Progressive Orthodoxy

Pink wrote a recent post regarding “birthright ideology,” that is, the idea of social rankings based on one’s birth. These social rankings never fully disappeared – despite nominal changes in government since the 18th century. They’re familiar structures that let people know where they are in the pecking order, who they must bow to, and who must bow to them. Promoting these structures is the basis for this New York Times article by Chris Hayes, his charge being that Trump appeals to people who desire such antiquated social ideologies.

Hayes’s article struck me as a little unintentionally ironic.
To be completely fair, Mr. Hayes has an opinion show on MSNBC, which puts him as the left’s equivalent role to someone like Sean Hannity on the right. Opinion shows more recently reflect the spin that either side of the political spectrum wishes to present to the public. While some opinion anchors might play more fast and loose with facts than others, the most important thing to remember is that these opinion shows are means of persuasion more than information.

With that understanding in mind, Hayes’s article does something not unlike what Hillary Clinton did in India: paint those outside the orthodox tribe as being somehow less-than fully respectable people. I’m not suggesting that people have to have their ideas respected at all costs here, just that there seems to be this attachment of moral failing for no other reason than voting for the current President. It ignores a larger picture at the expense of, well, facts.

But it’s not entirely unexpected.
I was originally going to write this post as a comment in reply to Pink, but it quickly became too long winded. I think he’s right that religious voters will support anyone who they believe will reinforce their values, even if they violate those values themselves. Questioning this state of affairs is important, because it’s how unfair and unjust social structures perpetuate themselves. They rely on repetition without thought.

The left, I think, is establishing its own set of orthodoxy in response to the right. It has a different nature, but the goal is the same: establish political enemies as the lowest rung in a social ladder. If you agree with policy, you can be called “progressive.” Disagree, and you’re just a pessimist living in backwards territory.

Policies on the left can and do neglect people who disagree with their values. Instead of actively discriminating against immigrants, there’s a passive policy of not helping people in need. One good example of this is policy regarding coal miners. Those policies encouraged the economy to move away from using coal, but they didn’t do much to replace the jobs and resources of people working in the industry. Just like Romney laying off an entire business and then selling it for parts, coal miners were facing the bleak prospect of not being able to provide for their families.

Whether you’re talking about not renewing DACA applications or not helping tobacco farmers find less cancerous crops to grow, you’re talking about denying access to resources. Somebody loses because the people making the decisions don’t favor one group over another. It’s easy to paint things as a game where someone has to lose, instead of trying to find a way for everyone to win.

These policies are not inherent moral failings.
Government has to do right by everyone; it is a foundation of the Enlightenment. The whole reason why we’re not hunter-gatherers dying at age 18 because of the common cold is because we can form institutions larger than other animals. If we don’t do right by everyone, then the whole point of the exercise is lost. This is why birthright ideologies and group coercion are not good things.

Similarly, not everything done out of ignorance is a moral failing. Sometimes it means that a point isn’t made with some people. Failing to make one’s point doesn’t mean the other person is being disingenuous. Even if they are, we still operate under the theory that such people need to be treated equally as anyone else. This is really tough to do in practice.

10 thoughts on “Progressive Orthodoxy

  1. Except for this article I’d never heard of Chris Hayes before, so the post wasn’t an endorsement of him or his views in general – but I did like how he seemed to recognise the identity vs. action phenomena (which he put in slightly different and more partisan terms.)
    The reason I drew the link between patriarchy, religion and this was that if we take a few steps back to look, we see machines that operate in very, very similar ways. Whether it’s North Korea or the Mafia, Communist Russia, Mormonism or Scientology, we can identify various (dangerous) patterns. For example loyalty is more important than ethics. Submission is more important than questioning. In fact questioning is frowned on. And hierarchy underpins everything.
    Of course you’re right that it’s essentially not really a left/right issue, but it becomes one as soon as the policies of either side are based on those principles. Whether that’s people defending Clinton despite his questionable behaviour with Lewinsky; defending Ted Kennedy in the Chappaquiddick affair; or defending Trump in any number of dubious situations 🙂

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    • I personally think you did a better job of articulating the idea than Hayes did. Right now I think we’re talking so much about the right because they seem to be moving in places like the US and the UK. That said, there’s a big chance the pendulum will swing left soon in the US.

      I could be writing about this a bit prematurely, I think. But it’s something that’s been rattling around in my head for a while.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can not understand the idea of a dying industry needing to be propped up rather than alternative work solutions found. Coal is dying, the mine owners have admitted this. Coal jobs are not coming back and they shouldn’t. It is a negative on the environment. The people should be offered retraining and job assistance as you say. The problem in my mind is the people voted against their own interests. Hillary had a the programs needed to get people in coal countries into other forms of work. But the people couldn’t see themself doing anything else and wanted what they couldn’t have. They bought a promise that cannot be fulfilled instead of what would have helped them. Hugs

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    • While I agree with you to a point … I tend to disagree with this: But the people couldn’t see themself doing anything else .

      IMO, it isn’t so much they couldn’t see doing anything else as much as it was they didn’t want to do anything else. It’s one of those ongoing “family traditions” that many are simply unable to walk away from. My great-great grandad did it, my great-granded did it, my grand-dad did it, my dad did it, and by gum, I’m going to follow the family tradition (even if it kills me)!

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      • I can understand what you are saying, but then those people for some reason couldn’t see that what they wanted to do was a thing that there was no need or cause for. They were the closest to the industry and must have seen sales going away at a rapid rate. Coal getting harder to find. The knowledge that fossil fuels are not replenishing and will run out is rather well known. I once trained for computer repair. It is a job I like and can do well. Unfortunately for me when the economic crash happened we had people with high degrees in computer design moving into the field. People like me with no degree had trouble matching them and lost out. I seen the writing on the wall and moved to another field that had more openings for me. I did not enjoy it as much, but it was the only way to deal with reality. Hugs


      • BUT Scottie … you weren’t doing computer repair because generations before you did it.

        What you have to realize is these people are so stuck in tradition they are (1) unable to see the writing on the wall, or (2) they ignore it. It’s a mindset. One that many of us find difficult to comprehend.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nan, there is another factor involved: Money.

        As far as I know, there’s no job these laid off miners are re-trained for that pays as well as digging underground. So, of course they want those jobs back.

        So, like Scottie said, they jumped on the promises, and closed their eyes to bitter reality.

        Being stationed overseas also gives me a different perspective once more. Germany moved away from coal over a decade ago, and they had a great deal of resistance, too. From what my friends here tell me, the arguments were almost the same: Tradition, the area was dependent on the industry, there were no other jobs (or none that paid anywhere near as well), everything would collapse.

        Well, they made it, and the “Ruhrgebiet” (their Coal Country) is recovering. But it was a rough road. And those well-paying jobs, the ones where a guy could have a house, two cars, and decent retirement? They’re gone. For those, you have to move elsewhere now. Or go back to college.

        The older ones took early retirement, and the unpleasant but acceptable financial losses. The young ones adapted, and/or moved. They’ll be fine. It’s the adults in the middle who got the short end, and who fought the hardest. The ones with mortgages, and families, and little chance to get another job with the same income, retraining or no.

        So like Sirius said, it’s not just a mindset different from ours. That would be doing real people, and real problems an injustice.
        Of course, our current administration just adds insult to injury.

        Or could you imagine Trump doing what the German chancellor at the time did? Telling the unpleasant truth? That it’s going to be hard, and we’re going to have a whole generation in that area bearing the brunt of it, but there’s no way back? That handing the problem to the next generation is possible, but by then it’ll only be worse? That now we stand at least a chance to mitigate the damage, if we’re smart about it?

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      • Of course it all comes down to money. No argument there. And your points are well made about the tRumpsky promises.

        There’s no doubt mindset plays a big role — your points as well as mine re tradition.

        Overall it all boils down to a dishonest individual who says whatever is most expedient to him personally.


    • Your concerns are very appropriate, Scottie. It’s a shame that Democrats didn’t more vocally pursue a program of retraining and getting coal miners into other work. If you think about it, such an offering is fairly straightforward and easily explained. Nobody can make anyone buy coal, and that’s why the industry is dying.

      Sadly, this didn’t get advertised, and so people in coal country only saw one candidate speaking up for them. From their perspective, they only had the one choice. Promises become irrelevant at that point.

      Communication needs to improve in politics. If it doesn’t, we’re only going to get extreme candidates.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There has been comments made lightly that the difference between the two camps is the right screws you in your face while the left screws you from the rear while blowing air so you don’t feel the pain

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