What do you mean by “Leftist”?

Elsewhere on my blog, in the comments, the question was raised “What do you mean by ‘Leftist’?”  They went on to ask whether it meant Democrat, Socialist, Progressive, or what.

Let me expand a bit on the reply I gave there:


Most people–no matter what their position, on anything–don’t really give their positions a lot of thought. They go with what “gut instinct” (basically what sounds good to them) tells them or “if it was good enough for granddad…”

This is not really a criticism. Nobody has time for careful consideration of all the facts in every position about which they might be called upon to make a decision (even if it’s just “who to make that decision on my behalf”).  A lot of my own positions, I freely admit, are just that. I accumualted them over time as things that feel right or they were just things I absorbed when I was young.  (I touch on this a bit elsewhere.) I try to remember that and be amenable to alteration of such positions based on further information when needed.  And from time to time, as issues come up, I’ll take a position I hold, bring it out, examine it, and see if it still seems valid after careful consideration.  Sometimes it is.  And sometimes…it isn’t.  In the latter case, I have been known to change my position.  It just takes more than somebody ranting at me about how wrong I am and about how much they feel.

Generally speaking, there’s a certain comfort level for people to stay with beliefs they’ve long held, even in the face of contrary evidence.  Their beliefs have “worked” for them so they’re just not inclined to change.  And when they do change, it’s not sweet reason that converts them but emotion.  Humans are emotional, rationalizing beings, not “logical”.  Appeal to emotion may be a logical fallacy but in the social and political arena it is also good tactics.  When your goal is to persuade people, it works.  And this is something the political Left (bear with me, I’ll get to the term itself here shortly) has learned well.  They have generally been far better at couching their terms as emotional appeal (while pretending to be “fact based” and “logical” and “scientific”) than has been the Right (and I’ll include here things like Libertarianism that are neither Left nor Right but off in a different direction).

In politics most voters–Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist, Green, Independent, whatever–are “low information voters”. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.  And it’s not even that much of a criticism.  Most people just can’t spend all their time researching candidates and their positions and what effect various policies are likely to actually have.  They go with what they’ve always gone with.  Or they go with whoever produces the most appealing soundbites and promises (real effects of said policies need not enter into it).

However, there are some people, espousing “left wing” political views (and that’s a complicated issue itself because neither “left” nor “right” is well defined–has to happen when you want to take two things that have far more in common than they have differences and put them at opposite ends of the spectrum) that aren’t “low information”. They, for their own purposes–which can be truly “the good of the nation” or it can be, and most often is, the good of themselves–know exactly what they’re doing. (And, yes, I am well aware that the description applies to the “Right” as well as those off in a different direction positions, but the question was about “Leftist”.)

I use the term “leftist” to distinguish those folk from the honest but low-information who follow along in their wake. It includes “liberal” (as the term has come to mean in use as opposed to its original meaning), “Democrat”, “Socialist,” “Progressive” et al. The folk who are actually shaping those policies whether they are “true believers” or simply cynically using them for their own selfish ends. (Again, this applies to the “Right” as well–but the question was about “Leftists”.)

That’s what I mean by “Leftist”.

One thought on “What do you mean by “Leftist”?”

  1. Channeling my inner Emmanuel Goldstein: Your low information folk are the Proles. The rank-and-file activists, the gubmint workers, and public school (non)teachers voting their sectoral interest,… are the Outer Party. The 0.1% or so who know what the game is really about, and manipulate the others for their benefit, are the Inner Party.


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