Thursday, December 22, 2016
The Timidity Of The American Left
'Progressive’ is hardly the word for the American Left which has become more conservative than any Republican movement. The response to Donald Trump’s victory – a promise of the most radical changes in the American socio-political landscape since Ronald Reagan – has been nothing short of reactionary.
Trump has challenged every principle of the Old Left. His culture is not only one of wealth (the Bush family, FDR, and the Kennedys were all families of means) but of bourgeois, tinseled, Las Vegas, Hollywood, NYC glitz and show wealth. He has dismissed patent calls for ‘diversity’; intends not only to ref0rm public education but to dismantle it; to oversee the final days of big labor; to recalibrate the balance between religious and secular values; and to return American foreign policy from moral exceptionalism to realpolitik.
He has promised to reclaim free speech and religious rights and in so doing force issues of race, gender, and ethnicity far below the fold. He will eliminate stifling regulations and taxation which limit business enterprise and job creation; will call Islamic terrorism what it is; and deal directly and uncompromisingly with immigration.
Donald Trump has addressed those fundamental issues universally recognized to be problems; but rather than tinker and fiddle to reset, adjust, or recalibrate programs which have failed to produce results, he has chosen to eliminate or drastically restructure them. The Left on the other hand timidly holds on to the old notions, entitlements, and policies which have not only not shown results but have exacerbated the problems they intended to resolve.
No one argues that the public education system in America is broken. Inner city schools are racially segregated and little more than prisons for disinherited, marginalized children from dysfunctional families. Yet progressives insist that public education still represents America’s historic democratic spirit of multicultural, pluralism. It therefore must be retained, reinforced, and supported at all costs.
Yet families from those blighted neighborhoods jump at the chance to escape, send their children to charter or religious schools, and leave behind delinquency, assault, and indifference.
Trump’s new Secretary of Education, although limited in what she can do because public education is largely a local affair, can facilitate the engagement of the private sector in education and can set new standards for school choice. She as well as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development can begin to roll back the culture of entitlement and the lack of personal and social responsibility that continues to infect and corrode dysfunctional communities.
The Left remains timid in its approach both to community development and educational reform. Entitlement is necessary, it insists, because the legacy of slavery is still alive and well; and only a moral and socially committed government can address persistent racism.
Yet hundreds of millions of dollars invested have only served to prop up a failed system of patronizing and socio-economic slavery; and to support the politicians and unions which have benefited from government largesse.
Donald Trump’s promise to dismantle these archaic systems of entitlement and focus instead on systems of individual and community responsibility are far from timid. Only through such radical social and political structural adjustment can those living in blighted neighborhoods have a chance to succeed.
Progressives because of reverence for their multicultural canon have refused to acknowledge legitimate concerns about immigration. Sanctuary cities and colleges reflect their insistence that the goal of diversity is of a higher value than more insular laws and legislation. Social integration has been set back decades because of their misguided focus on identity politics. Diversity has become an a priori good, and threats to it are immoral.
Conservatives, on the other hand, understand immigration simply as part of the natural movement of labor according to the marketplace. Immigrants keep crossing the border illegally because of the promise of jobs; but by so doing they force down wages for American citizens and artificially drive down the prices of goods and services. The answer to the problem of illegal immigration is not obvious; but few deny that resolution is urgent. Facing and analyzing facts is what is required, not relying on a priori assumptions.
Retreating into a philosophical cocoon – i.e. diversity is supreme and above all other considerations – is timid. There are many possible solutions to the issue of undocumented workers, many of which would be acceptable to liberal thinkers; but such safe-room mentality benefits no one.
The progressive Left has always been timid when it comes to foreign affairs. The movement has always been proud of its pacifist and non-confrontational, one world political history; has always preferred negotiation over conflict; and abhors the thought of any inflammatory rhetoric, military exercises, or diplomatic moves that might anger our international competitors to violence.
Conservatives have always understood that conflict, confrontation, territorial imperatives, and self-interest have always ruled human society from family to empire; and that the only way to secure national interest is through confidence and challenge. Diplomacy is not the be-all and end-all of foreign policy; just one piece of it.
The Left has for decades accepted the truism of ‘A Woman’s Right to Choose’; and once Roe v Wade was decided almost fifty years ago, progressives have accepted the ruling as received, absolute wisdom. They have refused to hear the increasing resentment of religious Americans and their demand for a hearing. In their view, the issue is not about the civil rights of women, but the sanctity of life itself; and no court of nine should every rule on such a contentious issue.
Trump and radical conservatives are not so timid and are willing to enter the unsettling debate about the origins of life, the Biblical injunctions against abortion and Christ’s insistence on the integrity of the family as a human portrait of the divine Trinity. Unsettling because abortion is so tempting and such an easy way out of uncomfortable positions. Pope Paul II decades ago attacked abortion not only on the basis of Christian morality but on the culture of expediency which it fostered. Pope Francis took Paul’s thoughts even further. A disregard for the sanctity of human life can only result in a disregard for all life.
Hillary supporters are so distraught over the Trump election because not only does the President-Elect represent a threat to the programs and policies they have taken for granted for so long; but because he rejects the very philosophical principles which underlie them.
Their anger, frustration, resentment, and sense of futility are understandable. Not only have their policies and programs been discredited but their entire worldview and moral philosophy as well.
The response – demonstrations, petitions, and disruptions – is very timid. The demonstrations are inchoate and emotional rather than focused. The social protests of the Sixties on the other hand had specific goals – to end the War in Vietnam, to pass civil rights legislation, and to force recalcitrant states into compliance. Progressive goals must be narrowed and activities to promote them well-designed and –orchestrated. The time for emotional distress is over; and the time for mobilizing the loyal opposition is now.