What is progressivism?

Equality is the root of [progressive] Democratic policies seeking to create conditions by which the greatest number of Americans are liberated to a degree they can achieve the greatest good on their own. Medicare for all. Progressive taxation. Equal justice. Climate change. The pandemic. Policy after policy strives to make room for most of everyone’s interests, though perhaps not the sum total of everyone’s interests. You don’t need to exhort Biden and the Democrats to “reach out to almost half of the electorate,” as Adam Bjorndahl, associate professor of philosophy at Carnegie Mellon, did. You might sound reasonable in doing so. You might even sound like an advocate for compromise. But what you are really doing is defining liberalism from the right-flank of history.

You’re also misunderstanding why Republicans oppose equality. The GOP, more than corporate power, represents ordered power. God over Man. Men over women. Parents over children. White over black. This hierarchy is not just preferable, it’s natural. It’s God’s will. Efforts by women to be treated equally to men, for instance, are not only offensive, they’re perverse. They can’t be tolerated. In a very real sense, equality is theft to the conservative mind. And theft, as you know, is punishable by law. Nearly everything about the Republican Party’s project finds its source in defense of the hierarchy of power. Equality is not an objective worth sacrificing for. It’s a crime.

Defeating equality, however, is worth sacrificing for, even your life. Hence the reason Trump won 72 million votes amid a pandemic that has killed nearly a quarter million Americans. Hence the reason why Republican-led states rejected Obamacare. Sure, the law would have liberated millions from the oppression of being chained to a desk job, but that meant helping people who didn’t “deserve” it. And by “deserve,” of course, I’m talking about Black people and people of color. Any law putting them on equal footing with white people is to be opposed wholesale, even if such opposition leads to death.

I get the impulse. “Now is the time for every Biden supporter to reach out to one person who voted for Trump,” wrote Ian Bremmer the other day. “Empathize with them. Tell them you know how they feel (you do, from 2016). Come up with one issue you can agree on.” All that’s jim-dandy. It might work in part. But you can’t help people who won’t help themselves. You can’t reach out to people who slap your hand away. You can’t compromise with people who will kill themselves to defeat you.

All you can do is achieve liberal goals, and hope they snap out of it later.

~ John Stoehr

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