Political beliefs involve answering questions about how society and the government should work. There are various terms to identify what political camp you’re in. Generally, we divide political beliefs into “right-leaning” (conservative) and “left-leaning” (liberal) categories. A leftist has liberal views, favoring equality over order and freedom. Leftists, depending on how far left they lean, believe we need more systematic change than centrist liberals.
People have a range of beliefs. “A belief” is having trust and confidence that something is true. You might believe what a parent or friend says without immediate proof that it is true.
Political beliefs involve questions about how society should work, especially how the government should operate. These beliefs help us decide who to vote for at election time.
A Right-Handed Leftist?
We often split political beliefs into “left” and “right.” Why? Well, it started with the French Revolution. Representatives of the nation came together. How to arrange them? By name?
They were divided by social class. The nobles and high-ranking clergy sat to the right of the speaker of the assembled people. The average sorts (commoners) sat on the left side.
The nobles (right side) had more conservative beliefs while the commoners (left side) had more liberal and radical views. In time, “the right” and “the left” became common political labels.
We can view political beliefs as a range of understandings about how society should operate. Some people lean toward the right and some lean toward the left. The right side is conservative, the left side is liberal. A person further to the left side is a “leftist.”
A Leftist Has Liberal Beliefs
When trying to understand a person’s political beliefs, it is helpful to determine how they would answer basic questions. A typical way used to divide people into political groups is to look at how they look at questions involving freedom, equality, and order.
A liberal, who would be on the left-leaning side of the political divide, thinks equality is very important. They would be willing to give up a bit of freedom, including allowing the government to have more power, to advance equality. This would include government-protected benefits such as health care. A conservative would support less government involvement.
A liberal, however, is not simply someone who supports governmental power. They support power for certain ends. A liberal, for instance, believes people should have the right to choose their own religious beliefs without pressure from the state. A conservative might support more government involvement with religion, including prayer in public schools.
Any government requires some order. The inability to stop people from doing whatever they want eventually causes problems.
A liberal, however, is willing to risk some disorder in return for giving people freedom and promoting equality. They worry that giving too much power to the police and government will cause harm. Inequality means power is used unjustly.
A conservative is more concerned about tradition and keeping things how they were in the past. This includes a more traditional view about the sexes and questions involving LGBTQ issues. Conservatives are more likely to be evangelical Christians.
How Is A Leftist Different From A Liberal?
A leftist is sympathetic to liberal views. Both leftists and liberals share the same beliefs on a range of topics. For instance, both are likely to support abortion rights and LGBTQ equality.
Nonetheless, a leftist is likely to think a liberal is too moderate about things. Liberals support the principles of the New Deal, which involved more regulation of the economy and providing a basic safety net such as Social Security. A leftist thinks it did not go far enough.
A leftist is more distrustful of the power and basic goodness of free markets, capitalism, and business. They are more likely to be socialists or communists.
A leftist would support national health care guaranteed to each person while a liberal might be willing to trust a market-based health care approach that fills in the gaps to help the most needy people. An opponent of government-based health care might miss the nuance.
A liberal supports reform. A leftist thinks a whole new path might be necessary.
Liberals are more likely to be religious. Leftists are more likely to be secular without religious beliefs. Communists, for instance, argue religion is the “opium of the masses.” It is a Band-aid that makes people settle and accept a society that needs to be revolutionized.
Critical Race Theory
Critical Race Theory (CRT) looks at U.S. history through the lens of systematic racism.
It assumes that laws and culture throughout the centuries contain deeply embedded biases that have given white men an advantage. This “critical” approach to looking at society also can apply to gender, sexuality, and other things. CRT has been in the news in recent years.
Critical race theory is a leftist way of viewing the world. Liberals think things are problematic but not as deeply rotten. Liberals are sympathetic to CRT but are not as “all-in.”
Be Careful With Labels
The usage of “the right” and “the left” is a common approach when discussing political beliefs.
Many people with left-leaning beliefs prefer to be called “liberals” or “progressives.” Someone like Senator Bernie Sanders might be a “leftist” but it is probably less appropriate to use that label for President Joe Biden. “Leftist” is more hardcore than liberal.
The term “the Left” should be used more sparingly. It is a partisan term that is often used to label political opponents as a negative “other” category.
It is also often used rather loosely. I have seen it used as simply applying to critics of Donald Trump, for instance, even when the people involved have conservative or libertarian views.