I was moved to write this essay when I read the recent article on Leftists by Dr. John Ray in Front Page Magazine (See also here). I have always believed strongly in the psychological points about Leftism made there but I believe that Dr. Ray missed an important point when determining what is the key thing in making someone a liberal.
I agree with the elements of narcissism, false idealism, and disdain for inequality in the portrait given by Dr. Ray, but feel that the most important element is the absolute rejection by Leftists of superiority. I submit that Leftists of today should be defined less by their belief that inequality should never exist, but instead on the basis of a belief that “superiority” should never exist. All modern leftist beliefs flow inexorably from this view, including the most reprehensible opinion of them all: moral equivalence.
A believer in individual liberty might say differences between people drive them to achieve. Without the drive to achieve personally, society cannot move forward collectively. A believer in "leftism" would say that individual differences and the drive to achieve lead only to hegemony and all the other fancy post-modern terminology the modern left enjoy confusing people with.
Despite its prominent socialist elements, Nazism will always be considered right-wing, not because Nazis believed in racism, but because they believed in superiority. To be sure, Nazis believed in superiority based on race, which is an abhorent and untenable belief, but leftism does not distinguish between types.
Dr. Ray is correct in saying that leftist leaders hypocritically use their followers' beliefs against them. They play on their followers' beliefs in the rejection of superiority to argue that no one should be superior, but that everyone should be equal, then slip in the knife, proclaiming something akin to George Orwell's famous words, that some people are more equal than others.
In my discussions with leftists, most express clear distrust of other people, and believe "commoners" must be protected from their own inferiority. A believer in Liberty of course believes everyone has something to contribute, even if everyone is not Albert Einstein, and "commoners" left alone will do just fine for themselves.
To the believer in Liberty, if one does not achieve success, it is only their fault. There are certainly instances of inferiority which do not let people participate fully in life, but people who require social protection are the exception, not the rule. Different non-leftists will differ where that line is drawn.
In the mind of the believer in liberty, if one is not trustworthy, their time will come soon enough when the rest of society punishes them. In other words, a free society is its own cure for mutual distrust.
Here is the central lie of today's leftism. The highest leftist tenet is that people are inherently unequal. The next is that equality must be enforced in order to sustain a proper society. The lie comes when one considers the way equality must be enforced. The only way to enforce equality is to have a superior, elite class of people as leaders, to determine what equality is, and to ensure it sustains itself.
The lie reveals itself when one asks a leftist what they truly believe of the "common" people, whom they distrust and disdain, but believe they love. They hold the same condescending love toward the lower classes as an owner for their dog. Their attitude toward the group of humanity they consider less intelligent than themselves, is repulsive.
Believers in Liberty acknowledge there are people of differing intelligence, and perhaps even look down upon the lower classes themselves, but still believe society will take care of itself and its members' success in the long run.
Thus, leftists are actually distrustful elitists, with enough compassion to believe the world should be equal, enough narcissism to believe they are the moral and intellectual superiors who should care for their inferiors, and enough cynicism to believe what they're doing is beneficial to the lower classes, thus enlisting the lower classes to support their social agenda out of the lower classes' desire to succeed. The unfortunate part of the leftist attitude is that the people whom they target as lower class are only too willing to play along, hoping ironically that whatever advantages they gain from this class warfare will accrue to their personal benefit.
In sum, a leftist proclaims that superiority should never exist, but in brilliant Orwellian fashion, once they are sure everyone else believes superiority is forbidden, take the mantle of leadership upon themselves, a one-eyed man among the blind, and use the lower classes' belief in self-gain ironically against them. Once everyone else believes in equality, the narcissistic leftist believes their own natural superiority will rise above the sea of commonality to lead their homogeneous flock toward grazing.