Trump’s opponents are bitterly split. You can’t understand US politics today unless you understand the rift between liberals and leftwingers. By Pete Davis

It has been almost a year since the catastrophic election of Donald Trump. In his first year in office, the president has governed as cruelly và ineptly as his critics predicted. But while anti-Trump sentiment has never been more fierce and widespread, his political opponents are more divided than ever. And this faultline – which has parallels in Britain with divisions among the Labour các buổi party – could, if left unaddressed, compromise efforts to resist và defeat Trumpism.Bạn vẫn xem: Libtard là gì

Roughly speaking, these two sides could be characterised as the “populist wing” & the “establishment wing” of the Democratic party, but even this terminology is a point of controversy between the feuding sides. The party’s left wing, for example, wants to call the conflict the “left-liberal divide”. Loyalist Democrats want lớn play down the divide, calling for unity by insisting that Democrats are all members of “the left” (if those calling for unity are younger, millennial types), or that they are all “liberals” (if they are older, Clinton-era types). The right, meanwhile, does not understand the divide, continuing to lớn believe in a monolithic “radical left” filled with “radical liberals”. This leads khổng lồ the funny situation, as one commentator noted, in which members of both the left and the right reach for the same “I made it through college without becoming a liberal” T-shirt.Bạn đang xem: Libtard là gì

The present conflict surfaced, as many intra-party feuds do, during a presidential primary. But unlike past internal conflicts, this one is sticking around. Centrist John Kerry supporters, for example, did not take potshots at insurgent Howard Dean supporters deep into 2005. This year, however, a full ecosystem – replete with duelling podcasts, magazines and candidates – has kept the divide alive. Skirmishes are popping up, like clockwork, every few weeks; from February’s bitterly contested election of a new Democratic National Committee chair, to leftist scepticism about potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris; from the launching of the Clinton-fawning website Verrit to lớn the latest harangue from the liberal-bashing podcast Chapo Trap House.

Bạn đang xem: Libtard là gì


Supporters of Keith Ellison and Tom Perez, the two candidates for Democratic National Committee Chair. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/ReutersDiscussing a resolution khổng lồ this conflict is difficult, because even calls for “resolution” can be interpreted as ideological statements. Wanting the Democratic buổi tiệc nhỏ to survive and unify can be taken as an endorsement of the establishment, because the quickest path to intra-party peace is for the conflict’s leftwing instigators to lớn get in line. Meanwhile, treating the intraparty divide as substantive – arguing that there is, in fact, a significant difference between, say, “Medicare for All” and “Obamacare” – can annoy liberals who believe that the so-called “divide” has been manufactured by a few disgruntled purists.

To resolve our intra-party conflict, we must first understand it. I believe the two sides’ concerns can be grouped into three divides: the first over tiệc ngọt loyalty, the second over how to lớn win elections, & the third over the gap between Democrats & Republicans. Each divide may not be relevant to lớn every partisan in the conflict, but most partisans have divided over at least one of these three.

The divide over buổi tiệc ngọt loyalty

Liberals accuse leftwingers of not being loyal to the buổi tiệc ngọt in general elections. This began with the vilification of leftwing third-party voters, such as Ralph Nader voters in 2000 và Jill Stein voters in 2016. What made this past election special is that accusations of disloyalty were launched at a Democratic primary challenger. Hillary Clinton supporters feel that Bernie Sanders attacked Clinton excessively during the primary, stayed in the primary too long, và did not vì enough to support her in the general election. Many loyal Democrats around the country have analogous feelings about leftwing rebels in the tiệc ngọt generally: they think criticisms should be kept inside the family, and that it is important khổng lồ be a “team player” in order to win elections and pass legislation. Some may hotline these loyal Democrats boring conformists, but from their perspective, it is các buổi party loyalists, not insurgent critics, who staff the các buổi tiệc nhỏ booth at the county fair và knock on doors every year lớn help get Democrats elected.

Leftists, on the other hand, believe this “disloyalty” accusation is bunk. First, they think establishment-wing leaders follow what the political blogger Jonathan Schwartz has called “the iron law of institutions”, which says that “the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power nguồn within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself”. If tiệc nhỏ leaders were loyal to the party, leftwingers believe, then they would have learned from recent electoral losses và shaken the các buổi tiệc nhỏ up, even if it meant stepping aside themselves to lớn make room for fresh faces & new ideas.

Second, insurgent leftwingers care less about catering to lớn the dwindling group of grassroots tiệc nhỏ loyalists around the country, và more about activating the masses of non-voters và independents who are not yet loyal to lớn any party. That is why they are less concerned about candidates, like Sanders, who are not technically Democrats. They see them not as selfish traitors, but rather as opportunities lớn build the party’s base.

Loyalty khổng lồ the tiệc ngọt generally is often bound up in loyalty to party leaders. The party’s liberal wing tends khổng lồ get excited about tiệc nhỏ leaders’ personalities, & is more likely lớn share, say, Obama or Hillary memes, watch West Wing fantasies about party staffers & follow the path of rising stars. This loyalty extends to the wider network tied to the party, too, such as liberal-leaning news anchors and commentators, & party-aligned Hollywood stars such as Meryl Streep.


Meryl Streep and Hillary Clinton in Washington DC in 2012. Photograph: Kevin Wolf/APLeftwingers think this cấp độ of loyalty is bizarre, especially when it comes to politicians they believe vì chưng not deserve it. Leftwingers are generally less likely to lớn express loyalty khổng lồ leaders, and more likely to lớn pledge themselves to lớn issue campaigns that bubble up from extra-party institutions, such as labour unions or racial justice & environmental groups. They respond khổng lồ liberal attacks of “Why aren’t you knocking on doors in the general election?” with “Why aren’t you joining the Fight for $15?” (a national grassroots chiến dịch for fairer wages led by fast-food workers). Leftwingers believe liberals cannot think for themselves on issues – that they wait to get the go-ahead from the các buổi tiệc nhỏ establishment before they offer any support. To lớn leftwingers, the liberals’ shorter-term issues, such as the Russia investigation, are just distractions unless they are embedded in more fundamental issue campaigns.

Establishment Democrats often see leftwingers’ enthusiasm for disjointed issue campaigns over the các buổi tiệc nhỏ platform as further evidence that they bởi not understand “how real politics works”. As Slate writer Stephen Metcalf describes: “I see a social movement left that protests then goes home; và a Democratic các buổi party that stays on và does the hard, boring work.” Loyal Democrats see their friends forming phone-banks to lớn urge members of Congress lớn oppose Republican attacks on Obamacare, & wonder why there are not more leftwingers pitching in. Khổng lồ loyal Democrats, either you hotline yourself a Democrat, be a team player và move issues forward as part of a concerted, directed tiệc ngọt strategy … or you believe in the power of, to lớn use one common liberal phrase, “Bernie’s magic elves”, who will mysteriously và effortlessly accomplish all the hidden work that it takes to make policy goals a reality.

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The divide over strategy

The divide over what we are trying khổng lồ win is coupled with a divide over how we win. The first part of this strategic divide is over what policies a losing tiệc nhỏ should adopt to lớn win back power. Liberals’ go-to strategy is often thus: if you are losing, tack your policies to the centre to win; once you win back power, you can enact what you want.

Liberals believe that the left too often chooses ideological purity over victory. They think leftwingers are not serious about power: if populist leaders, they argue, ever had lớn actually lead the buổi tiệc ngọt – if they had khổng lồ win elections and pass legislation – they too would be forced khổng lồ be more pragmatic. Many establishment Democrats buy into the Republican talking point that the US is a centre-right country, và that Democrats need to lớn adjust their strategy to lớn that reality.

Leftwingers have the inverse policy strategy: if you are losing, you need a more differentiated, passionate policy vision to lớn win. The writer Adam Johnson points to how Jeremy Corbyn succeeded with this strategy: “Corbyn’s campaign caught fire because he offered a clear moral vision of justice … they hotline it ‘ideology’ … But ideology is simply pragmatism over a longer timetable.”


Bernie Sanders supporters in Philadelphia in July 2016. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty ImagesLeftwingers like Johnson believe liberals have been conned by the right into playing on their rhetorical turf. When Democrats couch their proposals in Republican rhetoric – such as when they refer khổng lồ Russian interference as “communist infiltration” or pitch social welfare programs as “helping entrepreneurs” – they, in the left’s mind, commit the double error of appearing lượt thích inauthentic Diet Republicans & diluting the power nguồn of the Democrats’ own potentially inspiring ideals. At their most sceptical, leftwingers wonder whether Democratic leaders are tacking to lớn the centre not simply as an electoral strategy, but because they vì chưng not believe in leftwing ideas in the first place. These leftwingers point to lớn examples of times when Democrats had power và still did not advance their stated ideals in what leftwingers considered khổng lồ be a sufficiently ambitious manner.

In short, the party’s liberal wing believes winning leads to idealism, whereas the party’s left wing believes idealism leads to winning.

The divide over the gap between Democrats và Republicans

Perhaps the root of these first two divides is a third divide: how much difference leftwingers & liberals believe there is between Democrats & Republicans.

Party loyalists believe the gap between the two parties is huge. The Republican các buổi tiệc nhỏ is so egregiously horrible, they argue, that it is imperative to lớn remain loyal lớn our only hope of stopping them: the Democratic party. This viewpoint is captured in a recent Democratic chiến dịch Coordinating Committee sign reading “Democrats 2018: I mean, have you seen the other guys?” This belief explains why liberals tend lớn focus on the outrages of the “other guys” & downplay the left-liberal divide: given the constant threat of Republican power, any internal differences are minuscule. What’s more, the threat of Republican power, liberals point out, is especially acute khổng lồ marginalised communities: whereas privileged idealists can afford to lớn say “it has khổng lồ get worse before it gets better,” immigrants at risk of deportation, black people at risk of police brutality & gay couples at risk of having their rights rolled back bởi vì not have the same luxury.

Leftwingers, on the other hand, see the gap between Democrats and Republicans as smaller. They lượt thích to point out examples of silent bipartisanship: the complicity of Democrats in the disastrous war in Iraq và the racist war on drugs, for example, or the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush-era, corporate-driven education reform. They criticise các buổi tiệc nhỏ loyalists for letting Democratic leaders steer them towards formerly Republican positions, such as when some Democratic loyalists began criticising administration leakers such as Chelsea Manning – a figure they would have lionised if she had committed her leaks while Bush was president.

Behind this divide is a failure lớn see eye-to-eye over certain larger narratives – narratives that leftwingers talk about more than liberals do. The left often situates both parties within broader conceptual frameworks, such as neoliberalism, corporate power & imperialism. To defeat these larger, nefarious societal structures và historical trends, leftwingers argue, we must identify them & prepare a plan to conquer them – a task more difficult than just defeating the Republicans at the ballot box.

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Many liberals, meanwhile, either have not thought about, vày not believe in, or vị not prioritise addressing these forces. Some have even made fun of leftwingers for talking too much about “neoliberalism” – a phrase many centrists believe has no meaning, but that leftwingers insist is analytically useful. (Ironically, this is the same dynamic at play as when conservatives snarkily dismiss phrases such as “white supremacy” và “patriarchy” as being meaningless, despite the insistence by both leftists và liberals that you could fill an entire library with books explaining each phrase’s depth of meaning.)

From divides to tribes

The loyalist wing of the buổi tiệc nhỏ has had a tribe-building process, too – one likely accelerated by the buổi tiệc ngọt rebels’ rise. They started out with a different bundle of political intuitions: more trust for leaders lượt thích Obama và Clinton; more credit given to lớn what Democrats were able lớn accomplish in the age of conservative ascendance; more inspiration taken from the racial và gender diversity of buổi tiệc ngọt leadership; and more appreciation for the progressive causes the các buổi tiệc nhỏ has begun khổng lồ articulate over the past decades. A network of party-friendly institutions, journalists & leaders, old & new, has emerged to lớn articulate và defend these liberal intuitions: truyền thông media entities such as MSNBC và Slate; the DNC itself; the leaders & staffers of the Obama administration & Clinton campaigns; mainstream liberal thinktanks; và writers such as the economist and new york Times columnist Paul Krugman, và Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones magazine. A narrative has emerged to unify this wing as well: a story that casts the Democratic party as the entity that has overcome unprecedented Republican attacks lớn give voice to và fight for the interests of marginalised people in American politics.