On Left v Right

I am an unabashed politics nerd. Since I’m settled in the politically-neutral, one-party-dominant state of Singapore, grazing with the herd, US politics are always exciting to me. Sure, infuriating things like political deadlock, lobbying and debates about abortion come with America, but I like the principle of airing things out in the open, where there’s real public criticism which is the true essence a deliberative democracy (rather than apathetic, passive assent). This is also the reason behind my obsession with The Newsroom

I’m gearing up to read Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. The complex web of US politics, talk about the Tea Party, Republicans, GOP, the Donkey and the Elephant, neo-liberalism, Obamacare can be daunting to outsiders especially Singaporeans who have only experienced a very simple political system. This wonderful data chart by Information Is Beautiful will help. Though I don’t think they got the Right correct; pretty sure the Right wants interference in social lives (to enforce conservative and ridiculously outdated social norms see aggressive abortion debates etc.) just not intervention that benefits people on issues like healthcare or immigration. What the Right doesn’t want is interference with the economy and the market, to let free market principles and capitalism drive the state (to ruin apparently, as seen from the Lehman Brothers minibonds debacle). I am actually very interested to see how a Republican government would handle the problems the Obama administration has faced thus far, given that it was a Republican president that declared America’s War on Terror and put troops down in the Middle East. This seems more and more likely since the Republicans now rule Senate and the House of Reps (which will not facilitate government action in the coming year, naturally).

Incidentally, the left-right political spectrum originates from the French royal courts. According to Wikipedia: In France, where the terms originated, the Left has been called “the party of movement” and the Right “the party of order.” Couldn’t have put it better myself…

Quoting Wikipedia (which is a VERY reliable source for undergrads):

The terms “left” and “right” appeared during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. One deputy, the Baron de Gauville explained, “We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp.” However the Right opposed the seating arrangement because they believed that deputies should support private or general interests but should not form factions or political parties. The contemporary press occasionally used the terms “left” and “right” to refer to the opposing sides.[10]

When the National Assembly was replaced in 1791 by a Legislative Assembly comprising entirely new members, the divisions continued. “Innovators” sat on the left, “moderates” gathered in the centre, while the “conscientious defenders of the constitution” found themselves sitting on the right, where the defenders of the Ancien Régime had previously gathered. When the succeeding National Convention met in 1792, the seating arrangement continued, but following the coup d’état of June 2, 1793, and the arrest of the Girondins, the right side of the assembly was deserted, and any remaining members who had sat there moved to the centre.