|How the sausage is made|
The realist left is a new loose political grouping which seeks to retake "the left" (broadly defined) from what it perceives as an excessive and reputationally-harmful focus on identity politics issues as opposed to economic progress for the working class and middle class, and to move the left-wing away from neoliberal/centrist politics. It is a broad church, having few defining principles aside from the aforementioned opposition to identity politics "excesses" and to neoliberalism.
Certain statements by politicians and commentators on the left could be argued to place them in the realist left's ambit:
- "I think people are tired of the same old politically correct rhetoric." — Bernie Sanders, discussing Donald Trump's election victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Trump's use of politically-incorrect speech, by stark contrast to Hillary Clinton's prominent embrace of feminism, diversity, and pro-immigration rhetoric.
- "The huge mistake we've made, we have played the game of identity politics and identified groups, whether it is by ethnicity or sexuality or whatever you might want to call it, rather than say, 'we stand up for everyone in this country and that includes you, the white working class'." — Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP in the UK.
- "This move of the new Left, or new radicals, towards a problem of identity politics (minority politics, gay rights, etc.) lacks a certain more radical insight into the basically antagonistic character of society. This radical questioning has simply disappeared." — Slavoj Žižek
- "During the same period in which socially accepted sadism diminished, economic inequality and economic insecurity have steadily increased. It’s as if the American Left could not handle more than one initiative at a time — as if it either had to ignore stigma in order to concentrate on money, or vice versa." — Richard Rorty
- "Liberalism today is an expression of an enlightened professional class, and their core economic interests simply do not align with those of working people. One thing we know about professionalism is that it exists to shield insiders from public accountability. If coming up with a solution to what ails liberalism means listening to people who aren’t part of the existing nonprofit/journalistic in-group, then there will be no solution. Liberals would rather lose than do that." - Thomas Frank
The Realist Left and a large portion of its members also has a focus on economic issues, particularly to heterodox economic theories like Post-Keynesian Economics or Modern Monetary Theory, which are skeptical of deficit hysteria. Thus, in addition to its criticisms of the identity-politics-based post-structuralism, postmodernism and critical theory within academia, the Realist Left also is critical of "mainstream" neoclassical economics (in particular in Macroeconomics) and libertarian-based Austrian economics and its relative, neoliberalism.
Possibly the earliest reference to an "alternative left" comes from the blog of freelance journalist Robert A. Lindsay in August 2015. Lindsay, describing some on the "far"-left moving away from identity and social justice politics and moving towards focusing more on Economic Populism, proposed the alt-left as a "mirror" of the alt-right and described it as left-wing on economics and right-wing on social issues.
In general, the "Alt-Left" could be considered more radical than the "Realist Left", being to their right on social issues and to their left on most everything else.
It also originated as a term used by centrist and moderate Democrats against the "far"-left people within the party (as well as left-aligned independents) who support "progressive ideals" (like pushing Seth Rich murder conspiracies, praising Assad, claiming chemical attacks were false flags, and still denying that Russia meddled in the US election).
The term "regressive left" is often used as a substitute for "alt-left" and an insult for the far-right to use against the far-left ("see? the Left has crazies, too!"). However, the original meaning of the term "regressive left" was as a political epithet against liberals/leftists who allegedly fail to criticize reactionary or ideologically authoritarian elements within radical Islam — or Islam in general, depending on who you talk to — in the name of tolerance, multiculturalism, diversity, and/or other forms of alleged Cultural Marxism. The term has also seen some use in leftists who are (seen as being) too friendly towards authoritarian regimes as long as they profess to be "anti-imperialist".
Connection with the alt-right
The 'realist left' in this sense refers to leftists who are against "cultural liberalism" or "cultural leftism," which are euphemisms for cultural Marxism, the alt-right boogeyman. This should tip you off that "Realist Left" is in fact the alt-right in yet another Count Olaf-like disguise.
"Realist left" is something that racists/alt-righters call themselves when they also believe in socialism (see also National Socialists), so they can pretend to be on the left. "Realist" is short for race realist, which is something racists call themselves so they can pretend they're not racists. Those on the "realist left" rail constantly against identity politics, which is code for anything affecting black people, brown people, queer people, or women, but strangely enough not white people, and especially not white men, and political correctness, which is code for not being racist in public. The realist left talks loudly about how if the Democrats would just abandon their focus on identity, they could start being relevant to the middle class and the rust belt, and they know this personally because, in fact, most of them voted for Trump.
The term is also used by alt-right meme specialists looking to lead leftists down the rabbit hole. For example, the Realist Left Blog starts off its manifesto with harsh words against neoliberalism, in an attempt to establish left-wing credibility and woo socialists. But it then goes on to advocate for "modest levels of immigration" and "reintroducing objective morality [and] objective truth," calling itself "pro-family" and "pro-Western values," before ranting about "cultural liberalism". Impressionable or naive readers may be left with the impression that these are real issues that actual leftists might oppose, and not a bunch of reactionary and alt-right buzzwords.
By the time you get to "3) We are pro-Free speech, and anti-censorship on college campuses and public debate in the name of 'Political Correctness'. We oppose Islamization and appeasing reactionary Islamist political hardliners in the name of 'diversity' and 'tolerance', and support assimilation into our cultural values," it's pretty clear that this is Nazism dolled up in leftist clothing.
- Labour Must Stop ‘Obsessing’ About Diversity, Says Stephen Kinnock: MP tells party to end 'identity politics' by Ned Simons (22/11/2016 13:16) Huffington Post.
- Slavoj Žižek interview with The Believer
- This philosopher predicted Trump's rise in 1998 — and he has another warning for the left by Sean Illing (9/2/2017) Vox
- Thomas Frank, How the Democrats could win again, if they wanted. The Guardian, Nov. 29, 2016.
- Donald Trump's dangerous new low: alt-right vs. alt-left. Mashable. August 17, 2017.
- Lindsay, Robert A. Proposal for an Alternative Left. Beyond Highbrow. August 18, 2015.
- Alt-Right, Alt-Left, Antifa: A Glossary of Extremist Language by Liam Stack (Aug. 15, 2017) New York Times.
- Here’s the best thing the media can do when reporting on ‘antifa’ by Margaret Sullivan (September 3, 2017 at 4:00 PM) The Washington Post.
- Sean Hannity: Alt-left media killed journalism in quest to bury Trump (March 16, 2017) Fox News.
- Sean Hannity: Alt-left media pushes Russia fantasy despite no evidence (March 14, 2017) Fox News.
- About Realist Left.
- A Wikipedia Entry for 'Realist Left' (9/9/16) Socialist Democracy for the 21st Century.