In modern American politics, what’s “left-wing” and “right-wing” – or even what’s a Democratic policy and what’s a Republican one – is so malleable and changeable as to render the concepts all but pointless.
That’s what I’m taking away from this article, which looks at the changing attitudes of leading political individuals and parties over the last few decades. But while the policies listed here are surely just a small sample of those which have swung back and forth between being identified as a “right” and “left” idea, the author notes:
I don’t particularly mind flip-flops. Consistency is an overrated virtue. But honesty isn’t. In many of these cases, the parties changed policy when it was politically convenient to do so, not when conditions changed and new information came to light.
It’s not simply the fact that people change their mind about what they believe that’s the problem. It’s that they’re not doing it because they’ve encountered some new information and a rational assessment has led them to conclude they were mistaken in the past. They’re doing it because they’re on one side, and their political opponents are on the other, and they’re strongly compelled to believe whatever seems to be the message from their team at the moment, because they’re the good guys and they’re supposed to win.
Here’s one particular example of how people on both sides have significantly changed their opinions about something, based only on their own position in the political system, and what is politically expedient for them in the immediate future:
Favoring an expansive view of executive authority between 2001 and 2008 put you on the right. Doing so since 2009 has, in most cases, put you on the left.
Now, I wonder, what major political event occurred around 2008-2009, which might have radically shifted Democrats’ and Republicans ideas on executive authority? Oh, right.