Thursday, February 15, 2018

An Insider’s View: The Sinister Rigidity of Upper-Middle-Class Progressivist America (Part 3)

As a social or psychological phenomenon, progressivism began as an idealistic program of reform. Its first major appearance was in the early 1900s, and among the earlier followers of progressives like Woodrow Wilson, there were some who sincerely believed that they could benefit the nation, or even the world, with their progressive policies.

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.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

An Insider’s View: The Sinister Rigidity of Upper-Middle-Class Progressivist America (Part 2)

In the wake of the November 2016 presidential election in the United States, the ‘progressive movement’ was left in shock. Its followers did not understand how or why they had lost.

Why hadn’t the voters given an overwhelming landslide victory to the progressives? In the words of an anonymous author at the ‘Alternet’ website, many of the progressives

don't understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

The big surprise was that many African-American voters, and many Latino voters, chose to vote against Hillary Clinton. The progressives were mystified. Although Hillary styled herself as a progressive who would be a messiah for the Black and Hispanic voters, her assumptions were in fact quite racist: she assumed that African-Americans and Latinos were obliged to vote for her simply because they were African-Americans and Latinos.

This is the essence of progressive ‘identity politics’ - Hillary assumed that people vote a certain way because they belong to a racial or cultural demographic group.

It had not occurred to the progressives that people might vote based on their desires for economic opportunity or their desires for political liberty.

Progressivism contains a hidden but patronizing and condescending racism within its ideology. It assumes that Blacks and Hispanics, rather than seek opportunity in the economic sphere, should and would seek security and dependence.

Because progressivism’s assumption is wrong, Donald Trump received more African-American and Latino votes than Mitt Romney or John McCain.

To dwell among progressives is, in the words of the anonymous ‘Alternet’ author, to listen “to their political rants” and wince “at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets.” The progressives who present themselves as the ones who will end racism are in fact the ones who perpetuate racism.

A free market economy is the least racist thing in the world. It doesn’t care about the color of one’s skin; it cares about the amount of effort one produces.

Under the tutelage of progressives, American towns “go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure to a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes and a broken-down infrastructure,” as the ‘Alternet’ writer phrases it. Progressives express rage at these conditions, but don’t understand that their policies have caused it, and don’t understand that continuing their policies will only amplify the misery.

Progressives “don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.”

Instead of data about society and about the changing beliefs of voters, progressivism “has shaped most of their belief systems.” Progressives seek to redistribute wealth, and to regulate the distribution of benefits and opportunities. They failed to internalize that people - of all races, cultures, and religions - value opportunities and freedoms.

“Systems built on a” progressivist “framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, or change. When you have a belief system built on” progressivism, “it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power.”

In other words, the progressives were certain that Americans wanted them to intervene in economy, in education, and in social trends. They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, believe that voters wanted an energized economy at home, and a strong national image abroad. Progressivism

doesn’t understand itself and will never listen to anyone outside its bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use … if you are viewed as an outsider, your views will be automatically discounted.

Progressives have so thoroughly internalized their foundational assumptions that when outside voices “present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they will not even entertain the possibility that it might be true.”

For example, progressives simply can’t bring themselves to believe that poverty can be alleviated by deregulating industries - that such deregulation would spur economic growth, creating not only jobs, but jobs that pay well.

Because they can’t conceptualize such dynamics, they were mystified, and remain puzzled, at the results of the November 2016 election.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

An Insider’s View: The Sinister Rigidity of Upper-Middle-Class Progressivist America (Part 1)

In the wake of the November 2016 U.S. presidential election, an anonymous author on the ‘Alternet’ website wrote:

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

As the author notes, this analysis is at best incomplete. It is a misdirect. At worst, it’s simply wrong. President Trump received more votes from African-Americans and from Latinos than anyone expected him to receive, and he received more votes from them than any other candidate from his party (McCain or Romney) had received in decades.

Among many questions, one is this: Why did so many Blacks and Hispanics vote for Trump, especially when they were being told that Trump wasn’t their candidate?

Conversely, why did so many African-Americans and Latinos decide to vote against Hillary Clinton?

While it is true, in the words of the anonymous author, that there are “East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America,” that’s not the whole story. The larger narrative cuts across racial, regional, or class groups.

Voters of various demographic groups simply had a hard time believing that Hillary Clinton had their best interests at heart. Donald Trump spoke about revitalizing the national economy and creating jobs. He spoke of the United States as something respectable, and that, in a community of nations, the United States deserves respect.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s message to Blacks and Hispanics was that they should vote for her because they owed allegiance and loyalty to her and to her party. She demanded, expected, and assumed that they would vote for her. They responded by doing the opposite.

The argument that the Democratic Party ‘failed to understand’ the voters is incomplete. In certain situations, Hillary Clinton’s organization may have understood the voters, but either ignored them, or expected party loyalty to overcome the hardships which they were enduring.

Under the Obama administration, African-American incomes and employment reached all-time lows. African-American unemployment reached all-time highs. Hillary Clinton gave no indication that her policies would diverge from Obama’s policies.

During the first year of the Trump administration, Black employment and incomes reached all-time highs, and Black unemployment reached all-time lows. Likewise Latino unemployment reached record lows, and Latino incomes and employment reached all-time highs.

Perhaps Hillary forgot her own slogan: “It’s the economy.” Economic freedom and personal liberty do not know race, religion, region, or culture.

Trump’s simple slogans connected with a sentiment among the voters: the notion that they were tired of sacrificing their personal incomes, their net worths, and their standards of living for some vague globalist ideals promoted jointly by Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Voters were tired of being told to endure shrinking personal freedoms for the sake of some ambiguous hope or fear. The Obama-Clinton message was that the citizens should make sacrifices, not to defend the nation against some existential threat like an attacking military force, but rather to fuel dubious causes.

Trump’s uncomplicated message was that he would simply do what’s best for the nation. Trump said that he would make calculations based on measures like employment, income levels, and economic growth levels.

Although the United States has had a number of presidents who graduated from Ivy League universities, Trump is the first one to have studied economics at an Ivy League university. Perhaps some of Trump’s policies, and their successes, can be traced to the fact that he is, at heart, an economist.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hatemongering: The Politics of Irrationality

One of the paradoxes of the early twenty-first century is that the era’s rhetoric simultaneously contains self-righteous diatribes against what it calls “hate,” yet also has made it fashionable to make blatant declarations of hatred.

In 2004, a group of media personalities and celebrities joined leaders from the Progressivist movement, the Democratic Party, and the Leftist political scene to contribute to an anthology titled The I Hate George W. Bush Reader. The book was devoted, not to disagreeing with President Bush or with his policies, but rather to personal animus.

This book followed on the heels of 2003’s The Bush-Hater’s Handbook.

Yet the authors, contributors, and editors of these books proclaimed themselves to be standing in opposition to hate.

One might begin to ask for a clarified definition of the word ‘hate.’

The rhetoric of hate in the media manifested itself in a pattern of expressing the hope that someone - President Bush, Vice President Cheney, etc. - would be assassinated. Such expressions were often disguised as jokes, allowing the speaker the ready-made excuse that it was “merely a jest.”

But the pattern continued, as the Washington Post published an editorial in 2016 titled I Hate Donald Trump. But He Might Get My Vote.

There is an internal contradiction in the news media, sometimes called the “mainstream” media, as it loudly proclaims its opposition to hate, and at the same time expresses passionate hatred toward anyone it opposes.

The establishment media and those it controls - the Democratic party, the Leftists generally, and the Progressivist movement - “are the ones who use Nazi bullying and intimidation tactics and subscribe to a full-blown fascist ideology,” notes historian Dinesh D’Souza.

Thus events described as rallies against hate are in fact hate-filled rioters. The word “protester” is systematically substituted for “rioter” in various reports. As D’Souza explains,

The self-styled opponents of hate are the actual practitioners of the politics of hate. Through a process of transference, leftists blame their victims for being and doing what they themselves are and do.

As often happens in political conflicts, language itself is hijacked. Consider the key vocabulary words: hate, protest, and riot.

The rhetoric escalates. Harsher and harsher terms are used. Eventually a fascist movement emerges and labels itself “Antifa,” meaning ‘anti-fascist.’ D’Souza notes that

In a sick inversion, the real fascists in American politics masquerade as anti-fascists and accuse the real anti-fascists of being fascists.

In a media age in which information is reduced to a 140-character or 280-character ‘tweet,’ or to a 20-second soundbite, readers and viewers can be misled into thinking that “Antifa” is an anti-fascist organization, especially when the establishment media fails to report that organizers of Antifa rallies regularly arrive with knives and baseball bats to conduct their peaceful anti-hate events.

Consumers of news media must carefully consider and ask who is truly on the side of individual political liberty.

Enlightened Politics, Enlightenment Politics

Modern political liberty, usually residing in the structure of freely-elected representatives, is based on a view of the relationship between society and government. That view articulates human rationality as the foundation for voting and political decisions.

British philosopher John Locke (1632 - 1704) and his writings can serve as an icon for this perspective.

Given that all people seek the same things - life, liberty, and a chance to explore their opportunities in terms of personal creativity and diligence. People want security for themselves, for their friends and family, and for their possessions. People want opportunities to see what their creativity and diligence can accomplish.

In addition to Locke, versions of this view were advanced by Edmund Burke (1727 - 1797), an Anglo-Irish thinker, and by Americans Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809), Samuel Adams (1722 - 1803), James Otis (1725 - 1783), and Patrick Henry (1736 - 1799).

Historians sometimes use the phrase “The Age of Enlightenment” to label the era in which these individuals lived.

Enlightenment politics is based, then, on those things which are common to all human beings. All people have a baseline capability for rational thought, and all people share certain basic desires.

In a republic governed by freely-elected representatives, the majority will express itself in voting, and in so doing, will manifest a common human attitude, rather than the attitude of some select small group.

This ‘Enlightened’ political thinking stands in opposition to ‘identity’ politics.

According to the ‘politics of identity,’ voters should vote based on some distinguishing feature which marks them as part of a distinct subgroup. Motivated by “identity politics,” voters should vote, not based on common human traits, like the desire for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but rather voters should vote on what separates them from others, e.g., race, gender, religion, etc.

So there is a clear tension between “enlightenment politics” and the “politics of identity.”

The twenty-first century voter, then, is confronted with two alternatives: either one can vote as a rational human being, valuing those things which all humans value - life, liberty, and economic opportunity - or one can vote based on one’s membership in a demographic category - race, gender, ethnicity, etc.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

An Inconsistent Effort: Resisting the Soviet Threat

The years of the Cold War, roughly 1946 to 1990, were marked by a curious asymmetry: the nations of liberty in western Europe and North America seemed sometimes hesitant, unsure of themselves, and ready for compromise.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, mainland China, and the international communist conspiracy were steady, unwavering, and clearly focused on their goal. As Soviet leader Khrushchev stated while speaking to representatives of western European NATO nations, “we will bury you.”

While the USSR was intent on ending liberty, some American leaders hoped that it would be possible to turn the communists into friends by helping them. This led to paradoxical behavior: sending various forms of material aid to a power structure which could never, and would never, desire anything except for the destruction of the personal and political freedoms which constitute the United States.

In 1964, John Stormer wrote:

The examples are endless. The failure of Russian agriculture has historically been communism’s weakest “link.”

As agricultural efforts in the Warsaw Pact countries, and other communist states around the world, persistently failed, hunger threatened to destabilize the communist dictatorship.

Thus unsettled, the oppressed people in those dictatorships might have a chance to throw off the shackles of tyranny. The failure of agriculture in the Soviet Socialist regions might undermine the harsh reign of totalitarianism and create an opportunity for freedom.

The worst thing that could happen to the oppressed victims of communism would be for someone to enable the communists by propping up their agricultural systems by means of artificially discounted grain imports.

But some political leaders in the United States hoped to lessen the human suffering in the USSR and simultaneously encourage friendly relations with the communists - and they hoped to do this with offers of cheap grain.

“So, in 1961,” Stormer goes on to write, an Ohio Congressman named D.L. Latta could inform his constituents that

Officials in the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Commerce Department agreed to sell surplus wheat to the Soviet Union for $.62 per bushel less than the baker who bakes your bread pays for it. Only quick action by an awakening public stopped this folly which would have supplied wheat to ease food shortages and the resultant unrest against the communists in the Soviet Union. The officials who initiated the program are still holding responsible government positions.

Congressman Latta’s statement shows how well-intentioned efforts to ease human suffering actually supported the regime which cause the suffering.

So it was that ordinary American taxpayers ended up funding homicidal totalitarians like Khrushchev and Castro. Some U.S. diplomats thought that support from America would somehow change the minds of dictators who committed a nearly endless string of human rights violations. As Stormer notes,

Much American aid to communists is hidden in U.S. grants to the United Nations and its specialized agencies. For example, the United Nations Special Fund is giving Castro, the communist dictator of Cuba, funds to bolster his agricultural programs. The American who heads the fund, Paul Hoffman, approved the grant, and the U.S. taxpayer is paying 40% of the total bill of $1.6-million. The grant was made just after the attempted invasion of Cuba failed in April 1961.

Happily, despite such well-intentioned but wrong-headed actions, there were enough American policy makers who saw the communists accurately. Over the decades of the Cold War, the U.S. took a stand, even if inconsistently, to defend personal freedom, to defend individual political liberty, and to defend property rights.

The American stance was solid enough eventually to cause the USSR to bankrupt itself, as it finally did by 1990/1991, and collapse its economy by trying to keep parity with U.S. weapons technology.

The Soviets spent themselves into an economic breakdown by attempting to keep pace with U.S. defense technology development.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

U.S. Cold War Policy: Intermittently Self-Defeating

Between 1946 and 1990, U.S. policies were, to say the least, inconsistent. From FDR’s apparent friendly trust in Stalin’s agreements to Harry Truman’s discovery of the Soviet menace, from containment to rollback, America took different approaches at different times - and occasionally different approaches at the same time.

In 1964, scholar John Stormer identified these inconsistencies. Beyond merely being inconsistent, however, he notes that these policy quirks were not even in America’s best interests.

Quoting from the Congressional Record, Human Events magazine, and a New York Times News Service wire story printed in the Dallas Morning News, Stormer, writing in 1964, highlights the contradictions in American Cold War policy:

Nikita Khrushchev has said that peaceful coexistence involves peaceful economic competition. Our leaders agree, and place great emphasis on this aspect of the cold war in urging disarmament. Why then has the United States ...

... supplied nuclear reactors to the communist government of Czechoslovakia, railway equipment to Bulgaria, chemical plants to Yugoslavia, and synthetic rubber plants to Soviet Russia? Why has America given Russia the machinery to produce the precision batl bearings used in the guided missiles they “rattle” during every international crisis?

Why has America built the world’s most modern, most highly automated steel finishing plant for the communist government of Poland? Constructed in Warren, Ohio, the plant was dedicated as the Lenin Steel Works by the U. S. Ambassador to Poland in July 1961. The American people “lent” the communists $2.5-million to pay for it.

John Stormer presents these discrepancies. Behind them lies a question: are they the result of incompetence or malice? Are they the result of good intentions warped by naive miscalculations? Or are they the result of a deliberate effort to weaken the United States?

In the half-century which has elapsed since Stormer’s publication, elements of both have come to light: some of these actions were the result of well-intentioned efforts, others were the fruit of Soviet operatives who managed to nudge policy makers into bad decisions.

Despite such clumsy moves, and despite communist moles inside the United States, Soviet Socialism finally collapsed under weight of its own economic mismanagement, no longer able to keep paying for the military technology it needed to keep pace with NATO.