In my youth, it was possible to have cordial and even friendly relations with people in the Progressive cult. I spent many hours debating my lefty friends over drinks, about the defects of various central planning schemes. Anyone my age or older remembers the way these debates would go. One side talked about economic justice for the working class, while the other side talked about the glory of free markets. Usually, the “right-winger” would bring up the Soviets, as an example of the failures of central planning and socialism.
Often, one side or the other would get mad, but it was rarely personal. People get hot in political debates, mostly because we are social animals. Conflict with people inside our group vexes us. It makes us uncomfortable. That was the thing. Liberals and non-liberals could operate in the same peer group. The reason is the Left and Right back then, agreed on the goals. Both sides wanted prosperity. The Left believed socialism produced equitable plenty, while the Right believed a rising tide lifted all boats.
Thinking back, a strange thing happened in the 1990’s, with regards to my own debates with lefty friends and acquaintances. The debates in the 90’s were almost all about the peculiar personal lives of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The Right was always scandal mongering and the Left was conjuring novel defenses for the degeneracy of Bill Clinton and the personal corruption of Hillary. These revolved around Red Team/Blue Team scat fights, that had little to do with policy or ideology. It was just ritualized tribal warfare.
That changed instantly with the 2000 election. All of my lefty friends and acquaintances went insane overnight. They hated Bush with the intensity of a fanatic. The wars made it impossible to have a discussion with the Left, outside of things like the weather. Granted, many of us were naive about the lunacy of the neocons and what they were planning, but the Left’s opposition was never more than shrieking madness. How does one debate someone who thinks Halliburton controls the weather and attacked New Orleans?
I remember thinking my lefty friends would return to sanity after Bush left office, but that never happened. A few stopped foaming at the mouth, but for the most part, they crossed into a realm from which there is no return. In the Obama years, they went from one peculiar fad to the next. One week it was homosexual marriage, while the next week it was claims about sex being a social construct. There’s simply no discussion, much less debating, the racial and sexual utopia that is now the center of the Progressive cult.
Looking back, it’s useful to think about the fight between the official Left and the official Right as a set piece battle on an agreed upon battlefield. At the center of both lines was economics. The Right had religious archers and the constitutional conservatives on the flanks, but the center of the army was formed around economic issues. Similarly, the Left had race hustlers, second and third wave feminists on the flanks, but their main line troops, the center of the line, were economic Utopians. They were the main army.
The collapse of the Soviet Union had an enormous impact on the ruling classes of the West. In America, it meant the center of the Progressive army broke and fled in all directions. The flanks, however, the racial justice warriors, the gender dragoons and exotic identity battalions rushed into the center, forming a new main line of the Left. The Right, despite carrying the day, was too busy setting up battlefield trophies to notice that the Left had reformed around sexual and racial fanatics, so they promptly surrendered.
A curious thing is happening to this new center of the Progressive battle line. Their moral certainty about the innate equality of man and his infinite malleability, is crumbling in the face of scientific reality. The release of David Reich’s book is the latest direct hit on Boasian anthropology. The response from the soft sciences, which has been a key intellectual authority for the blank slate Progressives, looks like a panicked flight from the battle field. They simply have no answer to what genetic research is revealing about man.
The tent pole holding up modern Progressivism is the assertion that all humans are essentially the same and that the observable differences are trivial. All of the Left’s arguments spring from that belief. It’s why they insist the magic of white privilege is the reason black crime is so high or rape culture is why girls don’t go into STEM fields at the same rate as boys. In other words, magic is a plausible answer, as long as reality is ruled out as an option. Biological realism explodes the center of Progressive theology.
That’s what we see happening all over the human sciences. Twenty years ago, some guy in a cardigan could claim that racism was learned behavior and their was no biological basis for race. He could be held up as an intellectual authority and therefore, a moral authority. Genetics is undermining the intellectual authority of those preaching cultural anthropology, multiculturalism and the blank slate. The main line of the Progressive army is suddenly looking like a bunch of primitives chanting oogily-boogily.
It’s tempting to say I’m getting ahead of myself, but we have millions of people relying on DNA services to map their ancestry. Genetics is promising new cures for disease and soon, people will be able to get their intellectual destiny for $50. It will not be long before some clever fertility lab begins offering bespoke artificial insemination, using donors with desirable traits, based on their genetics. There’s some of that happening now. People are becoming habituated to the idea that humans are different, because of biology, not culture.
The question, of course, is where does the Left go now. In the late 19th and early 20th century, what we call Progressivism was mostly a Protestant crusade. In the 20th century, they shifted to embracing the economic utopianism of socialism, with racial and sexual politics as side acts. For the last three decades, the dream of sexual and racial utopias has been the dominant theme of the Left. Once the blank slate is broken on the wheel of biological reality, what comes next? What replaces the center of the line?
The answer could be nothing. There are many currents to American history, but the dominant one is what John Derbyshire calls the Cold Civil War. It is our inheritance from the mother country. The story of America has been the good whites and bad whites, the Roundheads and Cavaliers, fighting for control of the country. It’s also a conflict of visions, where the Roundheads always embraced extreme egalitarianism, while the Right has embraced the natural hierarchy of man. Maybe the end is a Cavalier victory after all.