I hate writing the word “progressives” when I refer to people like AOC and her squad, and especially to people like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, whom I see as regressives, hoping for some form of Islamism to infect America. But the “progressives” are also regressive in not adopting the values of classical liberalism, including freedom of speech, unity instead of divisiveness, and the rejection of identitarian politics. “Progressives” favor a form of gender activism that abrogates certain rights of women and, more important, are liable to engage in “cancel culture”. They are self-righteous, authoritarian, and not prone to compromise.
But the latest identifying marks of “progressivists” are their embrace of Hamas and the Palestinian cause, an animus towards Israel, and, as evidenced in calls for a cease-fire and an approval of BSD, an apparent indifference about whether Israel should even exist.
So no, I’m not a progressive but a diehard liberal, and, as Bill Maher says, I never moved to the right: the Democrats simply shifted way leftward.
This NYT op-ed by Pamela Paul, the former Sunday book-review editor for the paper, shows her credentials as a liberal, which in the NYT’s op-ed section, puts her almost on the Right. Click on the headline; I also found it archived free here.
According to Paul, self-described liberals are increasing in number (17% of Americans in 1992 to 25% in 2021), though “still lower than the proportions of those who said they were ‘conservatives’ or ‘moderates’.” Progressives are less numerous, constituting constitute 6-8% of the population, but they are LOUD. And their ranks will grow as younger college students grow up and regurgitate the political pabulum they were fed in college.
Here’s how Paul distinguishes progressives from “normal” liberals:
In an increasingly prominent version of the progressive vision, capitalism isn’t something to be regulated or balanced, but is itself the problem. White supremacy doesn’t describe an extremist fringe of racists and antisemites, but is instead the inherent character of the nation.
Some aspects of contemporary progressivism look less like actual progress and more like a step in reverse. Whereas liberals hold to a vision of racial integration, progressives have increasingly supported forms of racial distinction and separation, and demanded equity in outcome rather than equality of opportunity. Whereas most liberals want to advance equality between the sexes, many progressives seem fixated on reframing gender stereotypes as “gender identity” and denying sex differences wherever they confer rights or protections expressly for women. And whereas liberals tend to aspire toward a universalist ideal, in which diverse people come together across shared interests, progressives seem increasingly wedded to an identitarian approach that emphasizes tribalism over the attainment of common ground.
More reactionary still is the repressive nature of progressive ideals around civil liberties. It is progressives — not liberals — who argue that “speech is violence” and that words cause harm. These values are the driving force behind progressive efforts to shut down public discourse, disrupt speeches, tear down posters, censor students and deplatform those with whom they disagree.
Divisions became sharper after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, when many progressives did not just express support for the Palestinian cause but, in some cases, even defended the attacks as a response to colonialism, and opposed retaliation as a form of genocide. (One might argue that it is similarly illiberal for universities to suspend or cut funding to student groups that support Palestinian rights, as several have done, though those actions often came after chants by the groups that administrators considered threatening toward Jews.)
All this stands in marked contrast to the liberal stance that more speech is better speech, allowing for the free exchange of ideas. As David Frum, not generally considered a liberal himself, wrote recently in The Atlantic, “how is a society ever to settle its most important questions if it follows the rule ‘The more important a question, the more strictly its discussion is forbidden’?”\
And, of course, the cancel culture:
. . . .This brings us to the most troubling characteristic of contemporary progressivism. Whereas liberals tend to pride themselves on acceptance, many progressives have applied various purity tests to others on the left, and according to one recent study on the schism between progressives and liberals, are more likely than liberals to apply public censure to divergent views. This intolerance manifests as a professed preference for avoiding others with different values, a stance entirely antithetical to liberal values.
What a strange paradox that at the very moment the word “liberal” is enjoying a renaissance, liberalism itself feels on the wane. Many liberals find themselves feeling lonelier than ever.
It only feels on the wane because progressives are so damn loud. Liberalism is increasing, but perhaps not fast enough to keep Trump from being reelected. Here are the latest poll numbers from FiveThirtyEight; and they’re are damn depressing (click to enlarge)