This column has been updated.
Is a decade of destructive progressive ideology finally coming to an end?
That San Franciscans, some of America’s most trusted liberal voters, voted Tuesday to recall prosecutor Chesa Boudin, one of America’s most left-wing DAs, is a sign of hope.
Voters’ patience for what San Francisco Mayor London Breed calls “all the crap that has destroyed our city” — aggressive shoplifting, rampant car break-ins, open-air drug use, squalid homeless camps, sidewalks turned into toilets — is finally hitting on.
Progressive overreach has its price. Even for progressives.
What’s happening in San Francisco is happening across the country, and not just in criminal justice and urban governance. In one area after another, the left is assailed by reality, to use Irving Kristol’s famous phrase. Consider a few examples:
Inflation. For more than a decade, progressives maintained that inflation was a right-wing chimera, ignoring the massive rise in asset prices. Then, last year, they claimed inflation was temporary — a “red herring,” to quote economist Joseph Stiglitz. Later, when it became clear that inflation was continuing, some took a bolder course: inflation is good. As a piece in The Intercept put it last November, “Inflation hurts the 1 percent, but helps almost everyone else.”
Really? Usually, it’s the 1 percent who can afford to protect their wealth through inflation-protected assets — a rare violin, a vacation home — while the less fortunate struggle with three-digit grocery bills. The combination of the left’s nonchalance about inflation (it will erase debt!), along with an unwillingness to take it vigorously, is why the left so often loses workers’ voters to the right.
Energy. It wasn’t long ago that progressives complained about low gas prices, theorizing that deterring driving would help the climate. Maybe House Democrats should try to use $7 a gallon as an environmental asset and see what happens to their majority. Perhaps the Biden administration should also tell the Saudis where to cram their oil, rather than beg them to pump more.
Or maybe not. The only kind of nature that progressives reliably fail to understand is human nature. If they ever wonder why their climate zeal hasn’t translated into more policy wins, they’d have to grapple with the fact that the rapid decarbonization of the economy isn’t something most people are willing to pay a heavy price for, at least their own. . purses.
How about working on a different message, one that’s measured, adaptive, and meliorative, rather than draconian, stark, and foreboding?
The culture. How did progressives get to the losing end of the culture wars? How did they become the butt of jokes for the sharpest comedians of our time, from Bill Maher to Dave Chappelle? Why do lifelong liberals in universities, newspapers and publishers constantly whisper under their breath about the Maoism of their younger colleagues?
Simple: Progressives went from everything about liberation to everything about imposition. When a transcollegiate swimmer like Lia Thomas identifies as a woman, that’s liberation — a decision that certainly takes courage and deserves respect.
But when Thomas is allowed to compete in women’s races, it’s a blatantly dishonest act that has brought Thomas one victory after another while reducing the legacy of female athletes. That it has become difficult to even say this out loud only underscores the point.
minorities. Remember when the future of American politics was democratic because the future of American demographics would be less white?
That reassuring prediction fails because members of minority groups don’t necessarily like to be crammed behind progressive acronyms like BIPOC or thwarted by progressive policies, such as attempts to abolish entrance exams for selective public schools, or neglecting it. of law-and-order priorities in poorer communities that often need them most, including those on the southern border.
The world. Progressives (aided by isolationist Republicans) spent a decade demanding that America break away from distant military obligations, particularly in Afghanistan, so that we could do more nation-building at home. Joe Biden made the mistake of believing it, and his presidency has not recovered from the strategic and moral debacle of withdrawal.
Neither does the world. The perception of American trepidation and incompetence, which the government has worked so hard to counter in Ukraine, is part of what enticed the Kremlin to invade in the first place.
The list goes on, but the message is the same. When Kristol talked about liberals being robbed by reality, he said it turned them into neoconservatives. It will be enough if today’s progressives, in the second raid, find their way back to liberalism.