Our habit of discussing political philosophies in terms of a spectrum from right to left ignores the actual variety of views lumped together under the labels “conservative” or “progressive.” So-called conservatives include free-market libertarians who want total separation of church and state, “theoconservatives” who insist that America is a Judeo-Christian nation that should be governed by Biblical laws and norms, and even a few white supremacists who despise libertarianism and Christianity alike.

Like “the right,” “the left” is a category so inclusive as to be meaningless. Some years ago the editor of a left-wing magazine asked me if I would consider writing a regular column. The editor told me, “We want to move in a more progressive direction.”

I replied, “Progressive, in the sense of Woodrow Wilson and Walter Lippmann and Herbert Croly?”

“No,” the editor answered, “we were thinking of Bukharin.”
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Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.