Intellectually, ideology is a reflection from the question of what role government ought to have in society. More poignantly, ideology is a doctrinal belief system based upon a person’s emotional constitution. Especially in those lacking firm anchors in actuality, emotions overrun reason as the main modus operandi.
Radicals are exceedingly disenchanted and want revolutionary change. Radicals see the extant political system as systemically corrupt. As Karl Marx said, “to be radical is to grasp things by the root.”
Not all radicals are would-be saviors. The ascendant 21st-century radicalism comes from reactionaries who pledge a return to an imagined past. In the 20th century, Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany promised a return to strength in sapped nations. As a horribly warped echo, Donald Trump in America epitomizes a destructive reactionary radicalism aimed solely at authoritarian control at the expense of his own country.
Mussolini and Hitler rose on a wave of economic desperation. Trump’s rise is astonishing in that it occurred in a prosperous country, albeit buoyed by a struggling underclass minority. Further, Trump has been a triumph of anti-ideology – a reckless wrecking ball who betrayed his supporters’ economic interests, though they were too gullible to appreciate what was going on as opposed to how it was portrayed by their porcine leader. Trump turned Marx’s definition of radicalism on its head by ripping at society’s roots without grasping any principle.
It further facilely seems strange that Trump’s radicalism has been embraced by the bastion of American conservatism: the Republican party. This ostensible conversion may only be comprehended by understanding what lies beneath the skin of conservatism.
Conservatism is an ideology founded on fear and an overarching mistrust of humanity as a force for good. Projecting their own mental makeup, conservatives view people as cunning, exploitative animals. Lacking vision, conservatives fear change for the disruption it might entail. This makes “order” a powerful selling-point for conservatives. As English philosopher and politician John Stuart Mill said, “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”
Trump having seized power, American conservatives have embraced him for the cunning, exploitative animal that he is. With a visage of morality and decency that is only a surface sheen, conservatives are comfortable with power as the be-all and end-all of politics. American Republicans have amply demonstrated their contempt for democracy, favoring instead rigged elections.
Ridiculous lies roll off conservative tongues without the slightest blush. Gullible people, most notably those stupid enough to have “faith” in anything, are easy prey for demagogues posturing under the conservative mantle. This portrayal can be seen across the globe. America under Trump has simply been an astonishing example of how morally bankrupt conservatives can be.
Whereas conservatives innately mistrust those they do not identify with, liberals share a belief in the general competence of people. The term liberal been muddled through history and has now lost any consistent signification, meaning distinctive espoused ideals in different countries. Worldwide, the liberal label is often more confusion than description. The most that can be said is that liberals are to the left of conservatives in the political spectrum.
In the middle of the political spectrum are moderates: essentially, a non-ideology of people that find more satisfaction with the status quo than anywhere else on the political spectrum, along with an impressive lack of vision. Moderates are defined by their cautiousness.
In democracies, moderates are typically the swing voters who decide elections by being swayed by promises of “steady on.”
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In the summer of 1789, members of the French National Assembly met to draft a constitution. They were deeply divided over how much authority the king should have. As the debate raged, the 2 main factions each staked out territory in the assembly hall. The anti-royalist revolutionaries seated themselves to the presiding officer’s left, while the more conservative, aristocratic supporters of the monarchy gathered to the right.
The labels of “left” and “right” became common political vernacular in France by the mid-19th century. These political labels did not take wing in English-speaking countries until the early 20th century. Designation of political policies as “left” or “right” is now ubiquitous.
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People are naturally wary about the prospect of change. Despite social, economic, and environmental problems which can only be solved by radical systemic change, voters prefer baby steps which can’t possibly work.
America illustrates. In the teeth of a corrupt, sociopathic Republican president, Donald Trump, it would seem that his antithesis – a bold progressive – would be a refreshing welcome. Not so.
Elizabeth Warren was an early Democrat front-runner for president who thoughtfully intoned that “to meet the challenges of our time, we need big ideas.” Skittish party pooh-bahs, including the former Democratic president, Barack Obama, warned against “big ideas” as scaring voters. Demographic research showed that bold was bad. Voters fear the prospect of changes from policies they do not understand. Public policy is seldom simple in its implications.
The ideological inclinations of voters bode ill for addressing the self-extinction event underway from chaotic industrialized capitalism. Human societies must radically reorganize themselves within the next few decades to have any prospect of surviving to the 22nd century. Democracies will doubtlessly prove unable to adjust, as this political system is inflexibly anchored in the lowest common denominator. As most of the economically significant states are democratic, humanity will extinguish itself via the intransigence of moderation.