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Online Political Dynamics: Left and Right
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, October 29, 2007

Patrick Ruffini (and here and here), Matt Stoller, Soren Dayton are carrying on an interesting conversation about the Left versus the Right online, the demographics and dynamics of each, and how each is (or is not) being used and supported by outside organizations.

I've got a great deal to add on many of the specifics of their discussion, but first let's step step back and address the oft-argued question about why the Left is dominant online. I often hear the argument that it is due to demographics (e.g., young, unemployed, etc), or sociological distinctions (e.g., early adapters, community-oriented, etc). While those factors may play some role at the margins, they are overstated. For instance, we have very good reason to believe that political blogs - and especially liberal blogs - are read by a highly-educated, above-average income audience with a median age of 43. A substantial portion of the Moveon.org membership is in the 50+ age range.

I think these compositional sociological explanations for the differences between Left and Right in the blogosphere and activist communities are over-complicated and unnecessary. The dominance of the Left online is not a permanent phenomenon. It is a reflection of the cyclical fact that the Left is angry, unified, surging and being effectively supported by people and organizations with long term strategic goals. They have a common cause, a unifying vision and a raison d'etra.

The Right does not.

It's that simple. Give the Right some time in the wilderness and we'll accumulate those unifying grievances, too. The only questions are:

  1. How long will we have to spend in the wilderness before we develop our unifying grievances and arguments?

  2. How quickly can we create a coalition around those ideas?

  3. Will those unifying ideas be crafted for short-term electoral gain or long-term political reorientation?

Don't make this too complicated, or assume that the current difference is something with which we have to live. It's just a reflection of the underlying cyclical political dynamics. We can change those, but it will require a new approach and people with a vision that extends beyond the current battles or the upcoming election cycles.
 
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Question: What is "right" and what is "left"? Is it not only a battle between the two, but a battle to define what each means? Would it be good to have a unified left or right (and is the left really unified)? Is the unity and anger focused on a small group (those compelled to blog) or the entire left?

As someone who identifies with neither left nor right, I hope that the blogging community would move away from partisan support and arguments towards the development of new ideas (something I understand your blog as trying to do).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"They have a common cause, a unifying vision and a raison d’etre"

Almost there, Jon. What common cause exists on the left besides a deep underlying dislike/contempt/eliminationist hatred of the current President? My prediction; those "long term strategic goals" sublimate pretty rapidly starting on 1/10/09.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
My prediction; those "long term strategic goals" sublimate pretty rapidly starting on 1/10/09.
I’d be careful with that. A perfect example of this thought being erroneous was Rush Limbaugh. Back in the Clinton days, they used to say ’When Clinton leaves office, Limbaugh and Talk Radio will have no one to bash at and will die out.’ I dont think Rush got that memo, just like I don’t think these current guys will get theirs.

Keep in mind that if they remain in power, even after Bush is gone, they’ll go after him. When was it that they tarnished Cap Weinberger?
 
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
1. Conservatives (the Right) have a well-established list of grievances, across a spectrum of conservatism, many of which are shared in common among conservatives and form the core:

(A) (i) government is too big and too intrusive, taxes too much, and is detrimental to the sine qua non of the American idea, which is rightly ordered individual liberty;

(ii) national defense is the one big job that government is expected to do, because it preserves the nation, and government should be prepared to do it and liberals (the Left) are unsteady and unclear in their understanding of that;

(B) competitive enterprise and economic growth are unparalleled in creating wealth and are the best means for allocating it and liberals are unsteady and unclear in their understanding of that;

(C) human life is exceptional, begins at conception and ends at natural death, and is fundamentally governed by natural law and liberals are unsteady and unclear in their understanding of that.

2. We already have a coalition around those ideas. It’s called the Republican party, which is a coalition of those who place an emphasis on any one or all of the three branches.

3. All of those ideas are long-term ideas, for the duration ideas. In order to conserve those ideas for the long haul, there need to be short-term strategies for winning elections. The principal strategy for doing that is to nominate candidates who vigorously advocate each of the three components of the coalition in order to maintain the integrity of the coalition, the integrity of the conservative cause, and most importantly the integrity of the nation.

References:

1. The Declaration of Independence
2. The Federalist Papers
3. The Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation
4. WWII
5. The Cold War
6. Ronald Reagan and the election of 1980
7. The current GDP
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
What is "right" and what is "left"?
(Chuckle) They are definitions, Scott. Usually, they are each reflective of a principled stand.

I mean, can understand why you’d ask that question.


 
Written By: bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.flroack.us
Ha-
"The Left" is unified?
Congress at 11% approval due to the antics of Reid, Pelosi, Murtha, and their inability to get anything done...
The leading Presidential Candidate in trouble with a big chunk of possible voters because of her stand on Iraq/Iran...
I guess I’m living in a different world.
 
Written By: Greybeard
URL: http://pitchpull.blogspot.com
How long will we have to spend in the wilderness before we develop our unifying grievances and arguments?
Day 1 of a Hillary administration
How quickly can we create a coalition around those ideas?
Year 1 of a Hillary administration
Will those unifying ideas be crafted for short-term electoral gain or long-term political reorientation?


90% short0term gain
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Entrenched interests back the sure thing.

To many people’s interests are basically in keeping the status quo going.

National level, third party candidates are usually non-starters, in that they are either on the fringe of politics, or aren’t more appealing then the Democrat, or Republican front-runner. To often the choice is who don’t I want elected, rather then who is the best candidate to represent me.

Then we have the behavior of the Republican party vs the stated ideology. I back the ideology, and am disappointed with the behavior. When the Republicans get back to standing on principle, they’ll get a lot more of the base rilled up. For now, it’s enough of a consolation that they are serving to block the Democrats from complete control.

The Democrats are performing as expected, ie. refusing to really compromise. They expected it of Republicans when they were the minority, and now expect Republicans to bend over and show their hinnies to the air, while saying "more please." Meanwhile, the D’s have gone back or failed to deliver on most of their important planks. Corruption and ethics, I don’t expect to here about that from them this coming election.

So, until one or the other party is so tragically weak or radical as to not generate it’s own bases support, I think the status quo will be with us for quite some time.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
I’m not sure about all that left dominance online. Sure, Liberman lost, but only the Democratic nomination.

The right nailed Rather/Mapes real good, and has been scoring solid hits on the various fake soldiers, The New Republic, fake photos from Lebanon, etc.

The left has been attempting to control the debate via the internet, while the right has responded to fake stories in the MSM. The right has won its fights, not sure that can be said of the left.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
They are definitions, Scott. Usually, they are each reflective of a principled stand.
I’m not sure what they stand for. There are more than two sets of principles out there, and ideologically the distance between them isn’t great (which is probably why the debate these days seems vacuous).

For instance, on the war my opposition is primarily Burkean, which is conservative. Burke argued against universal abstract principles in favor of practical politics with an eye on culture and tradition (which is why, Bithead, we get closer to agreement when we talk about the importance of culture — my philosophy there is strongly influenced by Burke’s pragmatic rejection of politics based on abstract principle or claims of universality). I veer from Burke in a more libertarian direction because I think the kind of culture he was defending — monarchical, aristocratic, and religious — is no longer our culture in the West, and especially the US. The reason I’m not a leftist is I distrust government too much, and have seen in the most extreme cases — witnessing the after effects of Soviet and East German communism — the danger of big government on the spirit of the people. In general, I’ve got a very Jeffersonian streak in my thoughts on government.

Yet, I can’t support the GOP either — for all their talk about the dangers of big government, they embrace it as well, but for different ends. Both parties have shown a dangerous willingness to use war as a tool of policy. They claim to support markets, but tend instead to support privilege for big finance and big business in a partnership that arguably creates preferences for those with government ties.

But to think left and right define two different principles...can you explain what these principles are?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris Erb claims:
I’m not sure what they stand for.
Well, Boris, definitions have always been one of your fuzzier areas.

Remember your wide stance on the definition of socialism?
I’m not a leftist
You mean aside from your daily high hot colonic of Leftism, you’re not a Leftist, right?
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Boris Erb asks:
But to think left and right define two different principles...can you explain what these principles are?
Well, let’s start with something outside of policy, Boris.

Or, rather, something basic to policy.

As you demonstrate so ably, Leftists care very little for the truth, and even claim, when pressed, that there is no such thing.

Rightists are generally interested in the truth, struggle to find it when and where they can, and rarely claim (the exception being those rare conservatives who are caught in the positivist vapor lock) that it doesn’t exist.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Boris Erb trades in laughers:
my philosophy there is strongly influenced by Burke’s pragmatic rejection of politics based on abstract principle or claims of universality
You would have to "narrow the question" of Burke’s philosophy down to two commas with nothing between them for any aspect of your thought to be able to lay a claim on any aspect of Burke’s.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
The reason I’m not a leftist ....
You mean at least for this discussion? From the Erb files:
I thought at the time I was a Republican or even a libertarian of sorts, but as I learned what politics was really like, I found myself becoming more and more "liberal."
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
McQ, I wrote that when I put together my home page in 1996. I did move more to the left in the mid to late nineties, and still find myself distant from the GOP. But I’ve become very cynical about governmental power, and at this point definitely could not describe myself as a leftist or a right winger. I’m still trying to work out how best to approach politics, but Burke’s argument for pragmatism and to avoid abstract philosophizing to try to find "universals" or "rights of man" (like Burke criticized in the French revolution) seems pretty persausive. Ideology and attempts at grand universal theory in terms of politics seems to be a loser.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

But to think left and right define two different principles...can you explain what these principles are?
(Sigh) I suppose this clip will do well enough:
>>>
The terms liberal and conservative are relative to the existing power structure.

This country was founded on freedom, and individualism. Those were liberal values for the time. That is what the conservative strives for, today. That’s what they’re trying to conserve. The Liberal on the other hand, in today’s context, seeks to change that... to move AWAY from freedom... the liberal of today strives for government. Government of a depth and level that would have Jefferson rolling over in his grave. It amazes me, that they still use Jefferson as an icon for the Democratic party.

Indeed, watch closely, gang, and you’ll find that the Democrats feel government to be the answer for everything. What better time to demonstrate this, than in a presidential election cycle, when the biggest part of the party platform will be what government GIVES you at someone else’s expense?

<<<

Now, Erb, you’ll doubtless point up that The Republicans ahve gotten into the habit recently of spending OPM, too. THe reason is simple politics; they’re tryining to be liberal lite, which is still a better choice than full-goose-bozo liberals.

I stipulate... hell, I’ve been screaming for years, that the current crop of Republicans are for the most part, not conservative... and this means Bush as well. At best, BUsh is a centerist. (How many times have you regulars in hear heard me say this?)

But the likes of Bush is preferable to an Al Gore, or any of the rest of the party of Clinton. The party of William Jefferson, he of $90,000.00 in his freezer; the party of Nancy Pelosi who just got through legislating herself a little boost in her husband’s company’s income by means of legislative fiat. The party of Harry Reid, he of the less than above board land deals in Nevada... and so on...




 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Well, Bithead, I don’t see stark differences between the parties. By your definition I’m not a liberal at all. But I wouldn’t label myself conservative either. I think my pragmatism, combined with distust of government (or any centralized) power means I don’t really follow any ideology.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
It’s that simple. Give the Right some time in the wilderness and we’ll accumulate those unifying grievances, too.
You mean, those with grievances will unify with you.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Boris Erb continues his displacement:
I’m not a liberal at all.
Aside from your bones, your mind, your behavior, and your beliefs, that is correct, Boris, you are not a liberal at all.

Take for instance this evidence that you’re a liberal: You get up in the morning and lie all day long.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Well, Bithead, I don’t see stark differences between the parties
Gee, big shock.
Then again, since you think yourself "not a liberal" I guess that explains where your lack of judgment comes from.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Well, "not a liberal" by your definition of the term, Bithead. You seem to want to take that out of context.

You’re very caught up in the partisanship of the day. I suggest you take a step back and instead of thinking of yourself as involved in some kind of partisan war, to listen to those whose views are different than yours and engage them in an honest, clear way. I think your style of partisanship is becoming obsolete and meaningless.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris "please laugh like hell at me" Erb writes:
You’re very caught up in the partisanship of the day.
Boris, you’re "I’ve been hit in the head with a 2x4" partisanship on Iraq, you see, no one ever noticed it.

The first issue of the day.

One of the things about your credibility, Boris, is that it doesn’t exist.

But it goes deeper than mere credibility. Much deeper.
I think your style of partisanship is becoming obsolete and meaningless.
I think your style of partisanship is older than prostitution, Boris, but without the positive PR that prostitution has.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/

 
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