Category Archive 'Progressives'
19 Nov 2020
James B. Meigs, in City Journal, describes the way Progressive generosity tends to penalize good conduct and playing by the rules. Relaxation of standards and selective release from conventional obligations of democrat constituencies that complain, he predicts, inevitably infuriates salt of the earth ordinary Americans who earned everything they have and who accept the world as it is without claiming victim status.
Last January, a small but telling exchange took place at an Elizabeth Warren campaign event in Grimes, Iowa. At the time, Warren was attracting support from the Democratic Partyâ€™s left flank, with her bulging portfolio of progressive proposals. â€œWarren Has a Plan for Thatâ€ read her campaign T-shirts. The biggest buzz surrounded her $1.25 trillion plan to pay off student-loan debt for most Americans.
A man approached Warren with a question. â€œMy daughter is getting out of school. Iâ€™ve saved all my money [so that] she doesnâ€™t have any student loans. Am I going to get my money back?â€
â€œOf course not,â€ Warren replied.
â€œSo youâ€™re going to pay for people who didnâ€™t save any money, and those of us who did the right thing get screwed?â€
A video of the exchange went viral. It summed up the frustration many feel over the way progressive policies so often benefit select groups, while subtly undermining others. Saving money to send your children to college used to be considered a hallmark of middle-class responsibility. By subsidizing people who run up large debts, Warrenâ€™s policy would penalize those who took that responsibility seriously. â€œYouâ€™re laughing at me,â€ the man said, when Warren seemed to wave off his concerns. â€œThatâ€™s exactly what youâ€™re doing. We did the right thing and we get screwed.â€
That father was expressing an emotion growing more common these days: he felt like a chump. Feeling like a chump doesnâ€™t just mean being upset that your taxes are rising or annoyed that youâ€™re missing out on some windfall. Itâ€™s more visceral than that. People feel like chumps when they believe that theyâ€™ve played a game by the rules, only to discover that the game is rigged. Not only are they losing, they realize, but their good sportsmanship is being exploited. The players flouting the rules are the ones who get the trophy. Like that Iowa dad, the chumps of modern America feel that the life choices theyâ€™re most proud ofâ€”working hard, taking care of their families, being good citizensâ€”arenâ€™t just undervalued, but scorned.
28 Feb 2020
Joel Kotkin, as usual, is explaining that the real constituency of Progressive Statism is the new clerisy whose class interest is intimately connected to the growth in power and reach of the Administrative State.
The term clerisy was coined by Samuel Coleridge in the 1830s to define a class of people whose job it was to instruct and direct the masses. Traditional clerics remained part of this class, but they were joined by othersâ€”university professors, scientists, public intellectuals, and the heads of charitable foundations. Since the industrial revolution, the clerisy has expanded and become ever-more secular, essentially replacing the religious clergy as what the great German sociologist Max Weber called societyâ€™s â€œnew legitimizers.â€
Although certainly not unanimous in their views, the clerisy generally favors ever-increasing central control and regulation. French economist Thomas Piketty calls them â€œthe Brahmin Left,â€ pointing out that their goal is not necessarily growth, nor greater affluence for hoi polloi, but a society shaped by their own progressive beliefs. In this respect, they are, despite a generally secular ideology, reprising the role played in feudal society by the Catholic Church, or what the French referred to as the First Estate.
Todayâ€™s clerisy are concentrated in professions whose numbers have grown in recent decades, including teaching, consulting, law, the medical field, and the civil service. In contrast, the size of the traditional middle classâ€”small business owners, workers in basic industries, and constructionâ€”have seen their share of the job market decline and shrink.2 Some professions that were once more closely tied to the private economy, such as doctors, have become subsumed by bureaucratic structures andâ€”in the United States, at leastâ€”shifted from a dependable conservative lobby to an increasingly progressive one.
These shifts are, if anything, more pronounced in Europe. In France, over 1.4 million lower skilled jobs have disappeared in the past quarter-century while technical jobs, often in the public sector, have sharply increased. Those working for state industries, universities, and in other clerisy-oriented positions, enjoy far better benefits, notably pensions, than those working in the purely private sector. To be sure, members of the clerisy have to suffer Europeâ€™s high taxes on the middle class, but they also benefit far more than others from the stateâ€™s largesse.
At its apex, the clerisy today is made up largely of the well-educated offspring of the affluent. This class has become increasingly hereditary, in part due to the phenomena of well-educated people marrying each otherâ€”between 1960 and 2005, the share of men with university degrees who married women with university degrees nearly doubled, from 25 â€“ 48 percent. â€œAfter one generation,â€ the American sociologist Daniel Bell predicted nearly half a century ago, â€œa meritocracy simply becomes an enclaved class.
All this is why so many of our Ivy League classmates and assimilated college-educated friends have become the enemies of Freedom and the political adversaries of ordinary Americans.
30 Oct 2018
Robert Curry contends that Progressives, after losing in 2016, resemble the East German government of 1953, unhappy with the uprising in East Germany, referenced in Berthold Brecht’s famous poem, looking to elect a different people.
The difference between today’s American Progs and the 1950s East German Nomenklatura being that our Progressives actually have a method of tinkering with the constituency of the electorate.
Nach dem Aufstand des 17. Juni
LieÃŸ der SekretÃ¤r des Schriftstellerverbands
In der Stalinallee FlugblÃ¤tter verteilen
Auf denen zu lesen war, daÃŸ das Volk
Das Vertrauen der Regierung verscherzt habe
Und es nur durch verdoppelte Arbeit
zurÃ¼ckerobern kÃ¶nne. WÃ¤re es da
Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung
LÃ¶ste das Volk auf und
WÃ¤hlte ein anderes?
After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
Progressives have finally lost patience with the American people.
Until recently and on the whole they have been remarkably patient. From their beginning over a century ago, they have been quite far-sighted, keeping their eyes on the prize, always advancing their agenda while at the same time being careful not to unnecessarily alarm or clue in too many American voters. Their overall strategy is right there in the name they chose for their movement. For over 100 years, progressives have been transforming America persistently, progressively.
What makes their patience remarkable is that patience is not the hallmark of revolutionariesâ€”and revolutionaries is what they are. The progressivesâ€™ revolutionary purpose is to reverse the outcome of the American Revolution, to overthrow the American system that is the gift of the Founders. You can call them the anti-American revolutionaries.
In the 20th century, there were three great attempts in the West to replace the social order created during the Enlightenment era. The Enlightenment era ultimately put the people in charge of the government. Each of the three movements born in the 20th century was an attempt to put the government back in charge of the people. The Germans and the Italians tried national socialism; the Russians and the Chinese tried Communism. Both brought ruin and catastrophe and then failed spectacularly.
The third attempt, the American one, is progressivism. The progressives have outlasted the other two. They were more clever and more patient than their two rivals. Realizing that the American people were not ripe for the kind of revolutionary upheaval that had worked in Germany or Russia, their plan was to introduce government control of the American people slowly or, if you like, progressively.
But the advent of Obama changed everything for them. The Obama phenomenon brought the American progressivesâ€™ to the peak of a frenzied enthusiasm. The Left understood that for the Democrats to nominate and for Americans to elect such a man to the presidency meant the long-anticipated final moment had arrived. Obama promised a â€œfundamental transformationâ€ of America was at handâ€”and the Left went wild.
They threw caution to the wind. The Democrats pushed through Obamacare on a straight party-line vote, creating widespread voter alarm and galvanizing the Tea Party movement. Obamaâ€™s signal foreign policy initiative was to provide a life-saving gift to the mullahs in Iran. He lifted the sanctions on Iran, which in addition to giving the mullahs a new lease on life, also augmented that lease with direct foreign aid variously reported but in the neighborhood of $150 billion.
Back home, Obama and the Democrats required that schools allow boys who â€œidentify as girlsâ€ to use the showers and dressing rooms set aside for girls. To the progressive elite, Obama in the White House meant the Democrats no longer needed to worry about alarming American voters.
The Tea Party was an early warning they ignored. And then there was Donald Trump. That the Republicans could nominate and America could elect such a man to the highest office in the land was understood by the Left to be an outrage, a crime against History. Trumpâ€™s election dashed the cup from their lips just as they were celebrating their long-awaited victory sip over the American founders.
Once upon a time, progressives would have re-calibrated and re-committed themselves to their long-term vision. That is what they used to do every time their dream of imposing socialized medicine on Americaâ€”a goal cherished from the earliest days of the original Progressive eraâ€”failed.
But not this time. The Democrats are done with paying lip service to American ideals they do not believe in just so they can get elected. They have had it with the American people, and they have decided to replace us with people more to their liking, people who will never consider blocking their progressive agenda.
How can the Democrats be so certain that the floodtide of illegals theyâ€™ve chosen for this task can be counted upon to empower them? Could it be because those people are not exactly dedicated to the American idea, either?
These new people may not be able to mouth the progressive talking points against the Electoral College or argue for â€œthe living Constitutionâ€ but, for the progressives, their hearts are in the right place and their votes will obediently follow their benefactors. Thatâ€™s what counts.
It seems it was only yesterday when Barack Obama was saying illegal immigration was totally unacceptable. Today, the Democrats are all about open borders, abolishing ICE, and even socialized medicine for illegals.
What happened? The Democrats are done with waiting. They want what they have always wanted and, like the spoiled girl Veruca Salt in â€œWilly Wonkaâ€™s Chocolate Factory,â€ they want it now.
20 Sep 2018
Kevin D. Williamson observes that progressives believe rules and ethical norms apply only to little people.
Progressives conceive of themselves as a caste apart, a special and specialized group of enlightened men and women whose job it is to organize other peopleâ€™s lives for them, a necessity because those people are too dumb to do it for themselves. And special people must enjoy special exemptions: Bernie Sanders can rail against the rich from his lakeside dacha, and Beto Oâ€™Rourke can lambast school-choice programs even though he himself ditched the public schools for the tony Woodberry Forrest boarding school, where tuition currently runs about $56,000 a year â€” a third more than the median household income in his native El Paso.
And, of course, Senator Kamala Harris of California can get away with the grossest hypocrisy.
During Brett Kavanaughâ€™s confirmation hearings, she demanded to know whether the judge thought the president could legally politicize the Justice Department, for example by prosecuting his political enemies while going easy on his friends. Senator Harris would know more than a little about that: She wasted a great deal of time and a fair sum of Californiansâ€™ tax dollars illegally using her position as attorney general of California to attempt to bully nonprofits into giving up their donors lists. It was a transparent effort to target them for harassment and retaliation. That little jihad ultimately was ruled an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment by the federal courts. Harris and her opposite number in New York State, Eric Schneiderman, did nothing but misuse their offices to harass their political rivals. (Well, in fairness, Schneiderman did take some time to beat women, if The New Yorker is to be believed, and resigned his office after three women accused him of abuse.) She misused her job like that was her job.
You know how this works: Liars think everybody is lying, cheaters think everybody else is a cheat, and self-serving political hacks who misuse their offices think that thatâ€™s just how the game is played, that everybody does it.
20 Oct 2016
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 â€˜movement conservatismâ€™ 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 orderâ€“which is more fundamentally a technological orderâ€“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 â€˜civilizationâ€™ to understand what a â€˜civilizational crisisâ€™ 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 â€˜the systemâ€™, 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
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.
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
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 womenâ€™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 â€œbark is worse than its bite,â€ 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 â€œin wind,â€ and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy, from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when womenâ€™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.
Stonewall Jackson and his staff, photograph of Dabney is at the upper right.
03 Feb 2015
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; itâ€™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 vapingâ€™s â€œre-normalizing smoking behaviorâ€ as a principal cause of concern. Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, says that vaping should be treated like â€œother important outbreaks or epidemics.â€
But epidemics of what? Prole tastes?
Progressivism, especially in its well-heeled coastal expressions, is not a philosophy â€” itâ€™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 McDonaldâ€™s â€” and they conclude without thinking that, therefore, neither should anybody else. The wise man understands that thereâ€™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 â€œnoâ€ to their children. Which is unsurprising, if you think about it: If you wonâ€™t say no to your teenage daughterâ€™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 parentâ€™s complaint about the ice-cream vendors in the park: â€œI should not have to fight with my children every warm day on the playground just so someone can make a living!â€ Making a living â€” psah! If only those ice-cream-peddling nobodies had had the good sense to get an MBA â€” or to marry somebody with one.
They cannot say no to their own children, but they can say no to grown adults theyâ€™ve never met. Itâ€™s the only rational thing to do: Science says vaping is dangerous, and progressives are all about the science. Until they arenâ€™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 thatâ€™s the Left in short: A lifestyle so good, itâ€™s mandatory.
10 May 2014
A massive problem in contemporary intellectual discourse is that people donâ€™t remember the past well and donâ€™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 â€¦ well, nobody can quite remember when, but it must have been practically the day before yesterday. So, itâ€™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 â€œleaning forwardâ€ 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
(how progressives imagine themselves)
Hat tip to HappyAcres via Vanderleun.
08 May 2013
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.
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