It is possible that progressives are now beginning to understand themselves. At least, they are beginning to see how others see them.

Everybody has heard progressives’ opposition to “hate” — and increasingly know progressives mainly for their expressions of hatred.

Everybody’s listened to progressives’ theories of oppression — and increasingly recognize progressives as inveterate oppressors.

Everybody’s witnessed their incessant promotion of inclusion — yet the easiest way to identify progressivse is by their exclusions.

It now dawns on progressives that they are not the rebels they thought they were. They catch themselves repeatedly defending the major institutions of our society, and watch themselves astride Leviathan, holding the reins of cultural power. For decades, the general tenor of their favored mode of politics has been one of cultural domination, of conservation of power.

But that has not been their self-image, has it?

Well, if you are always screaming for the next sliver of advantage, you can pretend to be a screamer and not a silencer.

Really, hasn’t their habitual stance of opposition been merely a pose?

Sure, their oppositional stance made sense during the Vietnam War. They opposed the war. And to the extent they are against capitalism, well, we do live in a capitalist society. But as everybody knows, it’s awkward complaining about capitalism on an iPhone, and railing against big business while your favorite devices are made by the richest corporation in the country.

But mainly, progressives long ago obtained most of the institutions they have demanded. And it was shown during the Obama administration that the bulk of progressives do not give a rat’s whisker for peace, having enthusiastically protested war during the Bush years only to allow their anti-war protests to peter out upon the accession of Barack Hussein Obama, who then proceeded to do all of the killing Bush did, and more. They opposed not war but Republicans. This is so obvious and so tired an observation one almost hates to bring it up.

Less obvious, with their guy in power, progressives’ attitude of entitlement to power progressed rapidly. And thoroughly. Obama admitted to having a knack for killing people overseas; progressives demonstrated their knack for cherishing power and excusing power — when in their hands.

Then came the opposition to progressivism, which perhaps for the first time was directed against them in ways that they could understand: on the slogan, wit and mockery level, combined with unconcealed contempt. Jon Stewart had primed the pump of progressive hubris during the Bush years, with contempt always an undercurrent. Stewart converted nearly every last nice progressive into a snorting elitist without a lick of respect for those whom they disagreed with. Then, when the candidate selected for them by their own mavens and political vicars lost to the person they had mocked the most, they simply and thoroughly “lost their shit.” And when Obama constitutionally relinquished the reins of power to Trump, their immediate reaction was to revert to protest . . . and demand the suppression of speech they did not like.

On grounds of “hate,” of course, because those who opposed them were “oppressing” special victim classes. Oh, and because those baddies were into “exclusion,” and so therefore must be excluded from any institutional access to platforms that they themselves dominated — the universities, namely, and social media platforms.

There is a dialectic here: self-image as rebels on the outs; success in capturing the commanding heights of the culture; increasing domination of the Democratic Party; a series of massively successful revolutions in manners; partisan success at the federal level along with the promotion of one major reform; and then . . . reversion to rebellion and protest as soon as they lose the presidency, coupled with pressure both public and private to suppress freedom of speech.

Oh, but note that “public and private”: the use of public institutions to suppress dissent from their views was done behind close doors (select Democratic senators threatening social media platforms) while the use of mob action was out in the open. The public was private and the private was public.

The reason for the current hysteria and clumsy graspings at power? Panic is the result of a sudden loss of “privilege.” But what has really got to induce hysteria is the difficult thought that they themselves are not what they have pretended to be.

Now, in this progressives are not alone. My line for years, now, has been that progressives misunderstand conservatism and conservatives misunderstand themselves. But the reverse has also been true. Why? Not merely because political ideology requires a great deal of fiction to keep it going. Man cannot live by realism alone, so Realpolitik must always be leavened with myth. Sure. But what is bigger is that the traditional myths that keep the right and the left going have had so little to do with reality. Socialism is the left’s baseline paradise; strict constructionist constitutionalism (in America) and traditional forms of elitism (generally) the right’s. But neither appears to be workable on its own terms, so each side engages in a lot of pretense.

The funny thing about the standard pretenses? Progressives pretend they do not have most of what they really want, while conservatives pretend that they want what they do not have. We live in a society dominated by progressive institutions. Conservatives, by and large, do not want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare and handouts to the poor. Oh, sure, they tell themselves they want to change things, but once in power they move almost no tick down the road to republicanism. Meanwhile, Progressives do not have all that much more to achieve, which is why they bring in pathetic stories about “gender” and push preposterous notions like biological sex not mattering. Once you have achieved most of what you want, it becomes all-important to make the most of the last few crumbs. (This is Spencer’s Law.)

A whole lot of evasion has gone on. So it has been amusing to watch reality slip into the shouting matches and riots and Twitterstorms. The right is still a confused mess of anti-leftists, but the left? It is increasingly truer and truer to its own entelechy, its own cultic self.

And thus all the more amazing and impossible not to watch. In meltdown.

Ah, progress!

twv

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