What’s the difference between a liberal and a leftist? 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.
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:
1. Race: 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.
2. Capitalism: 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.
3. Nationalism: 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.