Trump and the future of Progressivism

Fascinatingly, I’ve now seen two articles reflecting on Trump’s victory that bear some resemblance to what I previously wrote. And both articles should give progressives serious pause for thought. The reality is, progressives played a very significant role in the rise and success of Trump.

Time to look in the mirror, folks.

First, similar to what I previously wrote here, a writer at the National Post observes that the progressives have been crying wolf for so long that nobody but other progressives take them seriously anymore. The second writer (below) expands on this same theme. The National Post quotes a tweeter,

‘TRUMP IS A MISYGONIST, RACIST, XENOPHOBIC LIAR!!’ … yeah but you said that about Bush, McCain and Romney. So no one cares.

When absolutely everybody you disagree with is evil, horrible, Hitler reincarnated, etc, etc, etc, then people quickly learn that your protests are functionally meaningless.

I had a fascinating conversation with a progressive / liberal friend of mine. We’d known each other for a while but only recent began connecting at a deeper level to discuss issues of politics, religion and the like. Very edifying conversations (hopefully for both of us).

When we last met he openly wondered if other progressives hadn’t been just a little too hostile recently with those they disagree with. We were both quick to observe that you don’t have to dig hard to find similar hostility in the right-leaning camp – progressives certainly don’t have a corner on this market – but it seems progressives have turned it into an art form in a way that the right simply hasn’t.

I certainly wasn’t disagreeing with him. Neither was this article. Nor the next one I’ll discuss in a moment.

The article summarizes eight ways that progressives can look themselves in the mirror and consider their role in bringing about the rise of Trump.

  1. Calling everything racist all the time
  2. Flirting with identity politics (I would argue they did a lot more than just flirt, but it’s not my article)
  3. Mocking poor white people
  4. Demonizing conventional conservatives
  5. Flawed candidate (by which the author is referring to Clinton, not Trump; although she is clear that Trump is hardly an ideal candidate either!)
  6. All the political-correctness talk
  7. All the damned celebrities
  8. … and by the way, the post election protests aren’t helping

Fortunately, the police have discovered an unusually effective method for getting the protesters under control so that issue should be resolved in short order.

So there you have eight ways that progressives might want to revisit their own tactics if they’d like to avoid another Trump in the future. And if that’s not enough, let’s consider the second such article.

The second article I was pointed to is here, and the title bears a striking resemblance to my previous article about how the tactics used by the LGBTQ community gave rise to Trump who, in some bizarre form of Karmic irony, uses pretty much the exact same strategies they have used for decades already.

I’m going to warn you ahead of time that this article is a long read, but I will simultaneously encourage you to read it anyway. Find the time; it is as profound and thoughtful as it is long. His take on the situation is rather different from mine, though the title is remarkably similar. I argue that the tactics of the left (roughly: “who needs facts if you have a great story?”) were simply adopted by Trump, and he used them to great affect. If they don’t like how he abuses the facts, then they might want to consider just how much injustice they have done to those same facts over the years. An entire generation has been weened on listening to the story and nodding in agreement if it is emotionally compelling without ever daring to ask probing, difficult, questions. We have been told that is insensitive and intolerant.

The tables have simply turned.

In this article, however, the author takes a different approach to the same idea. His view is that the progressives caused Trump because they have pissed off too many people. His reasons look a whole lot like the previous article, but he explores them to greater depth. One of the key ways they have upset people is by demonizing anybody they disagree with (sound familiar?).

The troubling thing is the frequent unwillingness [of progressives] to attempt to believe better of their fellow Americans, to explore the possibility that perhaps many Trump voters are intelligent, well-meaning, and, yes, fearful people just like themselves, people who are actually opposed to misogyny and racism and only voted for Trump because they believed there was no other choice. The fact that such liberals seem to find it more reassuring to believe that an overwhelming multitude of their compatriots are irredeemably hateful and evil than it is for them to believe that a well-meaning and intelligent person might support an opposing candidate is immensely revealing. Perhaps it suggests that such people have more of an existential stake in the cocoons of ideological communities than they do in the world of social reality.

Now read that again, but imagine the author is speaking of Trump instead of progressives. Could you imagine Trump failing to explore the possibility that many Democrat voters are intelligent, well-meaning people? Might Trump find it more reassuring to believe that an overwhelming multitude of the “other guys” are irredeemably hateful and evil? Might Trump have more of an existential stake in the cocoons of ideological community than he does in the world of social reality?

That could sound a little like him, couldn’t it? So the great irony in all this is that those who are most vocally opposed to Trump give every impression of simply being his political “photo negative.” Trump “hates” for the right, they “hate” for the left. Same tactics, different orientation.

[As a quick aside, just as my friend seemed eager to distance himself from the vitriol of his progressive circles without letting go of the shared ideology, I am similarly bothered by the likes of Trump, though we obviously share at least some common ground on certain ideological matters.]

Another interesting way they have upset people, according to the article, is by forcing a vision of humanity upon the American nation that is, by any objective measure, a delusion. According to the author, people of a progressive persuasion simply don’t understand humanity at a deep level. They have an incredibly narrow and shallow – largely mathematical, even economic – view of humans, and when that view is applied in the real world the results are disastrous.

As I wrote previously, this election appears to have demonstrated that feminists don’t actually understand women, that “protectors of minority groups” don’t actually understand minorities, and mainstream and social media seem to live in a universe utterly at odds with the one occupied by the general public. So this author’s observation lines up with the data I’ve already considered.

It has been said that reality is that thing you bump into when you are wrong. Well, the progressives are wrong, America has bumped into reality, and now they have four years under Trump to reconsider how to not repeat the cycle.

[Interestingly, even in this article the author writes, “After years of their crying wolf about various candidates, one isn’t surprised the public ignores them.” This seems to be a common theme; progressives might want to take note.]

So what needs to happen? As a necessary first step, progressives need to take ownership of their failures, and actively work to remove the bad apples from within. My friend’s concerns are well placed. And, of course, those on the right have a similar exercise ahead of them so they can find somebody with a just a little more dignity than Trump next time around.

However, the author is not optimistic,

The dynamics of the social justice movement reinforce the echo chambers within which it is trapped, preventing it from encountering, hearing, or listening to challenging voices. Sacred egalitarian values prevent them from grappling with differences. A commitment to a merciless Manichaean vision leads them to demonize, alienate, and even radicalize opponents. An impoverished understanding of human nature prevents them from appreciating and engaging adequately with the human drive for meaning, purpose, and self-transcendence.

This sounds a lot like what I’ve been reading at the Heterodox Academy. What a sad state of affairs.

Yet, I believe, there is hope. And it begins across a table – probably over lunch or coffee – with friends who do not share your views of life.

In short, get off the internet and start connecting with people in person. Step out of the echo chamber…