Teri Kanefield @Teri_Kanefield Author, lawyer (U.C. Berkeley). My threads are here: terikanefield-blog.com/ My author website is here: www.terikanefield.com/ Jun. 26, 2019 4 min read

(Thread) View from the Far Left

@AlluraLibrarian asks a thoughtful question in response to a discussion of a crisis of legitimacy (when people feel the government doesn't govern on their behalf).

People experiencing this often wish to entirely overhaul the government.

1/ We begin with 3 facts:

💠The U.S. has swung far to the right since the 1970s;
💠Far left views are in the minority; and
💠We have a two-party system—and that's unlikely to change without a major overhaul of the Constitution (which is so difficult as to be almost impossible).

2/ If you're on the far left, the majority of Americans don’t hold your beliefs. That can be deeply frustrating when you’re sure your views and approaches will improve the country.

In non-presidential parliamentary systems, minority views can hold more sway in the government.

3/ Those who hold minority views often despise the two-party system.

We’ve had a two-party system since the time of George Washington (except for a stint after the collapse of the Federalists and before the birth of the GOP, when we effectively had a single party.)

4/ The drafters of the Constitution didn’t anticipate the rise of political parties. Washington tried to discourage them.

Once they arose (and many political scientists will tell you they’re not bad things) the nature of our Constitution dictated a two-party system.

5/ To take one example: Under the Constitution, if no presidential candidate gets a majority of electoral votes, the president is to be selected by the House of Representatives.

Thus dividing votes for POTUS over three parties means the House selects the president. . .

6. . . which defeats the purpose of alternative views in government: The House will select their own party member.

Liberal democracy 👇 means majority rules, where the majority is constrained by rule of law. Constraints prevent the majority from tyrannizing the minority . . .

7/. . . to take an extreme example, the majority voting to enslave the minority.

Democracy has 2 major frustrations.

First, as 👇profs. Levitsky and Ziblatt explain, Democracy is slow, grinding work. If you don’t believe it, run for local office and try to get something done.

8/ Sometimes this is good: If it were easy to get things done, Trump would have already dismantled our federal agencies. The roadblocks (also known as checks and balances) slow him down.

Frustration #2: If you hold minority views, it’s hard to see your ideas implemented. . .

9/ . . . because in a liberal democracy majority rules.

(Yes, we still have a liberal democracy. The courts are often NOT doing Trump’s bidding, and the midterm elections did not go Trump’s way.)

10/ Those holding minority views in a democracy have three alternatives.

Option 1: Implement a revolution by forcing a rapid change. Change doesn’t naturally happen quickly, so some sort of force (not necessarily violence) is needed.

Rapid change can be destabilizing. . .

11/ . . . which is why revolutions generally don’t turn out well.

Revolutionaries are often destructive with the belief that something better will arise from the ashes.

Destroying what is in place before something new can be built can create a void that allows for power grabs.

12/ Option 2: Find a way for minority views to dominate the majority.

This is also not a good idea. Because of the nature of democracy, it’s hard to imagine implementing minority views without resorting to some cheating.

Minority rule is what we’re experiencing now. . .

13/ The views of the far right wing are a minority in America, but the far right has gained control of the White House, the Senate, and a majority of state governments.

This came about through voter suppression, gerrymandering, playing hardball, exploiting advantages, etc.

14/ Option 3: Find a way to persuade the majority that your views are best.

Option 3 means moving the center left.

This is slow, grinding work. How do you do it? Organize, educate, find ways to persuade people. Take a long view.

15/ A majority of young people today hold left or left-leaning views. Find ways to reinforce (and expand) that.

Harvard Prof. Levitsky argues that the right is implementing desperate measures BECAUSE the GOP demographics are shrinking.

This means we should see leftward shift.

16/ If you hold minority views, it’s easy to feel a crisis of legitimacy. If you know your views will never be popular, you may come to hate democracy.

One of my threads attracted a number of angry people who said they were libertarian. Here's a sampling of their comments👇

17/ I met a young far-left man who who told me “the entire government is corrupt.”

It took me a long time to persuade him otherwise. I talked about our independent judiciary, free press, etc. He talked about very real problems.

18/ Right now, our democracy is under attack from the far right. When democracy is healthy, it doesn’t matter much if young people walk around saying “the entire government is corrupt.”

Doing this now, however, helps Putin’s active measures for undermining liberal democracy.

19/ If you’re on the far left, I urge you to take heart. Some very viable democratic candidates hold views quite far to the left.


I'll add some of the comments to the thread. . .

Susan, I never said the views on the left can't appeal to the majority. I said right now, they don't.

if the"wrong" brand is popular, it could be because the better brand has a marketing problem.

The "disaffected" on the far right are threatened by the growing diversity, which they believe displaces them.
Their concerns are not actually economic.

You can follow @Teri_Kanefield.


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