Acton Institute Powerblog

Samuel Gregg: Why Does The Left Keep Winning?

In today’s American Spectator, Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg notes that left-wing politicians, supporters of socialism, and social engineers seem to have taken over – not just in American politics, but globally. Why? Gregg suggests three reasons:

One abiding cause of the left’s on-going ascendency, I’d suggest, is that the visible weakening of orthodox religion throughout the West. As the 20th century Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac observed, liberalized forms of Judaism and Christianity don’t involve abandonment of a desire for the transcendent. Man, he claimed, remains homo religiosus. The yearning for the eschaton subsequently gets channeled by liberal religion into the pursuit of this-worldly commitments …

A second enduring dynamic that’s boosting the left’s forward-march, and which is perhaps even less curable by policy-changes. It is, in a word, democracy.

By this, I don’t mean the formal participation of increasing numbers of citizens in the process of decision-making. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Rather, I have in mind what the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville identified as the force that underpins democracy’s emergence: the passion for equality …

A third powerful long-term influence—reflects the hermeneutics of suspicion that’s been part-and-parcel of left-wing thought at least since Marx. Tocqueville, however, claimed that he knew of no country with “less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion” than American democratic society.

This sounds strange to us. Isn’t freedom of speech treasured by many Americans? But Tocqueville’s point is that the democratic craving for equality-as-sameness can make “certain thoughts seem suddenly to disappear from the memory of men” and bolsters a “censorship a thousand times more powerful than that exercised by power.”

Gregg concludes that the left thinks “long-term” and this appeals to the masses. Why, he asks, doesn’t the right do the same?

Read “Why the Left Keeps Winning” at American Spectator.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.