Every so often we see one of these rants over that the Big Box Blogs complaining about attacks from the so-called "centrists" within the Democrat Party. Certainly I am an agreement with the absurdity of referring to someone like Jack Murtha or Howard Dean as on the "far left" to the extent that such a term is meaningful. That gets me thinking though of a different but related question: where would I go to find a viable, organized leftist party - one that could field candidates and/or play a role in national politics? We can find the occasional prominent nominally socialist politician either in the House or soon-to-be in the Senate, but in order to function, that individual must caucus with one of the two parties that rule DC with an iron fist. Otherwise, leftist sightings seem to be rarer than Big Foot sightings in Death Valley. But I digress.
A lot of us call ourselves "leftists". I wonder sometimes how we're defining the term, and I wonder more about what exactly we do have in American politics. When I think of a "leftist" I'm likely to think along the lines of the myriad forms of anarchism, to the various forms of communism, (ranging from classical Marxist, Leninist, Trotskyite, Maoist, etc.), socialism (be it the populist socialism advocated and practiced by Hugo Chavez to the sort adhered to by European Social Democrat parties). Although these various "leftisms" diverge in terms of the relationship between person and state (e.g., for the anarchists there is ideally no state), there is as I see it a great deal of overlap in terms of their shared views of the relation between people (cooperative rather than competitive) and in their shared distrust of capitalism in its numerous forms (from "pure" laissez-faire capitalism, to fascist capitalism, to neo-liberal globalism).
If we take the above as a decent quick-and-dirty description of "leftism" that leads to the question of where this "leftism" resides in the US. My short answer, as I've stated elsewhere: nowhere any more. I'm definitely not alone in my assessment (and those are just the comments on the margins of the Big Box Blogs - go outside the big boxes, and one will surely find more).
So what are we left with? One major party that currently controls the White House (and until January both Congressional chambers) that looks strikingly like the UK's British National Party or Germany's National Democratic Party and another major party that looks strikingly like the UK's Conservative Party (i.e., Tories) or Germany's Christian Democratic Union. In other words, our politics nationally is distinctively right-wing, with a range of choices limited to right-wing hardliners (GOP) to somewhat more moderate populists and globalists (Democrats). Our "center" in the US seems to be those Democrats who have bought into the whole neoliberalism theory and practice hook, line, and sinker; those espousing somewhat more populist approaches to governing and economy tend to get labeled as "left-wing extremists" by respectable pundits. No one from either party dares question the wisdom of corporate capitalism, varying only in flavor (neoliberal globalism is the favorite of the DLC crowd and the some of the GOP crowd; some form of populist capitalism is espoused by some elements of both the Dem and Republican parties, usually in the latter tied to taking a hard line on immigration and ethnic minorities; still others would like a Mussoliniesque fascist capitalism, which to a degree fits the neocons and assorted others mainly in the GOP; and of course there are still a few good old fashioned laissez-faire capitalists who comprise the libertarian element within the GOP). Some might be a bit more favorable to organized labor or to providing some sort of financial safety net for those in need, but regardless, capitalism is a sacred cow.
Nor is there any real question about the "necessity" of a vast military in order to pursue the building of empire (some may voice uneasiness about that word) as "we" continue to take on "the white man's burden" of bringing "democracy" to the "uncivilized" dark corners of the planet. Some may vary in the degree to which military force should be actually used in the process of maintaining and expanding hegemony, but there is little quibbling over the "exceptional" character of our nation as the government to varying degrees bombs and starves others competing for whatever resources "we" covet.
As for the Big Box Blogs, my short take is that they could be considered "leftist" only if one thinks within the framework of Beltway elites. DK, BT, MLW, etc. are best thought of one a broader level as Tory blogs in which there may be a bit more room for populism and a bit less preference for bombs. But "leftist"? If anything, as many of us have learned the hard way, the left is, well, left out.