Monday, September 13, 2004

Left, Right, What's the Difference?

Michael Rosen at Tech Central Station writes about Pat Buchanan's mellowing in "Right From the Beginning, Left at the End":
Buchanan, variously described as an arch-conservative, a paleoconservative, and a populist conservative, has throughout his career shirked the orthodoxies of the Republican party and the prevailing norms of conservatism. In his magazine, The American Conservative, and in his latest book, Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency...Buchanan presents his case for an "authentic" conservatism that has been infected by radical, Johnny-come-lately variants. Yet many of Buchanan's positions, most recently on the War on Terror, have placed him and his supporters in ideological company with the left.

Buchanan has moved slowly but steadily out of the Republican mainstream....[I]n 2000, Buchanan broke with the Republican Party, seemingly for good, and assailed Bush from the right under the confines of the Reform Party.

Buchanan's policies, too, have strayed from popular conservative dogma. To begin with, much ink has been spilled about the alliance between the far left and the far right with regard to immigration and free trade....In a recent interview with Buchanan, Ralph Nader, the country's best-known leftist politician, made a bid for the "disenfranchised Right" by referring to NAFTA and the World Trade Organization as "sovereignty-shredding" institutions.

Yet it is the Buchananite right's recent criticisms of the Iraq War, of the Bush administration, and of the fight against global terror as a whole that have captured the most attention and that reflect a closer intellectual propinquity with the left than previously thought....

[T]he Buchanan approach to Israel is of a piece with his general tilt toward the ideas of the left-wing. Much has been written about Buchanan's views on Israel and its supporters in the U.S. Yet it should be pointed out that he is better depicted not as an opponent of Israel's right to exist but as a supporter of the Israeli left. Just as parties of a leftist tilt in Israel believe that the Jewish state must make deep-seated compromises to achieve peace with the Arab world, so has Buchanan castigated successive right-of-center Israeli leaders and their American "amen corner" for their "intransigence."...

Ronald Reagan, the leader to whom Buchanan pays fealty in his latest book and a Democrat in his acting days, famously said that he didn't leave the Democratic Party, the party left him. Yet one gets the sense, in Buchanan's case, that it is he who has abandoned Republican ideology and principles, not the other way around. In comparing Iraqi militants to American revolutionaries, Buchanan is adopting at least the rhetoric of the left. After all, in the breathless words of Bill Maher, "that's something Michael Moore might say."
All of which says a lot about the similarities of hard-line leftists and rightists: Both camps are intellectually obtuse -- and statists under the skin. To say that Stalin was a leftist and Hitler was a rightist is a supreme mistake: Both were vicious statists who happened to be competitors for power.