Do Progressives Care? – Yes but….

Do Progressives Care? – Yes but…. December 27, 2018

A couple of weeks ago I published a blog criticizing Christian support of President Donald Trump. I expected some of my conservative Christians friends to let me have it and indeed a couple did when I posted it on my facebook page. But surprisingly, on the blog page, I received more hostility from progressives than from conservatives. You see for them I did not go far enough because I did not call Christians racist, bigoted and greedy. And we all know how well it works to convince people that they are wrong by calling them dehumanizing names. Yeah right, try that at home with your spouse and see how far you get.

But what really fired up my critics was when I pointed out that I really do not think that progressives care more for other people than conservatives. They seem to be angry that I do not see my progressive critics as virtuous and conservatives as just one step up from Nazis. Well two weeks ago I was still in the middle of final exam grading and I did not feel like getting into the spitting contests with them. Last week I had a post already planned and the article was fairly timely, so I did not want to deviate from that. So guess what I am going to blog about this week. Yep. I am going to infuriate more of my progressive critics.

Let me focus on my claim that I do not see progressives as caring more than conservatives in our society. Two weeks ago I did not spend time explaining why I have come to that conclusion. It is clearly not because I am a conservative because I made the statement IN A BLOG POST WHERE I WAS CRITICIZING SUPPORT FOR TRUMP!!!! No, my statement comes from being a political moderate who is turned off by both political factions. The type of tribalism exhibited by many of my critics is one of the reasons why I do not commit to either group. But let’s be clear. I am not saying that there are not certain individuals that progressives care more about than conservatives. Indeed, my precise statement is that they tend to care for different populations than conservatives. In my opinion the overall level they care about others is not different, simply who they tend to care about. In short, for both conservatives and progressives there is a tendency to care more about groups one has sympathy for rather than globally caring for everybody equally.

So what are the groups that progressives do not tend to care about? The obvious low hanging fruit is of course the unborn. Hard to make a case that you care about someone when you allow them to be killed. But I know that many progressives refuse to define the unborn as truly a human person and I prefer not to jump into the abortion debate right now. So I will shift the focus off the unborn and still make my case that progressives merely care for different populations than conservatives, rather than more than conservatives.

However, even if we do not want to consider the unborn, it is still not hard to find the people progressives tend to not to care about. It is just about as easy as listing the people progressives do care about: racial minorities, sexual minorities, immigrants, Muslims etc. I agree that progressives care about those groups more than conservatives. But how do we characterize those they do not care about as much conservatives care about them? One word. Deplorable.

Individuals who can be seen as being bigots, racists, homophobes etc. are those that political progressives feel comfortable rejecting. It seems natural to not care about individuals with such awful traits, right? When Clinton used the term, she stated that she was referring to half of Trump’s voters. That would probably be about 20 percent of the country. Some of my critics seem to imply that all of Trumps supporters are racist which would raise it to 40 percent of the country.

So who are some of these nameless Trump supporters that some progressives are quite comfortable calling Nazis? Quite clearly many conservative Christians, and I have been working to confront them on that support, also are Trump supporters. I have no doubt that many progressives also see them as deplorable. Other possible deplorables live in rural areas and in the South. White men and married white women also seem to be important to Trump’s support and I see at risk as being labeled deplorables. I suggest that these are all groups that progressives do not particularly care. It is not that progressives do not care about people in general. It is that they, like conservatives, do not care about certain types of people and have found reasons to justify their nonsupport.

Before someone says that I cannot use a single throwaway line to characterize all progressives, I will say you are right. I cannot say that every single progressive envisions members of those groups as not worth caring about. But listen to her deliver this line and listen to the laughter and applause it gets. The line did not fail with her supporters. It resonated with them. I think the line failed later on because it touched on a truth. That truth is that a non-trivial percentage of progressive do see other Americans as deplorable and are to be demonized when it suits their purposes. Such Americans are not to be cared about. They are to be mocked.

Among politicians, this attitude is not always stated as clearly as Clinton did at that talk. Let’s face facts; Clinton was a terrible campaigner who did not recognize that there are certain ideas that she should not openly state. However, this dehumanizing of certain groups can come out in nonpolitical ways. I remember having the misfortunate of watching the movie “The Waterboy.” I do not remember the exact circumstances. I like to think I was stuck somewhere and could not change the channel, but there is the possibility that I was curious about how bad a movie could become. One thought struck me as I watched that movie “Hollywood really hates Southerners.” Please do not look for that movie and view it. I could not forgive myself if you watched that movie because of what I wrote. But it was clear that this movie was having a good time drudging up demeaning stereotypes about Southerners and essentially laughing at those Southerners.

Hollywood is famous for its leftist politics. Is there any doubt that if today’s Hollywood made a movie like “The Waterboy” about blacks that they would be branded as racist? Of if they did this to sexual minorities can one imagine the outcry? I know that one can find scenes and even characters in movies that can be seen as racist or homophobic but “The Waterboy” was one unfunny, unrelenting stereotype about southerners after another. No way could I watch that movie and not come away with the conclusion that the makers of that movie cared about southerners as human beings. Southerners were merely one dimensioned figures who could be insulted.

I know that some individuals will argue that they care about the rural poor and Southerners but that such individuals are voting against their own best interests. Is that not pretty paternalistic? I mean should we tell African-Americans how to vote or is that command only reserved for whites living in small towns and the highly religious? Little wonder some of the “deplorable” populations do not think that progressives care about them. I suspect that if we told racial minorities or Muslims how they need to vote, they would not feel the love either.

Some of my progressive critics brought up the fate of the little girl who died at the border as evidence of the uncaring nature of conservatives. After all, this shows that conservatives are heartless and do not care when kids die right? If that is true, then what do we make about Kate Steinle? She was killed by an undocumented immigrant in the sanctuary city of San Francisco. Are those supporting sanctuary cities showing that they do not care if Americans are murdered? Oh it gets worse. Her killer was acquitted on the charges. So why could not conservatives argue that not only do progressives not care if Americans are being murdered but, given that her killer’s trial was in the progressive city of San Francisco, that they do not even want those killers punished?

Now personally I think it is silly to argue that progressives do not care about people being murdered. But that is the same logic some of my critics are using to argue that conservatives do not care if kids are killed. And so I equally think it is silly to argue that conservatives do not care if little kids are killed. This is why using isolated incidents to generalize to the effects of a larger public policy is largely frowned upon in the social sciences. Whether we are talking about border security or sanctuary cities, we are discussing a complicated public policy issue. It is better to recognize that whether we agree with certain policies or not, there are consequences to them that we have to take into account. It is not a matter of finding a perfect public policy, but rather finding one that has more benefits relative to the potential damage that may come from it. Mature individuals understand this and thus are able to make arguments for their desired policy without demonizing their political opponents.

It has been my experience that while I have been criticized by conservatives, they have not asked me to demonize progressives in the way some of the progressive critics asked me to do two weeks ago. This is not to say that my conservative critics do not demonize progressives, because, well just look at our president and his defenders. But they do not seem to need me to demonize them as well. Of course I should be careful about automatically generalizing about my experience with conservative and progressive critics. But there is reason to believe that perhaps progressives do have a harder time treating those they disagree with in a respectful manner.

Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundation theory suggests political progressives center their foundation in the idea that they care about others. Even if, as clearly shown in this blog, I disagree that they truly care, in a global sense, about others more than their conservative counterparts, the fact that they believe that they do may, ironically, make it more likely that they do not care about certain groups. After all if one believes that his or her moral assertions are based on kindness and nurturance then any other moral assertions must be the opposite of that. It is not hard to see how such a belief can lead to the notion that one’s political opponents must be resisted at all costs – even if it means dehumanizing them. Given that Haidt has found that political conservatives understand the perspectives of progressives better than vice versa, I am inclined to believe that these differences in how we construct our morality may account for the difference I have noticed between my conservative and progressive critics.

Finally, let me just state that pressures to dehumanize others backfire when used against me. An important reason I am a political moderate is I reject the socially constructed nature of our political ideology. Thus there are issues that I am anywhere from left to left of center (tax policy, death penalty, race relations, military spending etc), and those where I am anywhere from right to right of center (abortion, religious freedom, school choice etc.). I have never sat down and figured out if there are more issues where I am progressive or conservative, but off the top of my head, I think there are more issues where I am progressive than where I am conservative. Indeed, earlier in my life, I would have characterized myself as being somewhat liberal.

But much of the mindset I have seen on the left, such as this seeming need to demonize all disagreement, has turned me off progressive politics. Not enough for me to become a conservative, especially in an age of Trump, but enough that I am hesitant to take progressive stands if I think I am going to be lumped in with the “resist” mentality. As someone who wants to fight against the polarization I see in our society, I cannot support progressive politics if that type of political activism is making our polarization worse.

I know in the past that shaming techniques have worked in American politics. Most people do not want to be called a bigot and may vote to avoid that charge. But we may be coming to a time where they are no longer very effective. I think some of the vote for Trump was a vote against this type of politics. I remain an enemy of Trump, but I will not capitulate to efforts to “shame” people into voting one way or another.

I would love to see a vibrant debate on issues rather than name calling. The mindset of some of my critics actually makes me want to write more against their political interests to show that I will not be intimidated by these shaming attempts. (Indeed, it has led to this particular blog.) I probably have my most powerful effect when addressing conservative Christians since I know that audience the best. So the next time I criticize my fellow conservative Christians, perhaps the smartest thing my progressive critics can do is just get out of the way and do not ask me to demonize my Christian friends in ways that I know will only bring up more resistance to my appeals to them. Just something to consider.


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26 responses to “Do Progressives Care? – Yes but….”

  1. Hillary very clearly said what made people “deplorable”. It was people who were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic”.

    It wasn’t membership in any of the groups you pretend she was talking about.

    So, when you point out that people have bad values, but you do nothing to actually harm them, or take away their rights, then that is JUST AS BAD as when those deplorables do actively try to hurt brown, gay, or female people.

    Always good to see how the BOTH SIDES people are twisting themselves.

  2. I know you like to think that people on the left never try to take away the rights of others. Unfortunately that belief is not based in reality. It has been documented by myself and others that conservative Christians are discriminated against in academia. Academics are not as wiling to hire them based on their religion. We also now have cases such as at the U of Iowa where Christian student groups were singled out for discrimination. I suspect if we did research in other areas where progressives had control such as the media, entertainment and other centers of culture we would find other examples. You see the dehumanization of them and other “deplorables” has real world consequences. How could it not have consequences. Progressives are not immune to human nature and acting on their othering of out-groups. A modicum of introspection would do progressives a lot of good.

  3. I disagree. Progressives are responsible for most of the advances in civil rights, and human rights, in this country.

  4. Yeah yeah. Both sides. One side chants Nazi slogans and are “fine people”. The other side don’t rent out university rooms to societies that don’t allow gay people full membership. Both sides. Both sides.

  5. Well said and written. I am a libertarian, poltically, so I am considered an extremist by both polar ends. As a Reformed Christian, I also get labeled extreme by some in both ends. So, I share much with you. I certainly agree that progressives see themselves as caring about people more than conservatives. Alas, it would be so refreshing if all Christians would see the world through the lens of God’s law. But then we can’t seem to agree that his Word is knowable and authoritative.

    Great blog.

  6. The difference between Kate Steinle and the children who’ve died in ICE custody is that their deaths were directly related to the treatment they received at the hands of the U. S. government. My government. So yes, I care about that.

    I am sorry for Kate Steinle and her family too. But in the end, the shooter’s immigration status doesn’t seem to be relevant to his crime. She was a woman killed by a man– happens every day in these United States, where men kill women and children, and men too, with guns, on a daily basis.

    The shooter was acquitted because of an apparently convincing claim of “accidental shooting” That happens on a daily basis, too. So the lesson that I’d be inclined to draw from Steinle’s death is that people shouldn’t be owning guns, and certainly not carrying such powerful weapons around in crowded conditions. It’s gun control rather than immigration control which might have prevented this death. (Yes, I know that S.F. has some pretty strict laws about guns. Doesn’t help much when they’re so widely available anyway, and in a society that fetishes violence and cares more about “Second Amendment rights” than about anybody’s dead children.)

  7. Now who is the one name calling and the side that is discriminating You just contradicted your previous statement. My work is done here.

  8. And conservatives will tell you that shooter would not have been in the country except for sanctuary city laws and lax immigration. Unintended consequences in both tragic cases.

  9. Yes. Your work was done the moment you said both sides are as bad. That is all you have to say for yourself. You looked and saw that your side supports a man who praises Nazis, and all you can say is “But the others don’t let university societies discriminate against gay people.” Because otherwise you would have to deal with the evil that is your side in terms other than your pathetic “it might hurt you” post from before.

  10. Study history on things like civil rights, improving working conditions, gay rights, women’s rights, food safety, health care and education for the poor , tackling pollution , even improving the safety of automobiles [ the Chevrolet Corvair for example ] and you will get the answer.

  11. Thanks for the post! Many conservatives and progressives (whether Christian or not) act as if our “salvation” is in politics. Yes, in this country, we are free to *engage* in politics, but if one begins to believe (like the Herodians, Mark 12:13-17) that the Solutions to our problems are in Politics, then one’s country (and its politics) has become an idol. This explains the anger I hear from both sides — if your political view is your ONLY hope, then you will get angry, even violent, with those who undercut that view and who appear (to you) to be destroying your country.

    Long ago I drank the Reagan conservatism koolaid. But eventually I was brought to recognize that its emphasis on a Moral Majority was a distraction from true religion and was detrimental to the gospel. No, Jesus is NOT a Republican!! But in the same way, although I agree with progressive concerns about gun safety, police oppression, and (especially) the immigrant refugee, I will still oppose Herodians on the left who claim, “Jesus is over here with us and you must vote our way.”

    Whatever your political beliefs — if you are a Christian, your citizenship is in another country (Heb 11: 13-16.) Act like it! 🙂

  12. I have tried to engage with Progressives on issues should be shared planks between both ideologies, but the results were frankly pretty poor.

    For example if you point out that middle class America in rural regions is currently suffering due to trade policies that has destroyed a lot of manufacturing, you would think we would have something to agree upon. Labor has been a traditional supporter of the D party and rural folk need some economic help.

    Instead I got a bucket load of venom. Rural meant white and male, which then meant racist and bigot, which meant Nazi. Plus a significant amount made the unpardonable sin of voting for Trump.

    If it was about compassion this would be a pretty easy area to exercise it, would probably result in some more votes for the D party too.

  13. I hate to be mean but I guess reading comprehension is not your thing if you think I have a side in the entire liberal/conservative stuff. You must of missed the part where this post built upon a post where I was cricizing what you say is “my side” or you just did not care to read what I wrote. It seems for you that when I criticize liberals you decide that I support Nazis. Seriously you perfectly illustrate what I am talk about in this post. A progressive who has to resort to name calling instead of argument. It is amusing that you do not even see that this is what you are doing. But I guess that level of not failing to understand this conversation would explain why you keep making strawman arguments and insists on dehumanizing anyone who does not see things your way. Go ahead and have the last word on this as it is clear that you really do not want to tackle with the ideas I am presenting and would rather make up crap about those arguments to protect progressives from any criticisms.

  14. ” I really do not think that progressives care more for other people than conservatives.” I consider Martin Luther King Jr. to be a progressive. Did the majority of “conservative” minded folk, [not Republican or Democrat, lets leave out politics ] , particularly southern white “conservative” minded people care about his causes as much as he did?

  15. You are a Conservative, evangelical Christian. You have made that clear. You have also made it clear that you are a dishonest coward.

  16. ” middle class America in rural regions is currently suffering due to trade policies that has destroyed a lot of manufacturing, ” Those trade policies are hard core conservative policies, free market capitalism, reduce costs and increase profits anyway you know how. Lobby for tax breaks on those profits, lobby for deregulation on labor laws, pass health care costs onto the poor despite record corporate profits, the list goes on. All this is on page 1 of how to be a good “conservative” with regards to business. It was the businesses here that choose to go off shore to have their products manufactured dirt cheap to increase their profit margins then lobby conservative politicians not to tax their profits and lobbied them to protect their status with new laws and deregulation . Conservative lobby groups target the districts of any politician who try to oppose this mentality with massive amounts of money to stop them from getting elected..
    .

  17. May I ask why you consider him to be a progressive? As one example, I don’t think King was particularly LGBT positive, so I don’t think he would fit in well with modern-day progressives. How are you defining a progressive? It’s an odd question, I know, but your comment left me a confused.

  18. One would have to ask his family and peers what they think his views toward LGBT people would be today . Dr King was definitely viewed as a progressive in the 60’s . So according to you “conservative” is defined by ones views towards LGBT rights ?

  19. Conservatives are no more defined by a single issue than liberals or progressives are. I guess I tend to think of progressivism as a relatively modern movement. Based on your comment about progressives being more responsible for advancing civilization than anyone else, I’m guessing you see it as having much older roots. Thus, my question about what you see it to be.

    As for King, a quick internet search suggests different people have interpreted his views in different ways. I suppose I assumed his views would be more or less what other Baptist preachers say about the subject, but of course, that’s just a guess.

  20. I see progressives as people who evolve in their thinking and how they act out towards others and always desiring to move towards a more civilized society . Conservatives do not evolve on their own in their thinking and generally do not want to. They are sometimes band wagon jumpers after the fact, especially when they realize their views are moving them to become a powerless minority .

  21. This is so funny, and just a little sad. Mr. Yancy probably groups me as one of those awful liberals who hates him no matter what he says or how much he criticizes the man in the oval office. But fun fact: I didn’t criticize him in my initial post at all. Take a look for yourself in my post history. I was agreeing with his thesis.

    What I was doing was showing what I believed to be a logical implication of his thesis being correct: that the post was one attempting to activate white evangelicals fear of losing power, and that this was a much better rhetorical strategy than attempting to harness their compassion or any other similar feelings based on concern for their fellow humans. That’s because their moral universe is so neat and tidy it only has room for them and theirs. Or as I put more pithily in my original comment, Evangelicals don’t care about other people.

    Mr. Yancy responded by claiming both sides are equally as bad.

    First off, what sides? The only reason people even knew what he was talking about was because of the general background of shared politics people could rely on. Taken in isolation, it makes no sense at all. I didn’t mention multiple sides that could be “as bad” as evangelicals.

    Second, Mr. Yancy didn’t actually disagree with me. He didn’t disagree and say actually, Evangelicals aren’t primarily motivated by selfish concerns for their own future cultural power. He merely said, as he reiterates in multiple paragraphs above, that both sides are equally bad.

    So what does this amount to? Well, one thing is for sure, Mr. Yancy is clearly engaging in a bit of self fiction about his politics. He certainly is no moderate, as evidenced by how tightly he identifies with conservative evangelical Christians. For the only way I could be criticizing him is if criticizing him and criticizing white evangelicals are pretty much one and the same.

    Another thing: Mr. Yancy doesn’t realize something crucial many people learn in childhood which could be summed up as thus: When a parent catches Danny teasing the cat, it does him no good to proclaim his friend down the lane likes to crush the heads of lizards. Teasing cats is bad, no matter how much worse others might be.

    Mr. Yancy must on some level realize how indefensible the actions of the white evangelical community is, because is he didn’t, he wouldn’t waste time establishing both sides again and again. He’d simply defend evangelicals. He doesn’t, and that’s telling.

  22. So a person cannot be a conservative evangelical Christian and a moderate? News to me. And the reason I have to point out both sides to liberals on this blog is because they are the ones who tend to claim that their side is largely unwilling to admit to the hatred and dehumanizing that happens by their “team”. I rarely hear this from conservatives so no need to address the issue with them.
    Finally your teasing the cat analogy only makes sense if I am defending evangelicals in their support of Trump. As you yourself acknowledge I do no such thing. Rather I find liberals who are the ones eager to point out the fault of conservatives rather than look at the faults on their side of the political spectrum.

  23. Have you considered the possibility that you’re actually libertarian? Try taking the quiz at theadvocates.org

    Also, I would very much like to see a person of your viewpoint engage Mark Shea.

  24. A sanctuary city is place where one can report crimes without putting oneself in danger of being deported. You’d rather there be more unreported crime?