How the Left and Right Think

The Roots of Division in American Politics

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About the Book

Emerson said of the left and right, “Each is a good half, but an impossible whole.” In public affairs, the left traditionally pushes for political, economic and social progress, while the right steers towards individual opportunity, stability, tradition and the maintenance of gains already made. Their disagreement is the basis of most of our political discourse. Drawing on four decades of field research on partisan conflicts in the U.S., Northern Ireland and Israel, the author provides a clear, concise explanation of how the left and right think and why their respective philosophies reflect competing views of human nature.

Click here for questions that appear at the end of each chapter.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Bill Meulemans is a professor of political science who specializes in analyzing the political values and behavior of the political left and right. His written work is based on 40 years of field research in the United States, Northern Ireland, and Israel. He lives in Aurora, Oregon.

Bibliographic Details

Bill Meulemans

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 290
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7878-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3691-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  v
Preface  1
Introduction  3

1. What’s Happening to Us?  7
Secret Money  11
Undermining the Electorate  15
Why It Happened  17
Reformers of the Left and Right  18
Nowhere Else to Go  19
White Supremacists  24
Necessary Reforms  27
Questions for You  33

2. Left and Right  35
Fixing Society  38
Criticisms of the Left  41
Criticisms of the Right  45
Charges and Counter Charges  47
Blind Spots  51
Illegal Politics  56
Questions for You  61

3. Foundations of Politics  63
New Words for Old Ideas  68
Eternal Questions  69
Outside Threats  76
A Poor People’s Conference  81
Questions for You  86

4. Personal Experiences  89
The Function of Ideologies  90
Learning Political Values  93
An Autobiography of a Liberal  98
An Autobiography of a Conservative  104
Advantages and Disadvantages  110
Morality  120
Questions for You  125

5. Expectations and Deprivations  127
Role of the Central Government  128
Constitutionalism  129
Setting the Scenario  130
Consequences  134
Post-World War II (1945 to the Present)  136
Unfinished Business  142
Attacking the System  143
Success and Anger  145
Questions for You  148

6. ­Left-Wing Values  150
What They Believe  151
In Their Own Words  153
Basic Problems for the Left  160
Saul Alinsky  164
Revolutionaries on the Left  166
Problems for Revolutionary Radicals  167
The Communist Party  169
Questions for You  171

7. Right-Wing Values  173
What They Believe  173
In Their Own Words  176
Basic Problems for the Right  183
Mitt Romney  186
Revolutionaries on the Right  188
Problems for Revolutionary Reactionaries  190
The Ku Klux Klan  192
Questions for You  197

8. Ideas and People Move to the Right  199
Public Reactions  201
Self-Interest  202
Betrayal of Principles  203
Revolution of the Right or Left?  205
The ­Flip-Flop  207
More or Less Freedom?  212
Negative and Positive Freedom  215
The New Reactionaries  219
The New Radicals  226
Questions for You  231

9. Moderates, Activists, and Extremists  233
Moderates: Liberals and Conservatives  236
Moderates: Characteristics in Common  240
Activists: Radicals and Reactionaries  241
Activists: Characteristics in Common  246
Extremists: Revolutionary Radicals & Revolutionary Reactionaries  247
Extremists: Characteristics in Common  252
Questions for You  255

10. Beyond Ideology  257
Left and Right  258
Predictability  259
Political Manners  262
Trump versus ­Anti-Trump  263
A Recipe for Disaster  265
The Dark Corners of America  267
Questions for You  270

Bibliography  273
Index  277
Click here for questions that appear at the end of each chapter.

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Invaluable…recommended”—Midwest Book Review.