Thursday Nov 14

Back Story: The New Normal - The Radicals are on the Right, the Moderates are on the Left

We are now all living in Alice’s Wonderland, where up is down, and down is up, where left is right, and right is left, and the whole world is topsy-turvy.

Where not so long ago hearing a mention of radicals triggered an immediate association with the left, perhaps progressives that had crossed some unspoken line engaging in militant tactics. Now we have to look and listen very carefully before we leap to such a conclusion. I can remember self-identifying in various meetings of progressives as a radical, rather than embracing their slightly diluted definition, just to make the point we were about action, rather than simply talk.

Now, I would be very careful, because progressives seem to be the ones arguing obey the law, follow the rules, be careful, while on the right, the conservatives have become the real radicals. Once a definition of conservatism involved some commitment to tradition and historic norms. Forget about that! Yesterday means nothing. Power today, and maybe tomorrow, means everything.

The tone is set at the top.

With Trump there are no ‘norms,” bright lines, or sacred cows. A whim is better than a white paper. All policies are built on shifting sands. He kills any hobgoblin of consistency. Let’s pop over to North Korea, if we’re in the neighborhood. Let’s invite the Taliban to Camp David, and then let’s cancel their invitation. Let’s do background checks one minute, and reverse field next. Mexicans are rapists, but he loves them. Refugees are OK from Norway, but he says that he’s the least racist person in the world.

Boris Johnson as the new Prime Minister of Great Britain, even if only briefly, follows the same playbook. He cancels Parliament, purges naysayers, and says he will break any law saying he can’t leave the European Union without an agreement. He could give a hoot for Thatcher, Churchill, or even his own family if anyone mentions their names in opposition to whatever way his whim runs.

The radicals of the right have no limits. In the same way greed replaced moral hazard in business, now any moral standard has been replaced by the lust for power and a belief there are no limits. Modi in India can go impose a domestic exile on Muslims in Kashmir and encourage supports to eliminate citizenship in Assam. Duterte can encourage thousands of illegal, extrajudicial killings in the Philippines with impunity. Myanmar can engage in genocide against the Rohingya unafraid of being ostracized in the world community on any practical level. What country has the standing anymore to say, “Oh, hell no!” Nobody.

An Alice in Wonderland upside down world is a dangerous place for everyone, seemingly but those with huge resources. Pity the poor immigrant as Bob Dylan sang, now the European Union will pay Turkey or Rwanda to keep them within borders while the US does the same with Mexico to keep Central Americans outside and on the other side of the border.

No progressive wants to be accused of being in the middle of course, but in world where there is no moral compass anymore, where is the middle exactly? If the radicals have moved conservatism so far to the right, safe ground becomes defined as everything else. If liberals suddenly become progressives, what are progressives, since they can no longer be radicals?

Stop the world. I want to get off! Suddenly, this expression has new and real meaning.

Wade Rathke is the Chief Organizer of ACORN International, Founder and Chief Organizer of ACORN (1970-2008), and Founder and Chief Organizer of Local 100, United Labor Unions (ULU).

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