What’s the difference between a liberal and a leftist?
By Dennis Prager for Prager U on Facebook
This question stumps most people because they think liberal and left are essentially the same.
But they’re not. In fact, liberalism and leftism have almost nothing in common. But the left has appropriated the word “liberal” so effectively almost everyone—liberals, leftists and conservatives—thinks they are synonymous. But they’re not.
Let me offer you six examples:
This is probably the most obvious difference between liberal and left. The liberal position on race has always been a) the color of a person’s skin is insignificant and b) those who believe race is significant are racists. Meanwhile, the left believes the very opposite. To the left, it’s the liberal attitude toward race—it’s unimportant—that is racist. That’s why the University of California officially lists the statement, “There is only one race, the human race” as racist.
And liberals have always been passionately committed to racial integration, while the left is increasingly committed to racial segregation—such as all-black dormitories and separate black graduations at universities.
Liberals have always been pro-capitalism, because liberals are committed to free enterprise and because they know capitalism is the only way to lift great numbers of people out of poverty. It is true that liberals want government to play a bigger role in the economy than conservatives do, but liberals never opposed capitalism, and they were never for socialism. Opposition to capitalism and advocacy of socialism are left-wing values.
Liberals believe in the nation-state, whether that nation is the United States, Brazil, or France. But because the left divides the world by class rather than by national identity, the left has always opposed nationalism. So, while liberals have always wanted to protect American sovereignty and borders, the left is for open borders.
When the writers of Superman were liberals, Superman was a proud American whose very motto was “Truth, justice, and the American way.” But that all changed a few years ago, when left-wing writers took over the comic strip and had Superman renounce his American citizenship to be a citizen of the world.
The left has contempt for nationalism, seeing it as the road to fascism. Better that we should all be “citizens of the world” in a world without borders.
4. View of America:
Liberals have always venerated America. Watch American films from the 1930s through the 1950s and you will be watching overtly patriotic, America-celebrating films—virtually all produced, directed and acted by liberals. Liberals were quite aware of America’s imperfections, but they agreed with Abraham Lincoln that America is “the last, best hope of earth.” The left, however, believes the left is the last, best hope of earth and regards America as racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, violent, and imperialistic.
5. Free speech:
No one has been more committed than American liberals to the famous statement, “I wholly disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
But the left is leading the first widespread suppression of free speech in modern American history—from the universities to the tech companies that govern the internet to almost every other institution and place of work. Of course, the left claims to only oppose “hate speech.” But putting aside the fact that the left deems “hate speech” anything it differs with, protecting what you or I might consider hate speech is the entire point of free speech.
6. Western civilization:
Liberals have always championed and sought to protect Western civilization. Liberals celebrate the West’s unique moral, philosophical, artistic, musical and literary achievements, and have taught them at virtually every university. The most revered liberal in American political history, President Franklin Roosevelt, often cited the need to protect Western civilization and even “Christian civilization.” Yet, when President Donald Trump spoke of the need to protect Western civilization in a speech in Warsaw, the left-wing media, also known as the mainstream media, denounced him. They argued that Western civilization is no better than any other and that “Western civilization” is just a euphemism for “white supremacy.”
So, then, if liberalism and leftism are so different, why don’t liberals oppose the left? In a nutshell, because they have been taught all their lives to fear the right. But as one of the best-known liberals in America, Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, said, “As a liberal, as an American, and as a Jew, I far more fear the left than the right.”
Dear liberals: Conservatives are not your enemy. The left is.
I’m Dennis Prager.