All of a sudden, the left are trying to think about what motivates the right

Fresh on the heels of CNN publishing a reasonably fair and balanced story about President Trump, The New York Times tries to commit journalism:

Liberals Need to Take Their Fingers Out of Their Ears

Thomas B. Edsall | December 7, 2017

Given the triumph of contemporary conservatism, it may be time for liberals to take a look at the vulnerabilities of their own orthodoxies.

Democrats who yearn for President Trump to be taken down should examine this list of Republican strengths: victories in all three contested special elections for the House of Representatives this year; Trump’s 82 percent approval rating among Republican voters; his success with the current tax bill; his swift evisceration of key regulatory policies; the Gorsuch appointment to the Supreme Court; economic growth of over 3 percent in the last two quarters; the Dow Jones topping 24,000; and the unemployment rate dropping to 4.1 percent.

For the moment, the left is both stunned and infuriated by the vehement animosity it faces from red America, which is made up of counties that are 84 percent less dense than blue America, 37 percent less racially and ethnically diverse, and 34 percent more white.

Voters in red America are 44 percent less likely to be college graduates and 22 percent more likely to have served in the armed forces. Geographically speaking, red counties are virtually nonexistent on the West Coast and on the East Coast north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Many Democrats continue to have little understanding of their own role — often inadvertent, an unintended consequence of well-meaning behavior — in creating the conditions that make conservatives willing to support Trump and the party he is leading.

There is a lot more at the link. He points out how the left have contributed to the rise of the right, but it is his conclusion which interests me the most:

Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, observes that “believers in liberal democracy have unilaterally disarmed in the defense of the institution” by agreeing in many cases with the premise of the Trump campaign: “that the country is a hopeless swamp.” This left Democrats “defenseless when he proposed to drain it.”

Where, Pinker asks,

are the liberals who are willing to say that liberal democracy has worked? That environmental regulations have slashed air pollutants while allowing Americans to drive more miles and burn more fuel? That social transfers have reduced poverty rates fivefold? That globalization has allowed Americans to afford more food, clothing, TVs, cars, and air-conditioners? That international organizations have prevented nuclear war, and reduced the rate of death in warfare by 90 percent? That environmental treaties are healing the hole in the ozone layer?

Pinker remains confident:

Progress always must fight headwinds. Human nature doesn’t change, and the appeal of regressive impulses is perennial. The forces of liberalism, modernity, cosmopolitanism, the open society, and Enlightenment values always have to push against our innate tribalism, authoritarianism, and thirst for vengeance. We can even recognize these instincts in ourselves, even in Trump’s cavalier remarks about the rule of law.

Pinker continues:

Over the longer run, I think the forces of modernity prevail — affluence, education, mobility, communication, and generational replacement. Trumpism, like Brexit and European populism, are old men’s movements: support drops off sharply with age.

Pinker is optimistic about the future. I hope he is right.

The problem is that even if Pinker is right, his analysis does not preclude a sustained period in which the anti-democratic right dominates American politics. There is no telling how long it will be before the movement Trump has mobilized will have run its course. Nor can we anticipate — if and when Trumpism does implode — how extensive the damage will be that Pinker’s “forces of modernity” will have to repair.

Dr Pinker and Mr Edsall are hoping for the same thing: the reduction of the will of the masses to upset the apple cart, the anti-establishment bent so common in our politics. Other than 1988, since the Depression I cannot see a non-incumbent presidential election in which the more ‘establishment’ candidate lost. It didn’t matter whether the more establishment candidate was Republican or Democrat, the American people like to change things up, and that’s bad news for people who believe in the ‘establishment.’

One Comment

  1. Progress always must fight headwinds. Human nature doesn’t change, and the appeal of regressive impulses is perennial.

    Geez, could this guy be any more of a snob? If he and The NY Times really want to know why Trump is winning and why he has such strong support, then perhaps it’s because millions of people don’t like being sneered at by their self-proclaimed betters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *