Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The Implosion of the Left: Diagnosing a Troubling Record of Public Engagement


“You push back on them. Tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere!” California Congresswoman Maxine Waters stood gesticulating in the midst of a crowd of supporters in Los Angeles, whipping up emotions against Republicans. She belted a voice developed over five years in Washington — poised and confident, knowing well what sort of waves her words would create. Stumping alone on the far-Left Coast, Ms. Waters’ aggression echoed the boiling sentiment of millions of progressive Americans, enraged at our country’s current circumstances.

Although the rhetoric of Ms. Waters and her allies may seem unnecessarily provocative, even dangerous, the truth is that it is all too predictable. How human beings view consciousness, origin, and nature have unavoidable influence over how we respond to social developments, and nowhere is this more publicly displayed than in today’s progressive politics. Most of the American Left’s apoplectic rage in the “Age of Trump” finds its natural roots in a basic misunderstanding of human nature and subsequently misplaced faith in progress. As this worldview continues to decay, we can only expect to see such outbursts of anger continue.

But first, let’s take a step back: What is the progressive ideology? Progressives see mankind — err humankind — as starting from a basically good, untarnished baseline, only to be corrupted by the structure into which each generation is born. By striving to change human nature or, indeed, argue away the existence of such a thing as nature, progressive ideology enforces a sort of imposed moral Darwinism, increasingly liberal in its mindset. Through collective redefinition and action, organized and imposed by the state, society’s moral ills (or moral traditions, depending on perspective) can be flushed out of culture, and each generation encounters fewer impediments to its untainted state. In sum, the Left seeks for a centralized authority to drag humankind toward what it considers to be social justice at any given time. Leftist progressive leaders follow a path, created in classrooms, intended to bring every generation to the promised land of vegan milk and bee-less honey. Humanity is on an inevitable march toward secular self-actualization: utopia is always only one generation away from realization. All hail the coming Ubermensch.

However, today, in what critics love to refer to as the “Age of Trump,” the Left finds itself in a predicament. While this is partially due to the President’s contentious politics, it is more generally due to the energizing of conservative policies and rhetoric that have stayed somewhat dormant over past decades. A line has been drawn. Suddenly, the Leftist march toward secular self-actualization has been slowed and its alternative has risen stronger. The essence of the Leftist worldview has consequently been turned on its head. To an ideological progressive, this stymieing of moral evolution is incomprehensible. After all, the movement has come to see moral and social construction as part and parcel with scientific advancement. We can picture the Whovian daleks now, quaking, sparks flying, unable to cope with this challenge to their nature. Consequently, progressives are left with one unifying strategy: “Exterminate. Exterminate.” The Leviathan has lost its collective, centrally-planned mind.

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It would seem as if there is no moderation. Americans with conservative views who would have been considered tolerable or even mainstream a few years ago are now viewed by the Left as fascists and Nazis. Donald Trump is Hitler. Longstanding detention centers for illegal immigrants are now akin to Auschwitz. Judge Brett Kavanaugh will turn The Handmaid’s Tale into an American reality. National officials should be sought out and accosted wherever they might venture.

To the Left, faced with this amplification of emotions, no reaction is an overreaction. Democracy is a license to kill. After all, to them, the entire trajectory of world history is at stake here…now…in this Presidency…with this or that piece of legislation. The furor of a frustrated worldview has blown open the floodgates of weaponized dissent.

When social preservation gives way to an attempt at re-creation, rot sets in. Social structures crumble and institutions collapse, even while uniformity masquerading as diversity places humans in straight jackets. Order pays the price of what an elite class of sheltered intellectuals propagate as progress.

Set this against the conservative, Judeo-Christian, Western perspective on human nature. This worldview is grounded in the belief that every human is born with a depraved nature that must be checked and fostered within a social order guided by unchanging moral values and standards of conduct. Angela Merkel was born with the same capacity for evil as Adolf Hitler, as were Julius Caesar, Kublai Khan, and St. Paul. Every generation must deal equally with the realities of depravity, exhibited in different ways by different people in different times. Thus, the standard for conduct is not a product of the environment or era, but rather of some guiding hand of order that transcends time and quells humanity’s worst instincts. Progress is only that which can be obtained within a static moral framework.

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Let me be clear: conservatives have their own problems and abuses. These will never be excusable. But conservatives have an explanation — something the Left lost when it cut loose its anchors, believing that the coming waves would carry them to some inevitably better place, not crush them.

Well, the wave has come; and all is chaos.

Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Ross Hougham

Ross Hougham works for the American Principles Project.

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