At some point, however, a segment within the progressive movement began to operate rather cynically, maintaining the rhetoric of political reform, social reform, and economic reform, but using that wording to cover their motives of self-interest.
The cynics within the progressive movement could exploit their more naive fellows.
Although progressivism did manage to implement some of its policies during various segments of American political history, it did not achieve consistent power: Coolidge was able to restore fiscal balance after Wilson’s excesses; Reagan was able to moderate some of Carter’s more bizarre actions.
Even during those time periods in which progressives managed to hold power and enforce their policies, they did not obtain the results they sought. Wilson’s extreme intervention into the economy didn’t bring about the benefits he hoped to obtain.
Over the course of the twentieth century, progressivism became frustrated, and frustration led to anger. Fear joined anger: fear that the progressive agenda would not be implemented or would not succeed if implemented. Additionally, progressivist propaganda generated fear in order to prompt the voters to embrace progressivism, warning the voters about some looming disaster which could be avoided only by adopting progressivist policies.
Characterized by fear and anger, later versions of progressivism operated mainly by catastrophizing and demonizing: to adopt progressive policies was to avoid a catastrophe; to reject progressive policies or candidates was a catastrophe. Candidates or policies which were not progressive were not merely wrong, they were evil, and had to be opposed at all costs.
Cynics who fostered fear and anger; fear and anger leading to catastrophization and demonization: the electorate seemed to grow weary of this version of progressivism.
By November 2016, the voters saw Hillary Clinton as someone who promoted fear and anger, and who relied on that fear and anger to fuel her political activities. Whether or not Hillary herself was an angry person didn’t matter. Voters perceived that she needed and wanted the voters to be angry and afraid, and that she was working to ensure that they were.
Whether or not she had goals and a vision, Hillary was perceived as a candidate who was primarily “against” something, and who did not have a constructive or affirmative vision for the nation’s future. She didn’t communicate specific policy goals, although she may have had them posted on her campaign’s website.
By contrast, Donald Trump, despite his rhetorical flaws, projected a positive vision for the nation’s future and specific policy goals.
The progressive establishment co-opts and subverts educational institutions as one of its primarily vehicles. This has led to a skepticism among voters about some aspects of education. The influence of progressivism on schools, colleges, and universities is a complex phenomenon which would require a longer narrative than will be presented here. But because of progressivist influences, certain segments of the educational establishment have lost credibility in the minds of the voters.
The “insider’s view” of one who lives and works a community filled primarily with progressive voters reveals that they are often rather nice and friendly people, but they find it nearly impossible to entertain certain ideas.
Many progressives cannot believe, e.g., that anything brought forth under the title “tax cut” can be beneficial to middle-income and lower-income citizens. For the progressive, it is an article of faith that “tax cut” is always an excuse to line pockets of those who are already wealthy, and to do so at the expense of the poor. Despite any empirical or mathematical evidence, the progressive cannot, and will not, consider the possibility that tax cuts allow middle-income and lower-income citizens to retain more of their own hard-earned wages.
Likewise, progressives largely believe that any form of deregulation cannot have beneficial effects. They are incapable of entertaining even the possibility that deregulation of certain industries could create well-paying jobs and lift people out of poverty.
Reason would not demand, of course, that progressives accept ideas which are contrary to their own ideology. But reason would demand that they at least understand or explore such ideas, if for no other reason than to produce counterarguments. Instead, progressives reject such ideas out of hand, as if they are a priori identifiable as nonsensical gibberish.