Within the media storm surrounding the Tea Party after the soon-to-be-repeated debt ceiling and shutdown nightmare, one of the most interesting and frustrating facets is the false equivalency drawn between the Left and Right. It’s easy and lazy to respond to criticism of the extreme elements of the Republican party by claiming it happens “on both sides.” There is no equivalent far Left faction in the United States, and I don’t see there being one in the near future because the Right has effectively cast anyone left of center as less American.
I’ve been a dedicated Leftie for as long as I’ve been politically conscious. I made collages supporting Al Gore’s presidential campaign to hang in my windows because I was the coolest sixth grader in the world, and later I studied political science and international affairs in college. My political opinions are an important part of who I am as a person, and from the time I was 14 and had to defend my opposition to the Iraq War in front of my current events class I have not shied away from questioning why I hold the positions I do. What’s more, those positions have more or less stayed the same when it comes to my personal ideology.
Despite this, I’ve long been made to feel like I have to apologize for voting Democrat.
“You’re only liberal because you haven’t learned any better.”
“You can’t explain why you’re liberal.”
“Young people only voted for Obama because they wanted to be part of history.”
These are just a few of the things said to me over the years. The running theme is that if I thought about it a bit more, I’d be conservative. That I’m not smart enough to understand the issues, thus my liberalism. My years of study weigh less against conservative ideals, regardless of whether those ideals have ever been questioned critically by those who hold them. This is insulting and infantilizing, but it’s not the most insidious of attacks leveled against young Democrats.
“Leave if you don’t like this country.”
A lot is said with just a simple phrase. When confronted with differing opinions, this is a quick go to—it is intended to end the debate without really providing any kind of intellectual substance. It is a way of saying that America is conservative ideals, and if you don’t agree with those values, you aren’t an American. It’s anti-progress and anti-diversity, basically the least American thing you can tell a person. Isn’t the whole idea of this country that you can be who you are and believe what you believe? And yet, it’s becoming increasingly clear that to a growing subset of the country, to be American means being socially conservative. As a far left Democrat, I am not American despite being a citizen of the United States.
As The New Republic explored in the article “How Liberals Became “Real Americans,” liberal leadership is often put in the position of having to prove their “American-ness” by catering to conservative ideals. This is not something we see from the Right. We don’t have a Left-wing answer to the Tea Party. Voices on the Left don’t call for conservatives to leave the country if they don’t like policy. The political spectrum is not equal. There is far Right, Right, Center, and Left of Center.
Personally, I identify most closely with Democratic Socialism. When I advocate for the Democratic Party platform, I’m actually moving to the Right of where I personally stand. While the Republican Party has brought Tea Party extremism into the fold, Democrats cannot bring in even middle Left perspectives or policies. Can you imagine the Right-wing backlash if we actually tried for universal healthcare?
I’m not sure if American politics will become more nuanced in coming years. Growing support for the Tea Party, even after the Senator Cruz led shutdown, suggests that it will not. As long as a large enough segment of the politically active are convinced that the only “correct” Americans are those who agree with their worldview, those of us who identify with the Left-er side of Left will have to continue playing at compromise. One thing we can do: Stop qualifying or apologizing. After all, we’re the majority even if we’re not the loudest.[divider] [/divider]
Note from the Editor:
At Literally, Darling it is critically important to us that we stay out of the polarizing subsection of politics and the Internet. We want a site where dialogue and conversation can happen from all sides and for that reason we refuse to slant in either direction. So you might wonder why we’ve chosen to run an article on being Liberal without a response on being Conservative. The answer is simple– read Bridey’s piece again and everywhere it says Democrat, swap it for Republican and the article is still an accurate representation. Every day millennials are disregarded for their politics and voting power, regardless of their persuasion. We’re too young or too dumb to be taken seriously, so no matter how we vote, our opinion is considered the lesser. Bridey sent us her article stating why she believes what she does and how no matter how she leans politically, she’s thought it through and stands by her beliefs. That’s not choosing sides or being polarizing– that’s thinking and voting smartly, two things we really stand behind around here.
Editor-in-Chief & Founder[divider] [/divider]
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