The “progressive” worldview assumes that society is getting better and better. That is to say, history is on an inexorable march towards “progress.” Thus, those on the left are fond of saying some one they oppose is “on the wrong side of history.”
This leads to the assumption that progressive gains may never be reversed, that progressive change is inevitable, and that progressives are justified by a power higher than themselves (not God, but History). Furthermore, we must be open to change as we evolve to a higher and higher level.
For example, the nation state is thought to be rapidly becoming obsolete. “History” dictates first the rise of globalism, in economics and in free immigration, and then the rise of global government.
Never mind that history is not so linear at all and is full of twists, reversals, and surprises. But the assumption of inevitable progress–which derives from Hegel, Darwin, and Marx–continues to animate the rhetoric of the left. Rich Lowry discusses this after the jump.
From Rich Lowry, History Strikes Back – POLITICO Magazine:
President Barack Obama won’t explicitly say that Donald Trump is on the wrong side of history, but surely it is what he believes.
The president basically thinks anyone who gets in his way is transgressing the larger forces of history with a capital H. During the 2008 campaign, he declared that John McCain “is on the wrong side of history right now” (the “right now” was a generous touch — allowing for the possibility that McCain might get right with History at some future, undetermined date).
The notion that History takes sides ultimately traces back to the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel and borrows heavily from the (genuine and very hard-won) moral capital of the abolitionists and the civil rights movement. Obama is given to quoting Martin Luther King for the proposition that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. Whoever is deemed to be on “the wrong side of history” by progressives is always loosely associated with the opprobrium directed toward the Southern Fire-Eaters and the defenders of Jim Crow.
This means that the left wields History as a weapon and makes it an occasion for constant self-congratulation. But there is a downside in the accompanying sense of smug inevitability that is off-putting at best and blinkered and self-deluding at worst. . . .
Another progressive assumption is that the nation-state is bound inevitably to decline in importance, as supranational institutions like the European Union grow in power and cross-border migrations increase. In a trip to Germany in April, Obama deemed Angela Merkel’s policy of welcoming a massive wave of migrants as “on the right side of history.” Never mind that its recklessness has caused a political backlash in Europe that is still brewing. Obama believed the same of his own latitudinarian views on immigration, apparently never imagining how many people might consider it progress to tighten our borders rather than render them more porous.