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The Futility Of Arguing With “Progressives”

There is an old saying coined by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein: Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.

You could change that slightly and say: Never try to reason with a progressive; it wastes your time and just confuses the progressive.

You would think I would have learned by now, and especially in 2018 after nearly two years of chronic Trump Derangement Syndrome that has converted even garden variety progressives into raving lunatics. But I got sucked into an argument with a leftist yesterday on social media. It was basically this. One guy posted a story about the national debt breaking the $21 trillion dollar mark. That is true, it did, something I have been pointing out for years and mostly wasting my breath. So what was my beef? Look at the headline: Under Trump’s watch, national debt tops $21 trillion for first time ever.

I didn’t google it but I doubt that there were tons of stories about the national debt topping $11 trillion or $12 trillion or every trillion dollar milestone under Obama up to $20 trillion. In fact the debt doubled under Obama, even after Bush oversaw a massive explosion of the debt. More to the point, I don’t recall progressives complaining about the national debt until now. They seemed fine with it or perhaps more accurately didn’t notice or care. So what changed?


My point was that there seemed to be, as is so often the case, some selective outrage here. Things that were fine under Obama, and I presume would have been fine under a President Hillary Clinton, are suddenly world-ending-catastrophes under Trump. They don’t even hide it. I also pointed out that the national debt situation was rightly blamed on both parties. The debt exploded under Bush and then doubled with eight straight years of massive deficits under Obama. It is increasing by a trillion already under Trump and there is no end in sight for deficit spending. Democrats vote for budget deficits and Republicans vote for budget deficits. With a handful of exceptions among Republicans like Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Justin Amash, no one in either party spends much time talking about annual deficits, much less the national debt, unless we are about to hit one of those ludicrous spending ceilings that invariably gets raised. Again and again and again.

But, but, but…Obama’s deficits “cushioned” the recession! Trump’s deficit helps “the rich”! That was the actual argument. Democrat deficit good, Republican deficit bad. This progressive is so infested with Trump Derangement Syndrome that he couldn’t even admit that deficit spending is a bi-partisan problem. I am as much a ideologue as anyone and I freely admit and often holler about both parties spending us into oblivion. But for progressives you can’t even admit that because that interferes with their hysteria over Trump.

So shame on me for getting sucked into an argument with a progressive and expecting to have it based on reason and facts. You simply can’t reason with progressives because progressivism isn’t a rational, fact-based political philosophy. It is nothing less than a highly emotional, dogmatic religion.

In his masterpiece from a century ago, Christianity and Liberalism,  J. Gresham Machen rightly pointed out that liberalism, or what we today call progressivism, is not a system that can be compatible with Christianity, it is a wholly distinct belief system that competes with and stands in opposition to Christianity. In other words, political liberalism is a religion and a particularly fanatical one at that.

But one thing is perfectly plain – whether or not liberals are Christians, it is at any rate perfectly clear that liberalism is not Christianity. And that being the case, it is highly undesirable that liberalism and Christianity should continue to be propagated within the bounds of the same organization. A separation between the two parties in the Church is the crying need of the hour.

Progressives are very much like King James Only types. I can argue theology with lots of people. I can and have argued about “infant baptism” with people for years and ended up becoming good friends with them. Calvinism is fair game. Even arguments over stuff like the limit on Christian involvement in government and the use of violence in defense of self and others, while heated, usually are based in fact and reason. But run into a deeply committed King James Only acolyte and all bets are off. King James Onlyism isn’t a feature of their faith, it is their faith. The single sign of whether one is truly saved or not is which English translation of the Bible you use. If you use anything but the KJV, you are deceived and probably are a heretic.

There are people on the right like this, the sort of people that post rambling, incoherent and grammatically awful comments all over social media calling Democrats “DEMONcrats” or “Dummycrats” and thinking themselves clever. I don’t have much respect for them either, and I often suspect many of them are actually leftist trolls posting stuff to make conservatives look bad. On the other hand I have met some of these people and they really are like this.

But within the ranks of political progressives the number of reasonable, rational people is pretty thin. As I said, the progressive’s political philosophy is a highly emotional, quasi-religious belief system. It was already like this before the 2016 election and since that time the vast majority of them have tipped into full blown religious mania. Arguing with them is very seductive. They are so unhinged and emotional that it seems like some reasonable, fact-based arguments might persuade them but all it does is encourage even more rage and emotionalism. Like trying to explain that a 17th century translation of the Bible in an archaic language is not the sole measure of a person’s faithfulness is a waste of time with KJV-Only types, so too is trying to argue rationally with a progressive when their religious fervor and emotional stability is tied up in a dogmatic belief system.

So going forward my pledge to myself is to not get caught up in trying to persuade progressives. I will certainly mock them, as nothing stings the self-important and self-righteous like good old fashioned mockery, and then move on. My energy is better spent elsewhere.

Is this the face of someone you can reason with?

Our energies should be focused firstly on people with less dogmatic political beliefs, the sort of people who voted for Obama in 2012 and then Trump in 2016. Depending on what source you use, there were something like 300 counties that flipped from Obama to Trump and the total voters who voted for Trump after having voted for Obama four years earlier is 7-9 million. The middle and working class voters that propelled Trump to victory are pretty clearly not as politically engaged as more hardened partisans. If you can vote for Obama and then turn around and vote for Trump, it seems you aren’t paying very close attention or you just don’t have firmly held political beliefs. But these voters are starting to wake up.

 Also of note, as reported by the New York Times, was that an awful lot of people sat on the sidelines in 2012 but showed up to vote for Trump: “For every one voter nationwide who reported having voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016, at least five people voted for Trump after not having voted four years ago.”. That is pretty huge and it also indicates that there are a ton of people who will show up if they are motivated and that will not show up if they aren’t. That is in contrast to hardcore liberals and equally hardcore people on the Right like me that will always show up to vote. It also exposes what a disaster the Republican Party has been for a long time, putting up people like Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney and then looking confused when they got their heads handed to them. People who are not political animals are not going to show up to vote for an empty suit drip like Mitt Romney just because he happens to be the nominee.

We should also be looking at more traditional Republicans to try to get them to realize that a) Ronald Reagan is dead and has been for a long time. So is the Soviet Union, also for a long time, and our foreign policy should reflect these realities and b) that globalist policies that help the patrons of the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are not really very conservative and not terribly popular with actual Republican voters. The GOP is headed in a very different direction. It is becoming more nationalist and more populist. I think these are mostly good changes, as someone who is far to the Right of generic Republicans. This shift is infuriating to the Beltway “conservatives” that mostly care about getting their columns published and their magazine sold and being invited to TV shows, “Republicans” like George Will, Bill Kristol, Max Boot and a significant number of writers for National Review. I might go so far as to say that the more dangerous enemy conservatives face is not Bernie Sander loving progressives, but the neocon NeverTrumpers who would rather see the GOP lose and retain their influence than to change with the shifting political landscape.

The electoral landscape is changing and the party that reacts faster and better will win. For the foreseeable future, all politics are going to be a form of identity politics. There is no place for non-homosexual white people, especially white men, in the Democrat party. It doesn’t represent them and it doesn’t want them for anything other than the villains in their narrative. The Left is banking on holding together a very disparate coalition of aggrieved interest groups: blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals and other deviants, Muslims, some angry white feminists (that are going to discover in short order that they are no longer needed), groups that have little in common other than a single common enemy/bogeyman: white heterosexual religious men. That is their electoral coalition and that is why all of their policy proposals are aimed at accelerating the demographic shift in America. The faster whites become a minority population, the sooner the Left can assume permanent control of the government. On the GOP side the story is all about white turnout. The Republicans are never going to peel off sufficient black and Hispanic voters to make a difference, unless they abandon their core constituency completely (the Bill Kristol gambit). So the Republican party needs to get honest and recognize that in the war of identity politics, pretending to be above such things means losing. Suburban, middle-class white voters are people that need to be convinced of this reality and to start to vote based on their own interests. But that is racist and we are above that! Bull crap. We are already in a war and the other side knows it. In a war the side that refuses to realize it is in a war is going to lose every time. I also happen to firmly believe that policies that help the white working and middle class will help all Americans ultimately and policies pushed by progressives that hurt the white working and middle class will eventually harm everyone. That is the political reality for the next 10-15 years and we need to get traditional rank-and-file Republicans to quit pretending to be above such things and to start waking up.

So no more useless arguing with progressives. It is a waste of time and effort. Time is growing short and I need to focus my efforts on more productive avenues. I think it is going to be easier to move the needle on fence-sitters and stubborn traditional Republicans than it ever will be to deprogram progressives.

1 Comment

  1. SteveJ

    "So no more useless arguing with progressives." Yes, I know better, but I keep getting sucked in. I reason, "If nobody stands up to them, they'll think they just get to bully everybody, that their position is unassailable." Or, "I should do it for the sake of the people listening to the discussion." But in the end, I'm never happy about having engaged a progressive in a lengthy argument. For one thing, I can never stay on point. The leftist makes an assertion. I mount a refutation. But instead of responding to my refutation, the leftist just makes five other points that take us off into five new directions, and we never get back to the first point. It's maddening. So is the sanctimony, the "I love and respect people of color but I'm sure you fear and hate them." You can't talk them out of it. Trying to do so is like struggling to get out of quicksand. Will I ever learn?

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