Progressive Elitism and Imperialism

yes we can

I rag on conservatives a lot because they’re a fairly easy target given how blunt they are. But to paraphrase an Anthony Gregory saying, they’re essentially Neanderthal progressives. So-called conservatives have no problem with growing the federal government, as the Reagan and Bush years clearly demonstrated. Their rhetoric is just more fiery and loose.

An argument I’ve long made in other spaces goes thus: Conservatives, even neoconservatives, while brash and destructive in many ways, are not as troubling to me as self-proclaimed progressives are. There is an ideological foundation in progresssivism that goes back to the days of Roosevelt and Wilson that is distinctly elitist, but it’s wrapped in intellectualism.

In other words, I find both sides to be destructive, but the progressives to be a smidgen worse given their better presentation. I just can’t abide by elitism. We see this in anecdotes with Gruber acknowledging that Americans are just too stupid to get the health care law. Or Maher proudly proclaiming his liberalism and how stupid everyone else is. Progressivism flourishes on the idea of, “We know what’s best for you. So, let’s find those people that know what’s best for us to organize and run society.”

Again, with an anecdote, we see this manifest when liberal Joe Klein of Time magazine says things like this in defense of the drone program:

“If it is misused, and there is a really major possibility of abuse if you have the wrong people running the government….”

So, the only pertinent question is having the right person in charge and he trusts Obama. There’s a reason the anti-war movement essentially died in 2008/2009. That’s not a coincidence. Again, as I’ve argued in other spaces, Obama put an intellectual, well-spoken sheen on war that Bush never could achieve. And it not only quieted liberals/progressives, but made them apologists or outright defenders of things they previously were against under Bush.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

The two most egregious realms where this progressive elitism is manifest is in the mass incarceration of Americans, specifically black and brown people, and as I’ve already hinted at, American imperialism.

To the former, Naomi Murakawa’s details in her book, “The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America” how this is. Some of the worst aspects of mass incarceration occurred under Bill Clinton and Joe Biden. Don’t confuse this: It’s bipartisan, but its start grew under progressive ideology.

Here’s Biden bragging, “Let me define the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is now for 60 new death penalties…has 70 enhanced penalties…is for 100,000 cops…is for 125,000 new State prison cells.”

This isn’t just libertarian crap; great liberal/progressive thinkers of the day, at least in my mind, like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jamelle Bouie, praised the book and its central thesis.

Good intentions pave the way to hell, as they say, and in no way is that more manifest than in foreign policy and American imperialism starting with Theodore Roosevelt with the Spanish-American war, then Woodrow Wilson dragging the United States into WWI all the way through to Obama’s unilateral, unconstitutional action in Libya based on “humanitarian” grounds.

The thinking is simple, just extrapolated for the world, to borrow from Thaddeus Russell’s theory: We know what’s best to lift poor, dumb people out of the ghettos, so we know what’s best to lift everyone of the world out from under oppression and shitty conditions. Therefore, tanks, guns, the military and this euphemism: humanitarian intervention.

You simply can’t separate progressivism from its imperialist lineage.

Also, underlining that progressivism and elitism, at least especially in the early 20th century was Christian theology, too. But that’s a whole other discussion.


One thought

  1. You’re right that progressives can be elitist, and that such biases create out-of-touch policies. But drones and prisons are red herrings. Few progressives are proud of those initiatives, nor do they define what we believe.

    Of course the smartest and best-educated people should make policy. But they can’t work in a vacuum; they need to do it with the help of others.

    The example that comes to mind is the 2013 gun control debates. Democratic legislators basically proposed “mass murder control,” targeting assault weapons that are typically used for sport, as opposed to handguns that are used in gang violence and suicide. But because lawmakers’ kids are more likely to grow up in suburban Connecticut — as opposed to in gangs — the greater issue was lost on them. Instead, they took a “nanny state” approach that affronted large parts of American culture, and frankly, would have been ineffective regardless. (We’ll always have crazy people and guns…)


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