The Political Right Has all the Ideas; the Left Has … Power

The wonderful Tricia (blog here — I’m a big fan) inspired this post, with a nice reply to one of our posts (here).

Over time, I’ve noticed something fascinating in how the left and right view political power: (1) the surprising tenacity with which the left hold onto their losing leaders, and (2) the readiness on the part of the right to shed those who lead losing efforts.

There are parallels to the rest of the world here.

We see people like Castro, Mao, Lenin, Stalin who historically suffered  loss after loss after loss, but who clung tenaciously to their positions of leadership, until they finally obtained power. At which point, they did whatever they needed to do to lock it down.

On the political right, though, as soon as a leader suffers a loss, he or she is shunted to the side, in favor of someone else who has to take the loss into account and posit new thinking in response.

There are few, if any, major leaders of the right who took — and held onto — power for any length of time.

Think of them. On the right:

  • Reagan — 8 years
  • Thatcher — 11 years


On the left:

  • Vladimir Lenin — 1918 until his death in 1924
  • Stalin — 24 years until his death
  • Mao — 28 years until his death
  • Ho Chi Minh — 1952 until his death many years later
  • The Kims — from accession until their deaths
  • Castro — 47 years
  • And so on…

And here in America, the following is a list of those in the Republican party, who departed after either some kind of defeat, or a minor scandal:

  • President Richard Nixon — the one who instilled the current skittishness of Republicans toward scandal of any kind.
  • Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich — gone after defeat of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist — gone after defeat of the Republican majority in the Senate.
  • Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott — gone after a minor kerfuffle over some nice words Lott used about then Senator Strom Thurmond.
  • Bob Livingston — gone after a sex scandal of much less magnitude than Bill Clinton’s.
  • Mark Foley — gone after some inapproprioate e-mails.

And here’s a list of American leftists who have suffered defeat after defeat, or who had scandals of major proportions, yet kept their positions of power, leadership or prominence:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt — four elected terms as President, and 13 years in the Presidency, until his death. Under him, the Depression lingered way longer than it should have, and it was well-known that he had one or more mistresses.
  • Bill Clinton — a long list of sex and other scandals
  • Hillary Clinton — legislative defeat during the Bill Clinton Presidency, electoral defeat in 2008
  • Barney Frank — boyfriend ran a gay prostitution ring from his Washington apartment.
  • Ted Kennedy — negligent homicide
  • Nancy Pelosi — presided over a string of losses in legislative elections.
  • Harry Reid — presided over several losses in legislative elections
  • Gerry Studds — sex scandal
  • And many more…

There are a couple of right-wing legislators who have maintained their prominence after scandals: David Vitter, Mark Sanford. However, no one envisions their having any future for actual advancement either in power, or in the party itself.

As result of this general, world-wide tendency, the right has all the good ideas, the substantive, deep, intelligent thinking … While the left has, in general … power.

— xPraetorius


One thought on “The Political Right Has all the Ideas; the Left Has … Power

  1. Very interesting! I’ve observed that too and often repeat the old adage about how Republicans are always prone to snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

    On the right, the conservative side, even the Christian side, there is often a tendency to eat our own wounded. I think that speaks well to having some integrity, to recognizing that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Conservatives are often interested in smaller government, less centralized power. Of course that creates a paradox, fighting for power, while also fighting to reduce it and prevent corruption.

    Trump actually managed to exploit a vulnerability in that armor that was really fascinating to watch. Desperation helped perhaps, and people’s fatigue over being labeled racist, sexist, etc. While there were certainly Republicans, conservatives, Christians who opposed him, he still managed to play off some pretty dominant tribal loyalties. Reagan managed something very similar.

    That’s what I’d really like to see the right side of the aisle study more, how to circle the wagons, how to keep it in the family, how to rally around “my guy right or wrong.” Because if he’s wrong you take him down, but not during an election, and you don’t annihilate your own party in the process, while farther empowering the opposition.

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