Monday, November 14, 2016

"What Progressives Got Wrong"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“What Progressives Got Wrong”
November 14, 2016

“Trump’s Victory Challenges the Global Liberal Order”
                                                                                    Headline, “Financial Times”
                                                                                    November 10, 2016

Methinks the FT got it backward. The headline should have read: “Trump’s Victory May Restore the Global Liberal Order.” Because the “global liberal order” has eroded. Slowly, insidiously but certainly, individual liberties have diminished, as the state has assumed increasing responsibilities and as more people have become dependent on it. The inference is that the FT would have been pleased to have seen a continuation of the Obama policies of greater government involvement in the economy, and a concomitant decline in freedom – usurped by regulatory agencies, Executive Orders and political correctness. The headline reflects the failure of elites to understand why they lost. This decline in liberty is sad, for it was in Britain that modern liberalism first appeared – Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill – all men from whose message we have strayed.

While classical liberalism is fundamental to our success as a nation, economies have undergone a seismic shift. Technology, communication and globalization have fundamentally changed the way goods and services are produced, delivered and consumed. For a large number of Americans, certainty has been replaced with uncertainty, optimism by pessimism, hope by fear. Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” has done enough damage to the economy without making it worse with putative regulations.  While progressives concern themselves with issues like protecting students from uncomfortable speech, transgender bathrooms and an elusive and amorphous desire for equality, millions of Americans are focused on surviving. It is not only roofs to protect them and food to sustain them that are needed, it is the sense of dignity and self-sufficiency that comes from work. It is not that the foci of progressives are unimportant, but that their priorities pale in comparison to the more fundamental need of people – jobs.

How ironic it was, after the election, that schools across the country felt a need to comfort children supposedly traumatized by the election of Donald Trump! How unsurprising it was that political correctness reared its hypocritical head on the nation’s campuses. On Wednesday morning, for example, the director of the Intercultural Engagement Center at Virginia Tech e-mailed the following: “Good morning students, colleagues, friends. Many in our community, and many among us, are waking up with fear, anxiety, concern, questions, and confusion among other emotions.” The University of Michigan provided Play-Doh and crayons to students too upset to attend class. Yale made exams and class attendance optional. Cornell offered a campus-wide “cry-in.” We are raising a generation of spoiled brats. One hundred and thirty-two million Americans voted in a democratically-held election. Are we incapable of accepting the results? Schools and colleges could (and should) have used the opportunity to celebrate the fact that the American people voted, not as they were told to by the media or governmental elites, not as pollsters suggested, and not as teachers and administrators preferred, but as they saw fit. Even the columnist David Brooks, normally a voice of reason, referred to this “horrific election result.” Trump has faults, but he is not Beelzebub. The words and the actions of these whiners show contempt for the American voter.

Despite unemployment declining by half over the past eight years, workforce participation has reached forty-year lows. There is no question as to the value and necessity of welfare, which the federal government amply provides, but regulations and tax policies have stymied job creation. Progressives prefer coddling to discipline, moral relativism to proven, age-old values. They believe the state, in the form of Washington bureaucrats, know better than the individual, family members and those in communities and neighborhoods. They have ignored the importance of self-respect and dignity that comes through work. A decline in the cohesiveness of communities, deteriorating family formations, and an increase in drug and alcohol abuse are, in part, a result of a lack of work. Dignity’s nemesis is idleness, an unintended (and unrecognized) consequence of social welfare. And idleness leads to a lack of self-respect. I don’t pretend to know the right balance, only that the current system is working in ways opposite to what was intended. Keep in mind, the only demographic in the U.S. where mortality rates have increased is in middle-aged, white people. Suicide, drug overdoses and Cirrhosis are the principal causes. A lack of purpose in life is a primary cause. Over the past fifty years, according to Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Men Without Work, the percentage of working-aged men outside the workforce has increased from 10% to 22%, with millions more underemployed.

Progressives condemn Trump’s vulgarity, but surround themselves with entertainers like Beyonce, J-Zee, Miley Cyrus and the Kardashians, hoping to appeal to their millions of Twitter followers, but ignoring the fact these media Stars live lives alien to the average person – in gated communities, immune from scary inner-city streets, failing schools and apart from the despair of poverty-stricken rural America. While Trump’s words about women and minorities were widely, and rightly, condemned, there was little criticism about the crude words and phrases embedded in the lyrics of those who get a pass because of their progressive leanings. I hope the election was a condemnation of this culture, and that it foretold a restoration of respect for businesses like Hobby Lobby and institutions like the Little Sisters of the Poor, and for the work done by Charter Schools to provide choice to inner-city minority students. I would like to think it will encourage those like Amy Schumer, Whoopi Goldberg and Jon Stewart to fulfil their promises to emigrate.

Corruption and self-dealing, as was made clear in the exposure of the Clinton Foundation, underlie sanctimonious Washington elites. The Augean Stables, if not cleansed, will become filthier – a swamp that needs “draining,” is the way Donald Trump put it. It was not investigative reporters from traditional news sources that uncovered this hotbed of cronyism; it was WikiLeaks. This election showed the power and ubiquity of the internet. We will not return to a time when all Americans tuned in to a Walter Cronkite. We will never again get our news from only three television sources. The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post have lost one third of their subscribers over the past two decades. The Huffington Post and Breitbart, individually, have more readers than those three newspapers combined.

People must believe they have a chance, in a future that appears bleak. They must feel they can flourish in a world they cannot grasp. Progressives let them down. Post-election reports in mainstream newspapers and magazines like The Economist suggest they still don’t understand what happened. Mea culpas and soul searching are not part of their curricula vitae. Instead, they continue a Walter Mitty-like existence – day dreaming, while listening only to themselves, believing what they want to believe.

For President Trump to prevail, he must be optimistic; he must give people hope. He must be principled, but willing to compromise; respectful of his opponents, but steadfast in his ideas; tough with enemies and steady with allies. His job will not be easy, but he can succeed. Let us hope he does.

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