Have Progressives Progressed Too Far?

Molly Ball at The Atlantic says so, but I think using an off-off year election as evidence is strange. Some of the writers at Vox share concern that the Democratic party is collapsing outside of the federal level. (They don’t live in California, I guess.)

The Vox authors don’t connect the issues to the problem and lay it at organizing, claiming the party hasn’t organized well enough or that it’s the teachers unions’ fault or something. But why is that? Why are issues that matter to organized people turning against Democrats?

The echo chamber has hit the reality based community, I’m afraid. Both liberals and conservatives are guilty of assuming that “if everyone knew” they’d vote for their team. But is that really true?

Here’s some of what lost this week:

  • Legal pot—but monopolized—in Ohio
  • Transgender issues in Houston
  • A corrupt sheriff in San Francisco (after a sanctuary city controversy too)
  • Gun issues in Virginia
  • Pollsters in Kentucky

Look, none of this is all that suprising and I think Ball sees a pattern that just isn’t there. As for Democrats’ failing to organize, part of the problem is that the agenda of the party has become the agenda of wealthy white liberals which are almost by definition not organized.

Serious danger lies in the recent turn of the Democratic party back towards an aggressive social agenda. The crime issue strikes me as a serious powder keg. Democrats have unquestioningly parroted calls for “prison reform” and every good liberal will tell you that we incarcerate more people than every other country. If you point out that this coincides with a reduction in crime, they’ll tell you it was because of lead or that some other study says mass incarceration only had 1% to do with it. Right. Unfortunately, any rise in crime will be blamed on this and it appears we are back in a rising period of crime.

Like so many lefty social agenda issues, they mix altering outcomes with altering procedures. Police brutality is a problem. Racial disparity in arrests and imprisonment is a problem. But just releasing people who were convicted isn’t going to help at all. I would compare this with the obsession of affirmative action advocates for making sure everyone gets into the #10 law school instead of the #25 law school instead of making sure everyone has kindergarten. Or, in women’s issues. Waving a magic wand and making half of all corporate board directors be women would just push the glass ceiling lower down to wherever it actually stands, whether it’s business school admissions or middle management.

The political problem with these issues is that they run contrary to American Fairness. What is that? It’s our cultural sense of right and wrong. It’s often very ignorant and myopic, but it’s very easily manipulated by either side of the political divide to win on issues.

It was impossible that religious groups would ever hold back gay marriage because it went against American Fairness. Gay people didn’t choose to be gay–who would?! So why not encourage clean living among them?

You can also call American Fairness something more pejorative like American Self-Centeredness. The question might be, how would I feel if I were in that position? So, if I were denied a position not based on merit, I would be pissed and if I earned one not on merit I would (we want to believe) be ashamed.

I tend to believe that the left liberals are convinced as much as the right wing that our society is degenerate, sick, and evil. Instead of imposing old values, they want new ones and they never will stop wanting new ones. Often, this is beneficial to progress. But politically, it has to be both be compatible with American Fairness and not be too out of the mainstream.

This is why I worry about transgenderism. I don’t think people understand this one yet, really. I think people pretend they are tolerant, but wonder about this one. The “LGBT” formulation equates being gay with being transgender, but that only makes sense to people in the humanities department. The critical difference for most people is choice and it seems like this is understood as a choice.

But the worst part of all of this is that none of this is going to change with the presidency or with control of Congress. All of these issues require social movements, not political ones. If you want to have an anti-cop transgender gun-grabbing presidential candidate just because, then fine. But s/he will lose and even if s/he wins, it won’t change many minds.

Bill Clinton was smart. He was a good president. What was his motto? It was “IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!” Well, it’s the economy and don’t get bombed by terrorists, but it’s not let everyone out of jail and appear to be enforcing identity quotas, stupid.