On Your Left!

I yell that a few times a week at fellow Poudre Trail cyclists. Most often, both I and they are wearing headphones, so it's unclear what the point of this activity is. I suspect my feeling like I've done the right thing is what keeps me doing it, despite the lack of any actual evidence of it's usefulness. Traffic signaling meets virtue signaling. This is also why people buy greeting cards, in case you've ever wondered.

"On your left" is also the way I've generally described my political leanings relative to my circle of friends. The roots of it are easy to identify - growing up in the UK in the 90s, the wave of enthusiasm which brought Tony Blair to power was palpable, even as a nine year old, and it was natural that I'd be interested. As a teenager in the mid 2000s, cocksure of my own understanding about the world like everyone of that age, the U.S. and U.K. governments were busy tearing apart the Middle East and giving massive tax cuts to big businesses. The narrative was easy to understand and had practically made it into the water supply - the American right was evil and the UK left had betrayed their principles. As the decade drew to a close, America had it's own euphoric "Tony Blair" moment, as the right (left) candidate for the moment arrived and was swept to victory. A couple of moments stick in my mind from November 2008:

That wasn't evidence of any lack of understanding of the political process on my grandmother's part, incidentally. It showed her confidence that dramatic change would happen soon - a common attitude among many at the time. But what exactly was the change people wanted?

Having had the intervening decade to think about it, it's the economic argument of the left which has always resonated with me - with respect to the market, the government's useful function is to encourage enterprise, discourage greed, and use the difference to bring in those at the margins. Increasingly, though, that economic perspective is available only if we also sign up for a raft of unrelated social ideas. Holding radical views such as "the family structure which humans have used to organize themselves for thousands of years is broadly the right one," leads to an immediate divorce from the left. I'm not sure this is wise, and I think it's close to the heart of why 2016 turned out the way it did.

One of the more encouraging noises on this subject was Obama's comment on Marc Maron's podcast that some Americans felt he was more concerned about transgender bathrooms than the economy, and that this was a problem. He was right, but word didn't travel far enough. Six months later, Clinton's proclamation that we need to "make America whole" demonstrated a firm commitment to her social program over any redistributive economic strategy. Even post-election, the left is still drawing lines in the sand in unfortunate places (warning, that site has an autoplaying video. It was difficult to find one which didn't).

Where does this leave us? In two years, four years, six years, will those who think the government should take an active role in helping smooth the rough edges of capitalism still insist on talking loudest about the genital social issue of the moment? I expect they will, unfortunately.

On your left? I'm not sure.