The progressive or ‘regressive’ left?

During the intro of  a recent video of the Rubin Report, Dave Rubin discussed how the progressive left has changed over time, turning into what he calls regressive. This seems quite a reasonable thing to assert; and surely no reasonable person -watching the Trump protests, or the Berkeley riots protesting and ultimately cancelling speaker Milo Yiannopoulous’ speech, to our own protests on Australia Day in Sydney this year – would object to this categorisation. 

People will quibble over how violent it was (you hear such things as “predominantly peaceful”, and wonder: is it tolerable to have only a little bit of violence?) , but the matter is that to the reasonable person (left or right), such mass movements such as these, products of identity politics, are totalitarian in nature. Proponents of such movements make no pretense to democracy or fairness.

Bill O’Reilly nails it during the O’Reilly factor, where you see high school students protesting the ban. As he says, they were there for social reasons, “because their friends were there”. This is the next generation, hundreds of students skipping school because they saw a protest for the executive order for  on social media and were thrilled to be missing school to attend; supposedly many teachers praised them. Condoning this behaviour is similar to teachers here in Australia wearing pro-refugee shirts to school.

If only these people could direct their enthusiasm toward actual critical reasoning, real political insight, instead of following the regressive left propaganda: students didn’t know what countries were involved on the travel ban. They shunned the travel bans as being a crime against democracy. In a sense this is true. But in a sense, most of politics is against democracy. Or at least only democratic in a limited sense. Think of all the proposals and legislation which is passed throughout the electoral term. Democracy is an idea of the people  making the decisions for themselves. The only decision individuals make is

Suppose your electorate has 150,000 eligible voters. This means that your entire democratic contribution is worth 0.0000666666 of a percent of the end outcome of the election of representatives. What follows is democratic insofar as the representatives represent you, the voter. How are you to effect change? In short, you cannot. To elaborate a little more, political polls give some crude indication which in some ways can steer politicians as they follow the courses of action which will ensure popularity (or steer them as they try to enact the will of the people, depending on how optimistic you are). You could call or email your representative and hope that he or she puts forward your case; but there are 149,999 other members of the electorate and probably many of them have desires contrary to your desires. Thus yes, the Trump travel executive order isn’t democratic (but if you compare it to any other policy implementation it is merely less democratic) Policies that go through approval by the legislature are more democratic, but still not democratic any direct sense. Do you see the same furor over lack of democracy when federal judges decided to make gay marriage legal? You can (somewhat fairly) argue that an executive order is undemocratic; but compared to a panel of judges deciding to effectively rewrite the law, and change a very old institution, it is quite democratic. According to an established election system, a man sad he’s going to toughen immigration if he gets in; he wins the election by a majority of states, and therefore arguably has a mandate, and so does what he said he would do. You can argue that you disagree with it – but resorting to claims that it is undemocratic or un-American is a vague, meaningless thing to say, in light of the points just mentioned. 

Now back to the topic of this post after a long digression. Dave Rubin was talking about the progressive left, and how it doesn’t make sense, because they now seem regressive. This ties in with the narrative running through the reasoning of progressives. That worldview does view such things as protests as being progressive. Sensible people look back to the past to see real progress – the vote for women, blacks, all types of people who were previously actually oppressed. But now, as Dave pointed to, it’s the oppression Olympics now. This narrative is consumed by identity politics, and aims to view emphasise differences between us all, view everything in terms of (often illusory) power relationships. Every possible group that can be plausibly argued to be oppressed, is claimed to be oppressed – this time it is the immigrants, only add a touch of group-think: suddenly everything Donald Trump does is awful (and more awful than anything that has happened before.

I think they truly are progressive – only by their own definition. The key is the definition and the perception of the person considering. To the sensible person, it is regressive to view everything through the postmodern lens of oppression. But to the the progressive left (or regressive if you prefer) this is continual progress. The question is progress towards what? That is the question, but one which we seem to be slowly uncovering. We see it in last years debacles of hate speech in Australia. In America we have seen very real  in climate change issues in America: a bill which sought to make it illegal to question Climate Change and commentators get sued by climate scientists under the guise of defamation for expressing criticism of their conclusions.

It is clear that the ultimate goal for the regressive left is control: by powerful cultural and social forces, and by state control; at least of hate speech (as 18c has shown us in Australia), and climate change skepticism. A lot of the regressive ideology is discussed in the Rubin Report link at the top. How far will this desire for control go? In the absence of a more legitimate form of democracy, the only hope is to publicly support sensible policies (no, not by violent protests), and hope that there are politicians to choose from who wish to enshrine liberty, rather than succumb to totalitarianism.

 

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