Counterproductive Progressivism

I recently blogged an apology to Conservatives, admitting we Liberals all too often do not live up to our stated ideals of tolerance, open mindedness and generosity. The push back was immense. Quite a few disagreed and disagreed strongly; however, their conversation was civil and reasonable. Several other Liberal readers made my point for me though; their comments were filled with name calling, profanity, and ridicule.

More than a few Conservative commenters thanked me for the blog since they have been blasted by some of this “progressive” regression simply by stating their opinions in cyberspace discussion threads. Disagreement is not the problem. I’m much smarter whenever I’m forced to rethink and articulate my argument in the face of an opposing viewpoint. But insults are always a problem. We Progressives don’t like it when the name calling comes from the Right; so we absolutely ought to disavow it whenever it comes from the Left.

Such Liberal intolerance is counterproductive.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot.

I read an intriguing op-ed recently by playwright and lawyer Wajahat Ali in which he asks where he and his fellow Muslims fit into the current American political landscape.

Ali quotes Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion at Barnard College, who concedes that he’s a tad bitter about his political options.

“As a Muslim, I’d vote for Jesus, but the Republicans won’t let him in, and the Democrats don’t believe in him.”

Many American Muslims…support progressive policies, like affordable health care and a living wage. But privately, they adhere to traditional values, believe in God and think gay marriage is a sin, even though an increasing number support marriage equality.

American Muslims portray the gamut of beliefs and practices inherent within any typical cultural or religious group. Like many of us, Muslims hold a variety of opinions about a range of issues. Like most of us, Muslims demonstrate how individuals can hold both progressive and traditional ideals in a healthy tension.

While our Muslim sisters and brothers are being profiled and threatened from the Right, many of them who practice their faith with deep piety experience suspicion and disrespect from the Left.

Our Liberal narrow mindedness is counterproductive.

Some months ago, Vice President Pence was ridiculed unmercifully for his personal practice of avoiding private meetings with women. He and his wife made this commitment to each other when he entered politics and it has served him well. I daresay Bill Clinton would have benefited from such steadfastness – as would have John Edwards, Gary Hart, and too many other Liberal politicians to name.

Why in God’s green earth would any of us make fun of such integrity? Mike Pence has more than enough policy positions with which we can argue, confront and resist. We Progressives ought to be choosing our battles more wisely.

Such Liberal disdain is counterproductive.

When millions of women marched in Washington D.C. the day after the inauguration, march organizers rescinded their invitation to one of the march sponsors: the New Wave Feminists. This is a group of women who oppose the anti-woman policies of the Trump Republicans; they also stand against abortion. “Pro-life feminist” rings like an oxymoron to many Progressives and so it must have made sense to march leaders to un-invite the group.

But an opinion piece in U.S. News and World Report points out the irony inherent in the exclusion of this organization:

The mission [of the Women’s March] decries the intolerance in the rhetoric throughout the past election cycle, yet they fail to see the intolerance in their actions. Instead of finding commonality with women of different perspectives the left has once again shown its intolerant hand: They are only tolerant of their own platform and politics…

Instead of celebrating differences and the right to express those differences, progressive feminists would rather shut out women who don’t think like them.

Such an approach doesn’t sound much like a “big tent” to me.

This Liberal exclusiveness is counterproductive.

John McCain, staunch Republican leader, has rocked some Republican boats recently. He spoke out strongly for an independent investigation into the Trump-Russian ties and he penned a moving op-ed arguing against this administration’s foreign policy approach while advocating for foreign policy based on American values.

I read some of the comments following his opinion piece; I sighed. Again the response was mixed and some actually appreciated what Mr. McCain offered. But then again numerous commenters refused to hear him out and dismissed anything he has to say based on their disagreement with some of his other policy positions. Never mind that he is one of the few Republicans standing up to his own party. Who better to challenge lockstep conservative ideologies than a fellow Conservative? Shouldn’t the #Resistance seek out allies wherever we can find them?

This Liberal judgmentalism is counterproductive.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot.

Intolerance, narrow mindedness, disdain, exclusivism and judgmentalism are not progressive values. American Progressives in 2017 need much less finger pointing and much more soul searching. We’ve made plenty of political mistakes and it’s high time we own up to our blunders so that we can correct them and move forward. As David Gushee recently penned his own op-ed voicing similar concerns: “There is plenty wrong on the right. But there is plenty wrong on the left, too. Each side needs to get its act together. If there is a sensible, grown-up center to American public life, it’s about time it showed up…”

As Wajahat Ali commented:

One positive thing emerging from this political moment is that our respective communities are forced to confront issues … that have always existed but have been hidden under toothless slogans promoting progress. Now we have to actually do the hard work to achieve it.

It is hard work indeed. Let’s keep our focus on the real work at hand and get to it.


Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national secretary for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

8 thoughts on “Counterproductive Progressivism”

  1. Amidst Republicans’ total inability to govern, we need to follow George Will’s advice and incessantly politically attack the moribund Republican held Federal houses in total legislative gridlock.

  2. I only wish that, as liberals, we could understand that every time one of us loses it and resorts to name calling, etc. we lose ground across the board. Reason is on our side but we throw it away when we succumb to the temptation to any kind of violence. It is hard to overpower Patience.

  3. The author would have a stronger argument if she stuck to facts.

    New Wave Feminists were not “uninvited” to the Women’s March. The organizers did not practice, “exclusion of this organization.” Nor did they, “shut out women who don’t think like them.”

    The march organizers simply removed their sponsorship participation. The New Wave Feminists did show up, march and participate. They were neither shut out or excluded and further they marched next to people who didn’t “think like them.” So in fact it was a big tent of sorts.

    Now you may respond, “so what? the same arguments about tolerance/intolerance still apply.” The counter to that is that if the march is to have meaning it has to stand for some values. If it includes all values then it is meaningless. If sponsors can be a list of groups holding that A is moral and simultaneously a list of sponsors holding that A is immoral then the march would stand for nothing.

    Would it be intolerant to not allow sponsorship of a group that supports women’s rights but simultaneously thinks child porn should be legal? Why not? You are just being intolerant for not allowing their sponsorship! They just hold different values than you. The instant you say a march supports certain values then it automatically stands potentially in opposition to others. You can’t have it all ways.

    1. I agree it’s a sticky situation and sometimes there are no easy answers. I appreciate you naming some of the conundrum, Joe. That said, I will argue that my blog is accurate factually and is a reasonable opinion drawn from those facts. I did say that the New Wave Feminists were un-invited to be sponsors. Yes, I know they were at the march and had every right to be.

      The article I quoted was an op-ed. I noted someone else’s opinion about how the exclusion felt to them. We need to hear such feedback.

      Your comparison to child porn is not fair. New Wave Feminists (as I read their website) are not working to make abortion illegal; but they do boldly proclaim their commitment to the sanctity of all life. They are “progressive” on many issues; surely progressives can make room for each other on this issue.

  4. I am so, so sorry that this has happened, Charlotte. Somewhere there’s a meme that asks, “Why can’t we just all be nice to each other?” In Heaven, I guess. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to be a bit more heavenly beforehand. It does come back, doesn’t it, to treating each other, even online, as we would wish to be treated ourselves.

    1. That good old golden rule would save us humans much trouble and grief, wouldn’t it, Elise?

  5. I am a blue dot in a very red state and I so agree with you. I have been speaking against this for a long time. It makes no sense to me to practice the same kind of name calling that we hate from conservatives. If we can’t work together where we can, then we only have liberals and conservatives, not a country.

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