Progressives Are Not as Popular as They Think

Progressives Are Not as Popular as They Think November 8, 2021

Last Tuesday’s election was a “red wave” that swept over much of the nation, with conservative victories even in states and cities that were bastions of progressivism.

This happened not only in Virginia, as Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democratic incumbent Terry McAuliffe and Republicans flipped the House of Delegates despite that state going for Joe Biden by 10 points.  And it wasn’t just progressive candidates who were defeated; their ideas–such as critical race theory, defund the police, ever-bigger government, and unlimited spending–were also repudiated.

Progressives tend to assume that they are champions of “the people,” that they offer “real democracy,” and that getting more people to vote will ensure their victory.  And yet this time the big turnout favored the conservatives.  Apparently, progressives are not as popular as they think they are.  And ordinary Americans as a group, while not necessarily being as conservatives as Republicans would like, draw the line at progressivism when it comes to their children, their ability to make a living, and their resentment when they are bullied by the government or anyone else.

Disenchantment with Joe Biden was a big factor in Tuesday’s voter backlash.  When the leader of a political party becomes broadly seen as a subject for mockery–as in the “Let’s Go Brandon” phenomenon, and, on the other side, as Donald Trump was turned into by the media–that party, rightly or wrongly, is in trouble.

In the Democratic primary, Biden ran as a moderate–indeed, as the most conservative of the Democrats–and he defeated all of his more progressive opponents.  The rank and file Democratic voters, including blacks and hispanics who provided his key support, chose him over the others because they favored centrist policies and hoped that he would unify the country and calm things down after the tumultuous and polarizing Trump administration.  And yet, despite Biden’s victory in both the Democratic primary and the presidential race, he has inexplicably been caving to the far left progressive wing of his party on virtually every issue.  To the point that he has proposed gargantuan spending bills that dwarf the New Deal.  But, as Virginia congressional representative Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat, observed of Biden, “Nobody elected him to be F.D.R., they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.”

But we are far from a return to normalcy and chaos is everywhere.  For example, the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers sparked not only protests but violent riots and the “defund the police” movement, with some progressives calling for the out-and-out abolition of the police.  Many arch-liberal cities complied, cutting law enforcement funding and creating an atmosphere where police officers–used to seeing themselves as the “good guys” but now demonized–resigned in droves.  The result, as one might expect, was soaring crime rates.

This election featured a backlash against this naive approach to crime.  Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, defeated a referendum that would replace the police department with a social-science-based Committee of Public Safety, which was what the French Revolution called the entity that presided over the Reign of Terror.  Not only that, residents of Minneapolis also voted out the city councilmen who had supported dismantling the police.  Similarly, in arch-liberal Seattle, the Republican Ann Davison was elected City Attorney over her opponent, an “abolitionist” when it came to both police and prisons.  New York City elected as mayor a former police officer, Eric Adams, a black man who campaigned on a law-and-order platform. Also, Long Island, where Democrats controlled every major office in Nassau County, went Republican, due largely to a backlash against progressive officials who abolished bail for misdemeanors and “nonviolent” felonies, resulting in a crime wave.

There were other factors in the Republican victories.  In Virginia, governor-elect Youngkin did a great deal with suburban parents’ outrage over public schools promoting critical race theory and transgenderism–including a rape in a girls’ bathroom by a boy who “identified as female,” an incident school officials tried to cover up.  And Governor McAuliffe didn’t help his cause by proclaiming that parents have no business telling schools what to teach.

Then there was COVID policy, with frustrations over Democratic lockdowns, mask rules, and vaccine mandates.  And, of course, there was the Biden economy, with spiraling inflation sure to get worse with even more federal spending and debt, the supply-chain crisis in which products people have taken for granted are no longer available due largely to government-created labor shortages, etc., etc.

And yet, as Democrats are agonizing over the reasons for their failure, the far leftists in the party are saying that the problem is that the party is not leftist ENOUGH.  And, obediently, President Biden is saying that the solution to his party’s woes is to PASS his multi-trillion dollar welfare state extravaganza.  So Congress did pass the $1 trillion physical infrastructure bill, which Senate Republicans agreed to but which had been tied up by progressives who wanted their even more expensive social infrastructure bill passed first.

Progressives insist that polls show that the public wants all of this.  Well, if you asked a typical American woman if she would like free child care, she’d probably say, “sure.”  Workers would love four weeks of paid leave.  But ask them if they want the government to pay for all of this, along with the higher taxes such measures would require, and they say “no.”

Leftists are invoking their all-purpose explanation of America in explaining why they lost so much this election:  racism.  The results just prove their point that white supremacy controls everything.  But Virginians elected as Lieutenant Governor the conservative Republican Winsome Sears, the first black woman to hold that office.  Also they elected as Attorney General the conservative Republican Jason Miyares, the first Hispanic to hold that office.

In fact, the Republican party made big inroads with black and Hispanic voters.  (See also this.)  Part of the progressives’ problem is that, for all of their concern about racism, they tend to be in thrall to racial stereotypes.  They assume blacks are all on dependent on welfare and that Hispanic Americans are the same as illegal immigrants. But Hispanics who can vote are citizens and have the same concerns as other Americans, though with some special cultural features: They tend to be Catholic, leaning towards conservative Catholicism, and as such are either pro-life or have serious qualms about abortion.  They are oriented to the traditional family and work hard.  Black Americans attend church and read the Bible more than any other major demographic and, as a group, don’t appreciate the militant secularism of the white-led progressive movement.

Working class blacks and Hispanics don’t like being condescended to by affluent, middle class white progressives.  Blacks and Hispanics also tend to resent the vaccine mandates, and they know they will be the ones who will lose their jobs when President Biden’s vaccine rules go into effect.  Even black parents oppose critical race theory in schools (58%-34%).  And, often being the major victims of crime, they definitely oppose defunding the police.  As the liberal online magazine Slate admits in a story about poll results, “Black voters were considerably more opposed to this idea than white voters were.”

James Carville, the hard-core Democratic operative, said it best in his election postmortem:

What went wrong is just stupid wokeness. Don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, look at Buffalo, look at Minneapolis, even look at Seattle, Wash. I mean, this ‘defund the police’ lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools. I mean that — people see that. . . .

It’s just really — has a suppressive effect all across the country on Democrats. Some of these people need to go to a ‘woke’ detox center or something. . . .They’re expressing a language that people just don’t use, and there’s backlash and a frustration at that.”

We got to change this and not be about changing dictionaries and change laws. . . . These faculty lounge people that sit around mulling about I don’t know what. … They’re not working. . . .

Wokeness is a problem and everyone knows it. It’s hard to talk to anybody today — and I talk to lots of people in the Democratic Party — who doesn’t say this. But they don’t want to say it out loud.


Image:  Unpopular Guy by Gan Khoon Lay from the Noun Project

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