Category Archive 'Progressives'

12 Apr 2018

Tweet of the Day

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20 Oct 2016

“The Despair Election”

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2016theshining

Rod Dreher last month quoted an email he had received from Catholic philosopher Michael Hanby on the state of the American politics.

I really think there is a pervasive, but unarticulated sense that liberalism is exhausted, that we are at the mercy of systematic forces, difficult to name, which can be manipulated by the powerful but not governed by them, and that our problems are unsolvable. The reasons for this anxiety are manifold and cannot be reduced to politics or economics, though there are obvious political and economic dimensions that defy easy demographic categorization. In other words, the fact that we are in civilizational crisis is becoming unavoidably apparent, though there is obviously little agreement as to what this crisis consists in or what its causes are and little interest from the omnipresent media beyond how perceptions of crisis affect voter behavior. This seems to me a crucial part of the point and a key to understanding the sudden collapse of ‘movement conservatism’ on the one hand, and the increasingly shameless sophistry and cynicism of progressivism on the other hand. Part of what it means to say that liberalism is exhausted is that liberal order–which is more fundamentally a technological order–cannot even supply the conceptual categories and thought forms necessary for understanding our predicament.

In fact, I doubt we any longer possess enough of a ‘civilization’ to understand what a ‘civilizational crisis’ would really mean. We would not see it as a crisis of soul, but a crisis of management, in other words, another technical problem to be solved. We would no doubt think of it as something to be diagnosed by a battery of journalists, economists, evolutionary psychologists, and sociologists, who could then show us what levers to pull in order to fix it.

But if this is anywhere close to correct, then it seems to me that what we have in this election is fundamentally a contest between two forms of despair: Hillary represents despair in the form of cynicism and resignation, as evidenced by the fact that neither she, nor her surrogates, nor even her flacks in the press really pretend to believe in what she is selling. There is obvious cynicism within Trumpism as well; his supporters, on those rare occasions when he makes sense, seem to know that he is lying to them. But Trump represents despair in the form of anger and desperation, the willingness to embrace a strongman and a charlatan in the (false) hopes of regaining some kind of control over ‘the system’, whatever it is (which is a fascinating question, by the way.) Both are absolutely awful, indeed unthinkable, albeit in different ways, and yet this is what liberal order has come to.

Read the whole thing.

I do not agree, by the way, that “the conservative movement collapsed.” I think it became startlingly apparent that a significant portion of the American electorate was furiously angry at the left, but at the same time was not in the least conservative in the traditionally understood meaning of the term. That portion of the electorate proceeded to select Trump as its leader, rebelling against elite establishment liberalism but at the same time rejecting the ideological constraints and intellectual leadership of the post-war conservative movement.

Since Trump seems destined to lose catastrophically, I would be disinclined to read too much into the failure of intellectual conservatism to connect with a suddenly coagulated group of unhappy, dissatisfied low-information voters with a demonstrable preference for noise, excitement, and insulting behavior over substance and serious ideas.

Support for the Trump candidacy could be looked upon as intrinsically frivolous. Trump voters have good reason to recognize that Trump is lying about everything and that Trump is perfectly capable of going back on any and all of his promises. They also have plenty of evidence that Trump is not winning and they had to recognize all along that the election of a political outsider with all of Donald Trump’s deficiencies was an outside chance at best. But this group of voters plunged into Trumpism with all the uncritical emotionalism of the Highlanders charging English cannons at Culloden. They wanted to give the finger to the coastal establishment elite so badly that it seems the gesture was enough for them. They could just get by on denial as to the ultimate result.

24 Nov 2015

Turkey v. Russia

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RussiavTurkey

Now that Turkey has brought down a Russian fighter, and Vladimir Putin is promising retaliation, just in time! Daniel Greenfield has whipped up a short guide intended to help US progressives decide whom it is they should be rooting for.

Hello progressives,

This morning you’re probably wondering why there’s something about Turkey shooting down a Russian plane in the news. Why is this story taking up valuable space in your news feed and taking away time from reading about how stupid Donald Trump and Ben Carson are, or how yoga is cultural genocide or how oppressed Yale students are? And didn’t Obama already fix the Syrian Civil War with a hashtag?

You’re probably worrying over which side is the progressive one in the Turkey-Russia spat.

08 Sep 2015

Stonewall Jackson’s Chaplain & Chief of Staff on American Conservatism After the Late Unpleasantness

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RobertLDabney
Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898), Chief of Staff to Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, later Professor of Moral Philosophy, author of The Life of General Thomas J. Jackson (1866).

Robert Lewis Dabney on Northern Conservatism in 1897:

It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent: Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. . . . Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always when about to enter a protest very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance: The only practical purpose which it now serves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy, from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.”

Hat tip to Boy’s Own Paper via Counter-Currents and Vanderleun.

JacksonStaff
Stonewall Jackson and his staff, photograph of Dabney is at the upper right.

03 Feb 2015

“A Lifestyle So Good, It’s Mandatory”

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Portlandia_vegan

Kevin Williamson explains why Left-Coast Progressives are simultaneously eager to legalize smoking pot and to ban e-cigarettes.

The goal of progressivism is not to make the world rational; it’s to make the world Portland.

Vaping is, from the point of view of your average organic-quinoa and hot-yoga enthusiast, a lowlife thing. It is not the same thing as smoking, but it looks too much like smoking for their tastes. Indeed, California cites the possibility of vaping’s “re-normalizing smoking behavior” as a principal cause of concern. Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, says that vaping should be treated like “other important outbreaks or epidemics.”

But epidemics of what? Prole tastes?

Progressivism, especially in its well-heeled coastal expressions, is not a philosophy — it’s a lifestyle. Specifically, it is a brand of conspicuous consumption, which in a land of plenty such as ours as often as not takes the form of conspicuous non-consumption: no gluten, no bleached flour, no Budweiser, no Walmart, no SUVs, no Toby Keith, etc. The people who set the cultural tone in places such as Berkeley, Seattle, or Austin would no more be caught vaping than they would slurping down a Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s — and they conclude without thinking that, therefore, neither should anybody else. The wise man understands that there’s a reason that Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors; the lifestyle progressive in Park Slope shudders in horror at the refined sugar in all of them, and seeks to have them restricted.

There is not much that I myself am inclined to ban, from Big Gulps to recreational drugs, and I do appreciate that the main problem with rocky-road ice cream is the same as the problem with cocaine: It is exactly as good as advertised. But progressives, who so frequently adhere to insane theories of parenting, have trouble saying “no” to their children. Which is unsurprising, if you think about it: If you won’t say no to your teenage daughter’s elective mastectomy, how are you going to say no to an ice-cream cone? If you want a brief encapsulation of the view from Park Slope, consider this parent’s complaint about the ice-cream vendors in the park: “I should not have to fight with my children every warm day on the playground just so someone can make a living!” Making a living — psah! If only those ice-cream-peddling nobodies had had the good sense to get an MBA — or to marry somebody with one.

They cannot say no to their own children, but they can say no to grown adults they’ve never met. It’s the only rational thing to do: Science says vaping is dangerous, and progressives are all about the science. Until they aren’t. …

There are many conservatives who prefer organic food, who do yoga, who like trains, and who would prefer living in Brooklyn to living in Plano. De gustibus and all that. The difference is that progressives, blazing with self-righteousness, believe themselves entitled to make their preferences a matter of law.

And that’s the Left in short: A lifestyle so good, it’s mandatory.

10 May 2014

The Progressive Animosity Toward the Past

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FuturePast

Thezman:

    A massive problem in contemporary intellectual discourse is that people don’t remember the past well and don’t have a critical attitude toward whatever is the latest conventional wisdom about the backwardness of the past. In the Obama Era, we see race and sex disparities all around us, and the only socially acceptable explanation for them is that the past was so incredibly racist/sexist until … well, nobody can quite remember when, but it must have been practically the day before yesterday. So, it’s hard for contemporary intellectuals to put themselves back into the shoes of their predecessors. …

[I]t is part of a greater war on the past, which is a manifestation of self-loathing.The modern Progressive hates his ancestors because they created the present, which the moral man detests and wishes to change. All that “leaning forward” stuff looked like pulling at the leash for a reason.

The left imagines themselves at war with the past, trying to break free from that which ties them to the present. It is why they deny biology, for example. The thought that we are the accumulation of genetic experimentation over millions of years is horrifying. Even accepting that we are the result of our parents is impossible. How can we break free when we are just a point in the time line? They never have solved the central dilemma of every religion. That is, how do you get to the promised land. Pagans believed a noble death was the ticket. Christians believed a noble life was the answer. Modern liberals believe amnesia is the solution.

25 Jul 2013

Photo of the Day

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(how progressives imagine themselves)

Hat tip to HappyAcres via Vanderleun.

08 May 2013

Tolkien’s “Philomythus to Misomythus”

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Tolkien wrote Philomythus to Misomythus as a rejoinder to one [C.S. Lewis] who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’.

I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God’s mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

21 Oct 2012

“Pofaced, Pedantic, Goody-Goody, Efficient, and Technologically-Minded”

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Simon Raven (1927-2001)

In The Old Gang, A Sporting and Military Memoir, Simon Raven describes meeting again in 1987, at the “Tweasledown Races (near Camberly)”, Major (Quartermaster) L. R. Plumb [name doubtless fictionalized], an old comrade-in-arms with whom he’d served in Germany and Kenya in the 1950s.

Later in the same decade, Raven had been allowed to resign quietly from the regiment to avoid scandal, after he had accrued debts to bookmakers he couldn’t pay. Plumb, on the other hand, remained in the service, advancing up the NCO ranks, and finally winding up a commissioned Quartermaster officer, and a Major no less.

When Raven inquires how things have been in the British Army over the last twenty years, Plumb complains that the Empire shrank away, and the old types of officers, gentlemen of the old school, had been replaced by a new class of humanity.

“All the time, Simon, everyone getting more and more pofaced and pedantic and goody-goody and “efficient”, more “technologically minded”, less and less capable of making or enjoying a joke, shit scared of doing anything that might affect their miserable dreary careers, forever passing the pisspot to somebody else and hoping he’d spill it, so that his enemies could kick him in the face while he was trying to mop up. And all so deadly serious, so earnest, so pi. Christ, how I longed for a breath of Darcy, or O., that lot, your lot, the old gang. …

But oh the boredom. And the nagging. After 1960 the whole thing changed completely. Don’t do this, you might kill someone; don’t do that, you might offend someone; don’t drink at lunchtime; get married, we don’t approve of bachelors; get children or the other NCOs will be jealous that you’re not buggered up with kids like they are; get a smaller car, that one will cause envy; wear a hat at the races, it’s the done thing; don’t wear a hat at the races, we don’t do the done thing anymore, it isn’t progressive and modern.”

I particularly liked the “pofaced and pedantic and goody-goody and ‘efficient’, [and] ‘technologically minded.'” The image came immediately to mind of Barack Hussein Obama promising “100,000 more teachers” and his brave new world of “green jobs.”

Raven has the contemporary incarnation of the Puritan pegged: self-important, pious, and constantly busybody-ishly improving and always in the name of Science and Progress. Look at Obama’s campaign motto: Forward. Forward like lemmings, right over the cliff of ideology.

05 Dec 2011

Obama Finds a New Reelection Model

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President Roosevelt with lion

President Obama’s hopes for reelection next November look pretty dim, as the latest poll shows hypothetical Republican nominee Newt Gingrich winning 45% to 43% over the incumbent months before the campaign has actually started.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Barack Obama had been planning to emulate Harry S. Truman and run a populist campaign, coming from behind by running against a “do nothing Congress.” But the Truman strategy has not been working. Democrat advisors are urging the president to adopt a different predecessor as his model.

Politico:

The White House: “On Tuesday, … President Obama will travel to Osawatomie, Kansas where he will deliver remarks on the economy. The President will talk about how he sees this as a make-or-break moment for the middle class and all those working to join it. He’ll lay out the choice we face between a country in which too few do well while too many struggle to get by, and one where we’re all in it together – where everyone engages in fair play, everyone does their fair share, and everyone gets a fair shot. Just over one hundred years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt came to Osawatomie, Kansas and called for a New Nationalism, where everyone gets a fair chance, a square deal, and an equal opportunity to succeed.”

BACKSTORY FROM ALEX BURNS: “Last Sunday on ‘Meet the Press,’ historian Doris Kearns Goodwin urged President Obama to emulate Teddy Roosevelt in organizing his campaign around the theme of ‘a square deal, fundamental fairness” in America.

Apart from the spectacular incongruity of the wimp Obama trying to channel the Rough Riding, rifle-toting, lion-shooting presidential champion of the vigorous life, all this fantasy overlooks the fact that when Teddy finally slipped a cog and went all Progressive and Bolshie on us, he was rejected by his own party and wound up playing only the destructive role of Third Party candidate and spoiler, delivering the election of 1912 to his own enemy, Woodrow Wilson.

“The New Nationalism” went down to defeat a century ago, just as its recrudescence is going to be defeated come next November.

The real mystery is why reactionaries clinging to 19th century visions of collectivist statism and welfare state utopias built upon the rule of scientific experts are allowed in the 21st Century to refer to themselves as “Progressives.” They are about as progressive as the contraptions described in the novels of Jules Verne. Their political philosophy is as advanced as gas domestic lighting, horse-drawn cabs, and parlor pump organs.

And everything they advocate has been tried already, in Soviet Russia and in Hitler’s Germany, in Fascist Italy and Peronist Argentina, in post-war Britain (where food rationing continued until 1954), and by a succession of socialist governments in Britain and on the Continent. Socialism, centralized planning, the corporate state, cradle-to-the-grave welfare safety nets have all been tried and they have always failed.

The real question ought to be: when will “progressives” catch up intellectually to the liberal political ideas of the US framers?

12 Jul 2010

What Is a “Progressive?”

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Gallup polling reveals widespread public uncertainty about the “progressive” political label — a label recently embraced by no less than Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. While Kagan described her political views as “generally progressive” during her Senate confirmation hearings, fewer than half of Americans can say whether “progressive” does (12%) or does not (31%) describe their own views. The majority (54%) are unsure.

Allow me to clear it up for you, fellow Americans.

The Progressive Movement was originally a post-Civil War American political popular movement in favor of statism, regulation, and general (so-called) reform.

The earlier expressions of the Progressive impulse involved the creation of a Civil Service, the gradual expansion of state and federal regulations, the creation of new regulatory bodies, and the licensing of professions. Antitrust legislation, alcohol and drug prohibition, the Income Tax followed.

In recent years, particularly since the West learned of Communist massacres in Cambodia, China crushed demonstrations in favor of democracy in Tiananmen Square, and the Soviet Union fell, persons on the extreme left have become uncomfortable with describing themselves as Marxists or socialists. Radicals never liked being referred to as mere liberals. They despise liberals as dupes, fellow travelers, and useful idiots. And even “liberal,” since the days of Jimmy Carter, has become widely regarded in America as a pejorative and its successful application to someone a potential political liability.

Aspiration to major political office is intrinsically incompatible with describing oneself as a radical or a revolutionary, so the preferred term of art has become “Progressive.”

The progress that progressives are in favor of is directly down the path Friedrich Hayek referred to as “the Road to Serfdom,” toward ever more statism, ever more regulation, ever more redistribution, socialism, and coercion, supposedly resulting in the ultimate triumph of the rule of experts and a world in which the calculative power of human reason will have abolished tragedy, poverty, inequality, all of the ills to which flesh is heir and all the consequences of human vice and folly.

As Edmund Burke observed: “In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.”

If Americans recognized exactly what Progressives really are, they would not be getting elected to much of anything or confirmed to Supreme Court seats.


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