I was reading the comments of this post on National Review and one exchange caught my attention. Someone calling himself wrote:
Boy I hope you’re right. I’m a Jim Webb Democrat myself, but, at least from my Facebook feed it’s a Bernie Sanders party. I won’t vote Republican, so I’m stuck. The degree to which I wish we were a multiparty system is not small.
To the comment about never voting Republicans someone asks why and the answer was:
Because I’m a liberal. If I were a Mainer, I might, *might*, vote for one of the Maine ladies, but even there, probably not. I don’t want conservatives in charge of the country, and though I know it doesn’t seem so to you, the GOP seems very conservative to me. If you want the specific issues I care about I’m happy to go into them, but I doubt that level of navel gazing is all that interesting.
A common characteristic of all mass movements is that the people in them spend little time talking about their movement to people outside them. Inevitably this results in a bunch of insider jargon and even a redefinition of common words such that they carry special meaning to those inside versus those outside. It’s not deliberate or by design, it just happens and to the people inside it is perfectly logical.
To those on the outside, the people inside the movement seem a bit nutty, maybe even dangerous. If you are not immersed in progressive politics, that guy’s belief that the Republicans are very conservative sounds hysterical. Within my lifetime the ideological center of the country was well to the Right of Ted Cruz, the fringe right wing of the current GOP. Charlie Wilson, the Texas Democrat who got stinger missiles to the Afghans in the 1980’s, was a typical moderate a generation ago.
The fact that the country has moved steadily left over the last 30 years is hardly news. What got my attention about that guy’s comment is that he identifies as a liberal, but he rejects Bernie Sanders. Outside The Hive, people think Sanders is just a concentrated version of a liberal, but inside they see him as an anachronism, a guy whose ideas no longer carry much meaning.
What we’re seeing in the current Democrat primary is how American Progressivism has moved away from economics entirely in favor of the spiritual issues of The New Religion. The modern Progressive cares more about the feelings of the homosexuals than the cost of living for the working class. In fact, Progressives have embraced the same technocratic corporatism that has infected what we call conservatives.
The singular focus of the modern liberal is scrubbing the sins of western civilization from society. It manifests in different ways, but the overarching impulse is to seek salvation through self-abnegation, with the self being defined narrowly or broadly. President Obama runs around apologizing to the third world for Western colonialism, while TN Coates writes gassy articles about the sins of racism he witnessed at the mall.
When I was in college, Sanders was a common figure on campus. His argument is a math argument. The math is nutty, but it is still an argument from math. Change the laws in such a way and we get prosperity to such a degree that no one goes without, every need is met. Bernie genuinely believes he can seize the assets of the billionaires and cure poverty.
The New Religion, as I’m fond of calling it, is indifferent to these issues.They see poor people as fat and lazy, stuffing their fat faces with Big Macs while watching daytime TV. That’s what the new Progressive cares about, the soul of that poor slob, not his food budget. The post-scarcity liberal wants to use the state to put the poor on treadmills and Prozac so they can be slim and beautiful, in communion with the brotherhood of man.
The beauty of the spiritual path over the economic path for the Left is that there are no pesky facts in the spiritual fight. Once the poor start getting fat, there’s no real need to rob the rich on their behalf. But there are always souls to be saved, sinners to be harassed, witches to be burned.