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.