One thing you can count on with progressives: give them enough time and eventually they will shoot themselves in the foot. Over the top is too often their default setting.
In a recent article in the New York Times, Gerard Alexander, a political science professor at the University of Virginia, argues that Trump has a secret weapon which will help him get re-elected in 2020 – progressives themselves.
By dominating ‘the commanding heights of American culture’, as Alexander puts it, progressives have provided America with an almost non-stop diet of ideological media output. Films, chat shows and news programmes relentlessly push a liberal perspective. When what is supposedly entertainment is seen as a consciousness-raising exercise by those who produce it then it is not going to be uniformly accepted by those who receive it.
Middle America is aware of what is happening in America’s colleges. When they see the inanities of ‘safe spaces’ and students being upset about a banana peel they wonder just what is going on. When they witness the increasing restrictions on free speech they get worried. When they realise that the students are acting out what they have been taught by their lecturers they get downright angry. After all, who is paying the college fees for students to be indoctrinated? Their working parents and grandparents.
Alexander argues that by their assumption of moral and intellectual superiority, their brash confidence in themselves and their self-righteousness, those who are convinced they are ‘on the right side of history’ are creating a backlash. ‘And a backlash against liberals – a backlash that most liberals don’t seem to realise they’re causing – is going to get President Trump re-elected.’
The progressive machine has written off the ‘Deplorables’ as racist, transphobic and homophobic, people beyond hope. By demonising working-class Americans, they have attacked what used to be their own voter base and they are unlikely to get it back if they maintain their present course.
Progressives are front and centre in culture and education. The power of these platforms can’t be ignored. They are the ones who can set the agenda, express values, create instant celebrities such as Sandra Flake and David Hogg. But power has to be wielded with circumspection, something progressives are not very good at.
When ideologues are totally persuaded of their own righteousness, they have tin ears when it comes to hearing just how objectionable they can be. Utterly convinced that everyone is out of step but them, they blithely keep pressing ahead with their agenda and this inevitably gives rise to resentment.
If whenever you express a concern about uncontrolled immigration you are shouted down as a racist; if every time you say you believe in traditional marriage you are shouted down as a homophobe; if every time you express an opinion outwith the progressive bubble you are silenced with insults, then you will be reluctant to support those who hold you in contempt.
Amongst the Deplorables are many reasonable, thoughtful people who have traditional opinions, but who nevertheless are willing to listen to reasonable argument and even reconsider their stance. But they are not going to do that if they are vilified and scorned whenever they open their mouths.
During the 2008 election campaign, Barack Obama remarked that Rust Belt voters ‘get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them’. What mattered was not so much who said it but because so many realised he was only saying what progressives were thinking.
Alexander notes: ‘Liberals are trapped in a self-reinforcing cycle. When they use their positions in American culture to lecture, judge and disdain, they push more people into an opposing coalition that liberals are increasingly prone to think of as deplorable. That only validates their own worst prejudices about the other America’.
The self-reinforcing cycle was seen in the May 15 primary elections to decide who would stand as Democratic candidates in forthcoming November mid-term elections. To the concern of party strategists, the Democratic voter base moved further Left.
Chris Borick, a pollster at Muhlenberg University, reckons that today ‘You have more moderate Dems, or more mainstream Democratic candidates, in a position where they’re having to fend off challenges from the Left.’
In Nebraska, Kara Eastman won in an Omaha-area district that national Democrats believed they could pick up in November. Eastman advocates universal background checks to buy guns, raising taxes, ‘environmental justice’ and decriminalising marijuana, all issues dear to progressives but unlikely to appeal to a broader base.
In the Pittsburgh area, two card-carrying members of the Democratic Socialists of America, Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee, beat incumbent state representatives in Democratic primaries with 65 per cent and 68 per cent of the vote respectively. The New Yorker magazine profiled Summer Lee the week before the primary.
You don’t really get a massive political movement under way based on increasing the size of government, raising taxes, restricting speech, establishing safe spaces and cry closets. Telling hard-working people that they will have to endlessly subsidise the poor by keeping them in a continuous state of government dependency is not persuasive.
The Leftward movement within the Democratic Party is not yet a Left-wing Tea Party, but those of us who have witnessed the growth and influence of Momentum in the UK can see the direction in which it is moving.