Why It’s Fashionable To Be Leftist—Again
For nearly twenty plus years, few persons could abide to be called liberal, socialist, or any other name associated with left-wing politics. Ronald Reagan and the brand of conservative thought and values he introduced dominated America in the 1980s. And in the 90s the whole of the left-wing establishment, such as it was, collapsed under the weight of the conservative juggernaut. The end of the Cold War and a stable and prosperous economy appeared to validate everything conservatives stood for. Even people who claimed to be progressives adhered to so-called “fiscal conservatism”.
I remember the time with some sadness and distress. It was a time of loneliness and frustration for those of us who refused to give up on leftist ideals and principles. It seemed like everyone was a conservative, no matter how they voted; and to be otherwise was to be a kind of freak—a delusional, impractical, unpatriotic, denier of reality.
I never thought it would happen in my lifetime but it seems that being left-wing is fashionable again. The belief in secularism, a strong welfare state, civil rights activism, and an engaged but restrained foreign policy has made an extraordinarily powerful comeback and is once again beginning to affect the politics of both parties.
The Bernie Sanders phenomenon is not the cause of the re-emergence of the left; it is the result of it. The great crash of 2008 only marked what many people had already begun to suspect: that inequality had grown to a scale that even the most ardent free-marketers could see was unsustainable. Economics was not the only cause of this awakening. The push for gay civil rights, the anti-war movement, the anti-fracking movement, the increasing awareness of police brutality, the uptick in gun violence—these movements and issues began to capture more and more of the wider public’s attention; and the proliferation of social media was of tremendous help in making this happen.
The election of Barack Obama, and the forging of the so-called Obama Coalition, was really the first sign that the left was back. It is indeed what made being a leftist fashionable again.
This attitude and habit of mind tends to be confined to college campuses and gentrified urban communities. And if you live near or in one of these you have no doubt noticed it. Speaking as someone who has been a life-long member of the liberal camp, I find fashionable liberalism one of the most annoying things that can be encountered
If you think your middle-class, yuppie friends talk utter rot most of the time you are probably not far from an accurate assessment of the worth of their arguments. The trouble with left-wing fashionistas is that they come to their positions not through careful study and reason, but by way of emotion and imitation. You can always tell a fashionable leftist from a true leftist by the distinct lack of analysis and originality in all that they say. To gather clichés from leftist blogs and the MSNBC evening line up and repeat them does not make one a committed leftist, only a parrot and a fool.
You should as a thinking man reserve the right to challenge fashionable leftists whenever you see them. It is quite easy for people to crib Bernie Sanders lines and regurgitate them in a café meeting or a dinner party. But the difference between the people who do that and the man from whom the words come is that the latter has spent years looking at data, pondering over it, and developing a sound policy position based on it. You should challenge the fakers and imitators, the left-wing poseurs, to do show the same insight and depth of mind.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.