Discover more from Conviction by Jason Hicks
What am I doing here?
The left and liberal democracy
The about section of my Substack page is misleading: “I’m focused on the global rise of fascism and authoritarianism, and I’m particularly looking at the weaknesses of the left in understanding and confronting that rise.”
What’s misleading about that?
I recently wrote this piece detailing problems I see in the left (a broad, imprecise term but meaning both those that see themselves on the far left of the Democratic Party and especially those who see themselves outside of it) — how the left has been siding with authoritarianism abroad (recently, most egregiously, in its defense of Evo Morales’s attempt to institute a personal dictatorship through military massacres of civilians) and in the US (through its equivocation and sabotage of the only effective means to remove Trump from office: the largest possible Democratic Party vote in November).
More common is the seemingly pragmatic compromise of someone who agrees with that type of leftist critique but says, “Hold your nose and vote for Biden.” I’ll take it, but I have two fundamental problems:
1) This is an emergency. One can take that position and still be dedicated to going all in for a massive blue wave, but it’s common to use the “hold your nose” stance as a cover to focus on spreading ”critiques” (more often a mix of misunderstanding, misinformation, and disinformation) that can only have the effect of driving down turnout. If you’re not all in, you’re failing in your duty to the country and to the world.
2) I think that kind of left critique is theoretically mistaken at its core — and dangerously so. In other words, I see the stance of “The Democratic Party is evil, but a lesser evil than the Republicans” as a problem, not because it’s “too” leftwing, but rather, a failure to be consistently “left,” if one defines leftism as having a commitment to liberal democratic rights.
So again, what’s misleading about my claim to be focused on the rise of authoritarianism and how the left is weak in dealing with it?
When I raise these concerns, I’m harassed and told that I’m not a real leftist. While I haven’t changed my positions because of that, I have become quieter, less active. I feel shame, so I wrote that about section to try to cloak myself in writing about something everyone claims to be concerned about (fascism) as if a label could decide the argument or end the vitriol.
What’s misleading about it is that I was afraid to say what I know to be the truth: it’s not that the left is weak in resisting the erosion of democracy, a section of it is aiding the erosion of democracy. And such views are becoming more common, more normalized. While most individual leftists would say they’d have nothing to do with such views, the publications and organizations they support are spreading them nonetheless (for examples, see my aforementioned article).
So, what am I doing here on Medium?
I’m going to try to write about this divide in the left in relationship to liberal democracy: to understand it and — perhaps — to change it.
Comment and let me know what you think. Sign up for my Substack to keep in touch.