Counterproductive Progressivism

Some time ago, I 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 of my fellow Progressives disagreed and disagreed strongly; however, their conversation was civil and reasonable. However several other Liberal readers made my point for me: their comments were filled with childish 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 our problem.

In the face of an opposing viewpoint,  I’m forced to rethink and articulate my argument; this process makes me much smarter. So disagreements are not a problem. 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 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 within a healthy tension.

While our Muslim sisters and brothers are being profiled and threatened from this current administration and 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.

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 disdain this kind of integrity? Mike Pence has more than enough policy positions with which we can argue, confront and resist. How about we stand together against Pence’s policy positions? Stand where it matters? 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.

The 2018 Women’s March was phenomenal, wonderful, exciting. But this particular issue has not yet been resolved. Can Progressives make room for pro-life Democrats?

If not, this doesn’t sound much like a “big tent” to me.

Such Liberal judgmentalism is counterproductive.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot.

Intolerance, narrow mindedness, disdain, disgust, exclusivism and judgmentalism are not progressive values. American Progressives need much less finger pointing and much more soul searching. We’ve made plenty of political blunders and it’s high time we own up to our mistakes so that we can correct them and move forward.

As David Gushee 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…”

And 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. Come on, Grown Ups. Step up.

27 thoughts on “Counterproductive Progressivism

  1. Bridges not walls. I was born into orthodox Christianity. I went to college in a tiny town where I met my husband who was the first Jewish person I ever met. We graduated and moved to LA. We have enjoyed an interfaith marriage for 31 years. My entire adult life I’ve been a progressive and a feminist but it’s never stopped me from having conservative friends. My circle of friends is about 50/50 conservative/progressive. I’ve never been timid about speaking in support of feminism, social justice, or religion. The ability to “code switch” socially has been a blessing in my life. We don’t have to agree on everything to be friends with one another. Thank you Charlotte for this insightful blog. I hope that it will inspire open dialogue between people.

  2. Oh. Hell. No.
    We Progressives remain utterly intolerant to anyone who wishes to codify the Handmaiden’s Tale. Islamic, Christian Religious Right, anyone.

  3. Is it counter productive to claim that comments by other people are counter productive. No they are not. There are multiple sides to any issue and they need to be discussed. For example, Pence’s principle of not meeting alone with women could be viewed as a good moral principle. However, it also shows that Pence is willing to keep women from having the same access to power as men. This doesn’t elevate Pence, it diminishes women.

    Intelligent discussion of an issue is always worthwhile. Ad hominem attacks are not intelligent discussion. Spewing talking points is not intelligent discussion. False equivalents is not intelligent discussion. As long as liberals make an intelligent argument, they should not feel bad about going after anyone for anything.

    1. I agree: liberals ought to be making intelligent arguments and we need to be bold and clear and persistent to “go after” political leaders who insist on harmful policies. As I say in my blog, we need to stay on point and funnel our emotional energy into the conversations that really matter. Name calling and over-the-top outrage gets us nowhere. We need to be clear headed and choose our battles wisely.

      1. Not all women would have agreed with rejecting participation by pro-life feminists. I have no idea who made that decision. Was it just one person or a committee? It was wrong. Many progressive women hate abortion, but we resist identification with other pro-life groups because of their viciousness and their inability to realize that there are legitimate reasons for abortions. Women do not use abortion as a method of birth control. It is not undertaken lightly and if it is it is wrong and should be avoided. But I believe it would be wrong to legislate a woman’s right to her own body. Men often take no responsibility for the consequences of intercourse, whether it is mutual or if it is forced through intimidation, physical or emotional. Either because of some natural impulse or because of long-standing social habits, once a female is impregnated her life is significantly changed. It is much easier and much more likely that a man will walk away from a pregnancy. Women seldom abandon their offspring, therefore having a baby is a lifetime commitment for a woman. Old men do not have the right to decide to make this crucial decision and make this commitment for a woman. Why do men think women make this decision lightly? They do not.

        1. I don’t know who made the decision either but it demonstrates how very difficult and messy it is to try to bring passionate people together into one community. Getting along is hard but I hope we never give up trying. Thanks for reading and for the conversation, Linda. Peace…

  4. Pence and his wife’s personal decisions about how he should behave around women is just fine until it starts to affect the lives of the women involved. This never being alone with a woman business means that no woman can hold a position where it might be necessary for him to speak to her privately. It’s as though he’s turned himself into his own private boys’ club. If he really can’t be trusted around women, then he shouldn’t be in politics.

    1. Monica, I agree that Pence’s decision perpetuates an unfair disadvantage for women. But IMO, any woman who is smart and competent and confident should walk right past Mr. Pence’s door and find a boss that will honor her abilities appropriately.

  5. Mike Pence was ridiculed because his policy gives men a leg up. If Pence won’t meet alone with a woman that makes it harder for women to lobby him or work for him. It’s not because he is old fashioned it’s because he can’t have a female assistant.

    1. Stoakley, I agree that Pence’s policy gives men the advantage and is grossly unfair to women. Liberals ought to be making that argument more clearly and stick to the real issues. Instead, the ridicule I heard coming from the left was personal toward Mr and Mrs Pence’s effort to avoid any appearance and accusation of sexual impropriety. That complaint about their personal integrity is fruitless and makes us look ridiculous. As I say in another response here: any woman who is smart and competent and confident should walk right past Mr. Pence’s door and find a boss that will honor her abilities appropriately. Thanks for reading and thanks for the conversation. Peace…

      1. Except that will never happen because neither Mr Pence nor his wife trust him to be alone with a woman.

    2. Respectfully, telling women to walk past his door and find another employer is not an acceptable solution. Should people of color have walked past the segregated doorways to find a business that would serve them? Should LGBTQ people walk pass businesses to find ones that will serve them? Shutting women out of positions of responsibility is a problem, and one that will not be solved by telling women to find different employers. He is in the wrong and he is the one who needs to change his policy. Aside from that, I agree that liberals need to state our positions with respect and refrain from personal insults.

      1. Yes, it’s complicated. But why would any strong progressive woman even want to work for Mike Pence? There are so many other options with progressive employers. Forcing employers to hire people can only go so far. There are no neat solutions.

        1. That may be, but it is appropriate for women to call out Pence for this policy. We should keep it respectful and not resort to name-calling but if people remain silent it condones his behavior. Again, why would a person of color or LGBTQ person want to work for a bigot? Because those who forced the issue, at personal cost, advanced society.

          1. Agree! We can speak up and call out inappropriate behavior and bad policies without going to work for someone we know does not respect us.

  6. I agree and recently I have been offering prayer instead of criticism. So far have not had one negative response.

  7. The present day Democrats have a big enough tent to include banksters and war profiteers but not big enough to avoid marginalizing progressives. What is presently called ‘moderate’ was called ‘right wing’ when I was growing up.The Democratic party has retained the name but they look like Goldwater Republicans to me.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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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