later got involved in (and became very rich off of) carbon-related shenanigans and who was also tied in with Goldman Sachs (not that I doubt humans are impacting our environment in deleterious ways, just that I don’t believe Gore actually cares about any of that nearly as much as padding his own pockets);
- as well as selecting Janet Reno as U.S. Attorney General during his presidency, a woman who came to be involved in several high-profile and questionable cases, including the extermination of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and the ATF entrapment of Randy Weaver in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, giving the impression that she was instrumental in helping push a new form of conformity on the American citizenry (though she now, while knowingly afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, serves on the board of directors for the Innocence Project, which strikes me as a bit tragicomical, to say the least).
More could be said about him (not to mention his wife), but that’s enough for now to get my point across. How much of Bill Clinton’s actions strike a person as actually “rightist” in nature as well as in outcome? More police control. More corporate control. Guess it depends on how one defines “rightist” and “leftist,” huh?
Reviewing situations like this led me to see both the “Right” and the “Left” as belonging on a modern scale that has virtually nothing to do with true conservatism or libertarianism or independent thought and individualistic strivings. Both of these supposed “camps” are pushing toward greater government involvement in the lives of U.S. citizens and less allowance for individual initiatives on the ground level. Both are promoting corporatist agendas, first and foremost, above and beyond taking into account the needs and desires of average people and their voting constituents.
Where does corporatism fall on the scale? Can we really consider it “conservative” in nature when it’s really a radical economic overhaul? Surely not. Seems to me we’re dealing with separate scales altogether when we aim to make sense of what’s “left vs. right” and “liberal vs. conservative”; the former being more about the leanings within a corporatist political-economic environment and the latter being about how average individuals identify themselves (despite their voting tendencies).
Next time I hope to go into the so-called “Christian Right” and demonstrate how that too largely panders to and embraces corporatist ideology.