Thu, Jul

Democracy Swings Like A Pendulum Do. The Left Swings Regressive and the Right Swings Progressive


ALPERN AT LARGE - Critical thinking is critical thinking—you listen to both (or even more than two) sides of a given argument, presume no one is always right, suspect bias and hidden agendas, and then you do the best you can, even if the newspapers and Legacy Media are all screaming in the same direction...

...Especially if the newspapers and Legacy Media are all screaming in the same direction.

...Especially if Big Money is now coming by far more from the Left than the Right, or at least those who proclaim they’re from the Left.

...Especially if Cancel Culture threatens any divergence of thought.

...Especially if K-12 and university settings only allow one side of an issue to be safely discussed, and with all other sides of an issue threatened with bad grades, public rebuke, and financial (if not physical) harm.

Cops are not beating up hippies anymore (or at least they’re damned likely to suffer consequences if they do, in ways not imagined 50 years ago), but homeless ARE somehow allowed to beat up cops and law-abiding civilians.

Shop owners aren’t being racist or cruel to potential patrons, but brazen criminals ARE being oppressive and bullying by stealing from, and shutting down, those businesses.

Harmless private marijuana use isn’t leading to people going to jail for 5 or more years, but proliferation of much more dangerous drug use, with brazen criminal behavior and virtual “open air opium dens” IS being tolerated to the detriment of cities and neighborhoods throughout our state and nation.

Governmental support of those following the rules has been eroded from its local to topmost tiers, while governmental support of those flouting the rules HAS instead been empowered (if not glorified) from those same many governmental tiers. 

...and so on.

But as many within the younger generations embrace having some rules, and as many of the older power-entrenched usual suspects continue to throw out the same tired old arguments, the paradigms of “liberal versus conservative”, and “regressive versus progressive” become very difficult to contrast and clarify.

Hence, we see the City of San Francisco and the City of Los Angeles with Democratic warring factions of “moderate” and “liberal” groups, and as older “moderate” Democrats are getting accused by younger “liberal” Democrats of being guilty of what these older Democrats once accused their GOP neighbors, the older Democratic generations questions ring out ever louder:

1) “Wait, I’m liberal, I’m cool, I’m open-minded, so why am I being called Republican when I fought against those Republicans my whole life? How does that make ME regressive?”

2) “I worked hard for my home and my environment, and I contribute so much to charitable choices, so doesn’t that make ME the honest, kind, giving good guy?”

3) “I’ve always worked hard to care for the homeless, to be kind to nonviolent criminals, and to give them a second chance...so how does it make ME the bad guy to ask for some reasonable guidelines and public health ground rules?”

4) “I’m not a Republican, and hate Trump, and hate all MAGA folks, and don’t even speak to those Right-Wing creeps, so how does that make ME all closed-minded when in fact I’ve wanted open dialogue for my whole adult life?”

Because this is the grief that bluer-than-blue San Francisco voters faced—particularly JFK Democrats (“JFK” stands for John F. Kennedy, for those who might not know, and who may need to look him up) when they voted for--and passed--initiatives for more police power and for mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients (LINK: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2024/03/07/san-francisco-welfare-drug-screening-police/).

It’s hard to quantify or define “liberal” with so many older/Baby Boomer voters adhere to the Left, and the same can be said for quantifying or defining “conservative” when so many young, Hispanic, and Black voters are increasingly adhering to the Right.

More young white voters are shifting to the Left, and non-white voters are shifting to the Right. 

(And probably a bunch of them don’t want to be labeled in either extreme!)

So, what is Right, what is Left, and what is Progressive, and what is Regressive?

Well...I’m guessing that if we asked ten consecutive people, we’d get ten different answers to those questions.

But it’s safe to say that:

1)   Shutting down, demonizing, canceling, persecuting, threatening, and bullying one political portion of the mainstream into cowed silence is NOT democratic. It’s not Right, but it is certainly Wrong. It’s not Left, but it is also not “liberal”. 

2)   And what is “liberal”? Traditionally, and to this present day, “liberal” was and is synonymous with “open-minded thoughts and actions”. Open-minded as in listening to the other person with the understanding that HE/SHE may be right, and YOU may be wrong...or a combination thereof. 

3)   And what is “conservative”? Traditionally, and to this present day, “conservative” was and is synonymous with “time-tested and common sense-based thoughts and actions”. As in—stick with things that work well and drop things that are proven failures. 

4)   Progressive SHOULD mean an approach to change society to improve its ills, and not perpetuate them, and not to exploit them. 

5)   Regressive SHOULD mean an adherence to bad policies that are visibly and empirically demonstrated to have failed (or at least need major adjusting).  

Perpetuation of an ever worsening homeless problem, rewarding more for those breaking the rules than the law-abiding taxpayers who deserve some positive return for their hard-earned tax investments, and rampant flouting of zoning laws and environmental laws which results unaffordable housing are all NOT Progressive, no matter what their supporters say.

Los Angeles is facing the same dilemma—what is “open-minded”, and what is “closed-minded”? What works or doesn’t work? Do we listen to the elders or the youth?

But Democracy and “Being Correct” does not mean doubling down on any given policies when they keep being proven wrong again and again and again.

California used to grow and support a thriving middle-class when it was politically Purple, and inherently open-minded. Racism and classism did exist, but they sure weren’t allowed like what existed in other parts of the nation.

The coast has become closed-minded blue (no less closed-minded than the Southern red states), and the inland regions are increasingly filled with those who (for the most part) are fleeing those coasts to create living environments with more affordable housing, middle-class values, and an environmentally better quality of life.

Democrats don’t own Democracy, and Republicans don’t own our Republic.

And how many of us even know what the terms “Democracy” and “Republic” are, and how they are defined?

A return to Middle/High School Civics classes, anyone?


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father. He was active for 20 years on the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) as a Board Member focused on Planning and Transportation, and helped lead the grassroots efforts of the Expo Line as well as connecting LAX to MetroRail. His latest project is his fictional online book entitled The Unforgotten Tales of Middle-Earth, and can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)