The 'False Equivalence' Between the Far-Left and Far-Right | Opinion

In criticizing hyperpartisanship in general—neither specifically targeting the left nor the right—one readily finds visceral accusations of seeing the far-left and far-right as "equally bad."

By such reflexive standards, this so-called centrist dogma is a blanket of neutrality for some. Of course, there are significant similarities between the two political extremes; likewise, they feed off each other to the point of mutual interdependence. But this does not make them "equally bad," and it does not commit critics of hyperpartisan politics to such a "false equivalency." Some, like myself, see the far-right as severely worse than the left, whereas others, like commentator Douglas Murray, hold an inverted perspective. In both instances, reasons can be given to tip the scale in one direction or another, but seldom in ways that commit nuanced critics to hold the far-left/far-right false equivalency.

A fundamental difference between far-left and far-right hyperpartisan politics is where their influence holds sway and what power such sway grants these factions. The far-right hold governmental and bureaucratic powers, whereas the far-left has its most significant influence on culture. The far-right is worse than the far-left—holding American bureaucracy hostage to the whims of archaic puritanical values is much more dangerous than, for example, a precedent in which getting banned from Twitter for saying the "wrong" thing is common.

In the former case, we have philistine theocrats whose interests and intent are ambiguous. However, their legislative actions result in the unambiguous: things like the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the refusal to bail out Americans during every financial crisis in one breath (which, in recent history, have occurred almost exclusively under Republican reigns) while unwaveringly bailing out the rich in the other, and the now looming threats to conventions most Americans accept and desire, like gay marriage, along with the abject negligence of the majority opinion on nearly all legislative matters, including those just listed.

To my eye, the far-left's damage to American culture pales in comparison to the aforementioned. In all ages, cultural or moral narratives are fundamentally baseless. They are something deemed true or good by some individual or set of individuals at a specifiable time in history, not an eternal and final viewpoint derived "from reality" that is therefore immune to critique. The masses routinely and blindly accept such prevalent narratives as being the last viewpoint—the best and only interpretation of reality.

In our age, this narrative is progressivism.

The negative cultural impact these ideals have had seldom exists outside of the internet, corporate life, and humanities departments in universities—which, to be fair, are places where millions of Americans reside, having to endure tedious exercises in self-pity and social awkwardness to accommodate the few guilt-stricken higher-ups, most of whom are themselves the quintessentially white and privileged individuals to which these exercises are supposedly intended. But that is not the same level of power as governmental power; thus, no false equivalency appears here. Indeed, this is the same view that most Americans hold—the Republican Party is extreme and the Democratic Party is weak.

American flag in front Supreme Court
An American flag flies in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Part of progressive ideals entails a broad rejection of ambition and ideological detractors, leading to a complete inability for the Democratic Party to become as cohesive—and thus, politically effective—as the Republican Party. And it is in this way—how progressives and moderate liberals in Congress quibble to no end—that the far-left provides its interdependent relationship with the right, effectively facilitating its protracted governmental power.

This is the source of decades-long inaction by legislators on key liberal issues like climate change, gun laws, improving the rights and prosperity of the disenfranchised, and better health care—the squandering of majority rule and the difficult road to re-obtaining it once it is lost.

Hence, it is not the intrinsic "evilness" of the Republicans that keep them in power; rather, Democratic disunity, worsening now by the progressive caucus' refusal to cohere with the remaining moderates left in Congress—not to mention a refusal to cohere with themselves—that they need to govern, is what keeps Republicans in office. Pride in ideals takes precedent over governing.

This is a different claim than "the far-left and far-right are 'equally bad.'" They are not equally bad, but they are uniquely bad in ways that reinforce the "other side's" badness. On the one hand, this view curtails the common rebuttal of dogmatic centrist false equivalencies by taking into account the longstanding self-perpetuating regularities in American politics that generates all hyperpartisanship, and, on the other, one that acknowledges my own bias toward liberalism in my view of "who's worse."

But this view is nothing more than my bias or opinion—it is not an objective truth any more than saying that "both sides are equally bad" or that "the progressives are worse" are objective truths. Of course, they are both terrible in unique ways, but it is undeniable that they depend on each other for their existence.

And it is those who reveal themselves as part of a hyperpartisan bubble who cannot admit their bias and the dependent and conditional nature of their cherished political worldviews, partisan or "non-partisan."

Politics is a lot more personal than we like to admit.

Daniel Lehewych has an MA in philosophy from the CUNY Graduate Center, specializing in moral psychology, cognitive science, and the philosophy of mind. In addition to contributing to Newsweek, Daniel is a contributing writer for Big Think and Allwork.Space.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.