To progressives, the world went mad. The dark prince had vanquished the princess of progressiveness and a blight had befallen the land. Hordes of high end progressives, some riding on the roofs of their limousines, others clogging chartered flight desks, were flooding across the Canadian border, or at least planned to soon, where there was sure to be a housing shortage of five star billetings if they actually followed through. Lesser progressives stood in shock and horror, unable to comprehend the utter stupidity of their countrymen. Still others took to the streets to smash glass and loot as a protest against democracy. How could rational beings have voted so overwhelmingly for this misogynistic monster? Surely they weren't rational?
Such was the shock and horror in the immediate aftermath of an election result progressives simply didn't see coming. None of us did, really, although days after the event many of us have convinced ourselves that we did all along.
Now that we've all had time to absorb the election, two main themes seem to have distilled from the progressive outrage: first that Trump is a charlatan who hoodwinked tens of millions of rubes; or second, that he is an authoritarian in the style of Mussolini, voted in by a white proletariat steeped in phobias and isms. The more hysterical progressives gallop about on Godwin's horse like latter-day Paul Reveres shrieking that the Nazis are coming, and that women and children must be hid lest jackbooted thugs molest them.
Only a few of the more introspective progressives are willing to look to themselves for answers. Evan Osnos of the New Yorker discovered with the startling prescience of hindsight that Donald Trump's America was "hiding in plain sight" all along. Krystal Ball of the Huffington Post offered what I'm sure she thought was a humble mea culpa and a slap on the wrist to the progressive mindset before moving on to blame such progressive tropes as white nationalism and various isms and phobias for the Trump victory:
They said they were facing an economic apocalypse, we offered “retraining” and complained about their white privilege. Is it any wonder we lost? One after another, the dispatches came back from the provinces. The coal mines are gone, the steel mills are closed, the drugs are rampant, the towns are decimated and everywhere you look depression, despair, fear. In the face of Trump’s willingness to boldly proclaim without facts or evidence that he would bring the good times back, we offered a tepid gallows logic. Well, those jobs are actually gone for good, we knowingly told them. And we offered a fantastical non-solution. We will retrain you for good jobs! Never mind that these “good jobs” didn’t exist in East Kentucky or Cleveland. And as a final insult, we lectured a struggling people watching their kids die of drug overdoses about their white privilege. Can you blame them for calling bullshit?
Jonathan Pie offers this scorching and quite entertaining attack on himself and his political allies for resorting to name calling instead of arguments. He's right. The left long ago gave up argument in favour of name-calling and shouting down opponents, to the point that not even pollsters in the privacy of a one on one phone call are able to elicit truthful answers from people so tyrannized by political correctness that they dare not speak their mind.
But underneath all of these self-criticisms, as laudable as they are, lies a subtext of implied superiority. These hicks, these rubes, these fools who know not what they did, have complaints that we should've listened to, goes the sub-textual progressive theme. If we hadn't called them names, if we had promised more goodies, if we had shown them the light of progressive goodness, if we had chosen a better candidate, none of this calamity need have happened. What was needed, according to this lament, was "education" rather than insults.
There is no sense in any of this that maybe, just maybe, the progressive left is just plain on the wrong track. As a point of recorded fact, Trump didn't win because of "white nationalism" - he only saw a single percentage point (1%) gain among whites over Romney. But in direct contradiction of the "white nationalist" theme, he saw percentile gains over Romney in just about every category that the left likes to imagine is its own constituency: 8% Hispanics, 11% Asians, 7% Blacks, and perhaps more tellingly than anything else, a 5% gain among the young. Meanwhile, Clinton saw losses in just about every category.
The real problem, in my opinion, is that the progressive left has become so concretized in its own certitudes that it is simply unable to see that there even exists another worldview or alternatively, if one does, the left believes it is a gross and inappropriate misinterpretation of reality. Progressives have become so used to answering critiques or challenges with insults and accusations that they are largely unable to explain their own worldview except by resort to meaningless platitudes of ought. When confronted with alternative ideas, they have become so adept at the use of isms and phobias to discredit those ideas that very few can even explain what the progressive program is, beyond a sort of vague and nihilistic worship of "open-mindedness."
I have argued elsewhere the both Trump and Sanders headed protest movements against, variously, the three components of globalism, be they economic, political, or social. The themeology of progressivism fits seamlessly with the latter. A radical critique and fracturing of cultural institutions, a materialist insistence on class distinctions, and the ever shifting social landscape of identity politics are all a crucial part of laying the social groundwork for globalism. At least part of the Trump backlash is against the cloying suffocation of political correctness that surrounds and insulates the progressive project.
The shibboleths of the left are simply not relevant to the vast majority of people in the Western world. They don't want to be "educated" in the niceties of gay marriage or arcane feminist numerology or in the unexplained virtues of "diversity." They don't really care whether the 1% is richer than they are or whether the Senate has equal numbers of men and women or turbans and tilaks. What matters to them are hearth and home, sanctity and safety, jobs and freedom. Most of all, they seem to want government to leave them alone beyond the constraints of law and order and benefits of infrastructure.
Until progressives understand this, and learn to accept that there are other ways of looking at the world, they will continue to be surprised at the intransigence of real people in the real world.
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