Who is the “Right Wing?” And why do they close the Rio Grande Valley’s National Butterfly Center? 

They made scurrilous accusations of fake “human trafficking” and forced—through threat of death – a private, one hundred acre wildlife center, “flagship” facility for the National Butterfly Association to close down (Alex Woodward, The Independent, 2 Feb 22). 

Those who support the Center (most of the Valley) oppose the Right Wing, led by Michael Flynn and QAnon.

Most residents of the magic Valley of south Texas are not Right Wing—that is, not Fascist or Nazi. Nor Left Wing. They are generally somewhere in the middle, between Left (Socialists and Liberals) and Right. So, let’s explore what is “Right” and what is “Left.” Let’s reflect with a short primer about ideologies. Misunderstanding of them leads to danger, to damage of private enterprise in the short run, and can lead to the demise of our nation’s Democracy in the long run. The stakes are high.

Fascism? Socialism? What’s an “ism?” that is, an “ideology?” Definition: “a system of ideas which form political theories.” Inquiry into ideology can often be confusing. Yet, when clarified, it can be so helpful. That is, knowledge of the many those illusive terms can help sort out the who/what/why of political leaders, policies and events. One can become more able to understand the past and to prepare in better ways for the future, such as how to vote.

The labels are many: Liberal, Conservative, Left, Right, Centrist. So many ideologies—past and present: Fascism, Communism, Socialism. Libertarianism, Positivism, Populism, Progressivism, on and on. How to begin? Perhaps with some short, basic definitions, from most peoples’ usual “go-to” source, Webster’s Dictionary

Fascism: “A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above individual members. It promotes a centralized, autocratic government, headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” (e.g., Nazism in Germany under Hitler; Fascism in Italy under Mussolini; modern day Hungary?)

Communism: ”A way of organizing society in which the government owns things that are used to make and transport products, such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc. There is no privately owned property.”(e.g., the Soviet Union under Stalin); characterized by totalitarian government, a single authoritarian party controlling the state-owned means of production.

Socialism: “Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the main means of production (e.g., energy) and distribution of basic goods.” In the US, touches of Socialism would include: Social Security; Medicare; Medicaid; Public Schools, Tennessee Valley Authority, etc. Democratic Socialism is one of the leading sub-categories of Socialism, especially for Europe. 

The above phrase in the definition, “any of various theories.. . .,”  would apply not only to Socialism, but to any and all of the “isms.” That is, multiple variations exist for all ideologies and their adherents. In a short column it is difficult to explain all in detail. But, it is important to note: The US is neither Communist nor Socialist; it has a mixed economy. 

However, there is an “ideology that dominates our lives but, for most of us, has no name” (George Mombiot, The Guardian, 20 Apr 16). That ideology is “Neo-Liberalism.” It began to flourish with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Moreover, since President Clinton, the once democratic Democratic Party party has become “Neo (new) Liberal;” s. Neo-Liberalism would include the winner of the popular vote in 2016, Hillary Clinton, through Obama and Biden. The emphasis is on, they hope, responsible capitalism. Neo-Liberalism is not really new; it is old, classical, Adam Smith Liberalism (“free” markets, etc.) re-presented for a contemporary age.

The misuse and misunderstanding of labels for ideology continue to haunt us. Take the term “Populism.” “Populism is inherently democratic, not, as too often portrayed by the media, a movement that “plays on legitimate grievances of the people, fostering hatred, anger, and supporting authoritarianism” (Political Scientist, Dr. Samuel Freeman, Correspondence, with this author, 31 Jan 22).  [indeed] “the mantel of the democratic Populists and of FDR is carried by the few who wear the label ‘Progressives’” (Freeman, Correspondence)

Equally misused: “Liberalism.” Traditional Liberalism, a la Adam Smith, is, actually Conservatism. A clearer, more modern use of “liberal” refers to the liberalism of FDR and the Democratic party through LBJ, although, alas, fading from memory. 

So, the United States of America seems to have two main political parties, the Party of unbridled Capitalism, the Republican Party, and the “Party of Republican-light, the Democratic Party” (Freeman). Others, including this author, adhere to Voltaire’s notion: “Le mieux est l‘ennemí du bien,” or the Perfect is the Enemy of the Good. That is, the Democratic Party, with its few Progressives and fewer Socialists, may encompass most of those who want to maintain our Democracy. The other option is the death of Democracy.

For now, those fighting for Democracy can choose among the best Neo-Liberals they can find, those who who support Butterfly Sanctuaries, private land rights, women’s’ rights, civil rights, ethnic minority rights (e.g., Latin Americans, African Americans), and economic advancement for all—e.g., Medicare for All; $15 dollar an hour minimum wage; infrastructure financing; Build Back Better, etc.

My friend and former colleague (if I may speak for him) would much prefer any candidates, or current officials he can find who would support FDR liberalism. He justifiably worries that “capitalism is intrinsically tied to, and leads to, authoritarianism and fascism” (Freeman, Correspondence). He believes we are fooling ourselves if we ignore Smith’s warning about that fate in his Wealth of Nations. Smith believed the capitalists would ultimately realize their folly. They would not pursue, he hoped, insatiable greed.

Dr. Freeman alleges Smith was very wrong. I hope my friend is wrong. And here and now, I hope cooler heads prevail, pushing back against Right wing threats, re-opening the magnificent Rio Grande Valley Butterfly Sanctuary, protecting the environment and nature against its enemies. 

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Rio Grande Valley-based writer and educator Gary Joe Mounce. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Dr. Mounce can be reached by email via: [email protected]

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