We seem to have come to the point in the United States where it’s all politics all of the time. That’s not literally true, of course, but it seems as if political tensions and conflicts obtrude on daily life with increasing frequency. It’s hard to get away from it.
Having written in the past about Americans’ traditional love for the simple joy of being left alone, today we’re overrun with zealots who aggressively push their agenda at every opportunity. They relish getting into our faces and going out of their way to exceed the normal boundaries of the offices and positions they occupy.
Who’s to blame? That’s largely a matter of one’s political perspective. Conservatives such as myself see in progressives an overwhelming sense of self-righteousness that breeds a sense that they’re justified, even entitled, to try to compel the rest of us to think as they do and support the same policy objectives. From sweeping messianic goals such as saving the world from an (imaginary) imminent climate catastrophe, down through every lesser goal of progressive utopia and conformity, the left’s actions are nothing, if not heavy-handed.
Progressives, on the other hand, view Americans who don’t share their worldview and aren’t on board with their agenda as some combination of ignorant, unenlightened, retrograde, immoral, and selfish. They view those with opposing viewpoints as creeps who need to be bludgeoned into cooperation, since they so pathetically lack the good sense to conform to progressive orthodoxy.
The following exhibits are some of the ways in which progressives are going overboard to steamroll their opponents. Let’s start with several cases in which progressive officeholders are so eager to assert their rightness and the other side’s wrongness that they egregiously exceed the proper limits of their official powers.
The California state legislature has acted to refuse reimbursement for travel to states with policies with which California legislators disagree.
The primary objection of the California politicos appears to be differences of policy on LGBTQ issues. North Carolina is in their doghouse for holding to a traditional policy, whereby individuals born male are expected to use bathrooms and locker rooms designated for males, with the same policy applying to females. I understand the need to accommodate individuals who may identify their gender differently than the traditional way, but I don’t think that North Carolinians who want to preserve modesty are creeps. Nor do I think it right to judge and condemn the state of North Carolina for trying to find a modus operandi that doesn’t disrespect and discomfit a large number of their citizens.
Just as the California legislators would want others to respect their jurisdiction, so they should respect their counterparts in other states as they seek policies that work for them and the people they represent.
Does the California legislature also refuse to reimburse those who travel to communist China? There, you have a government that may or may not accommodate LGBTQ concerns, but is well-known for suppressing self-determination in Hong Kong, placing Uyghurs in concentration camps, and harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience. In addition, I would suspect that there are more cases of Chinese businesses stealing intellectual property from Californians than there are of, say, Floridians doing the same.
With its peculiarly selective travel bans, the California legislature seems to be straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
A few U.S. senators, most particularly Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), have openly mocked the constitutional separation of powers by trying to intimidate Supreme Court justices into rubber-stamping progressive policy goals. Whitehouse and his cronies have made bald threats to pack the Supreme Court with liberal justices if the current court doesn’t issue liberal rulings.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) went so far as to openly threaten Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, using such intemperate language as, “You will pay the price,” and “You won’t know what hit you.” This is thug talk—gangster stuff—not a dignified, reasoned discussion about the proper role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional order.
The fact that such tactics don’t embarrass Democrats is revealing and worrisome. Ask yourself: If Senate progressives are this thuggish now, how unrestrained will they be if they attain clear-cut ideological majorities in all three branches of the federal government?
Two months ago, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in her zeal to redirect the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels to “renewable energy,” exceeded her authority as governor in a spectacularly flagrant way: She ignored the rule of law and attempted to usurp the prerogative of the federal government when she unilaterally ordered Enbridge Inc., a Canadian company, to summarily cease transporting fossil fuels under the Great Lakes. Enbridge has been doing so safely for decades under the terms of a formal treaty between Canada and the United States.
The overzealous governor is the poster child for members of the self-righteous political class. That class adds insult to the injury of their overreaching by living their own personal lives as if they are above the laws they impose on “the little people” under their jurisdiction.
Whitmer has shown such contempt for representative government on a repeated basis. She ignored her own COVID-19 guidelines on a trip to Florida, took a family trip to northern Michigan after publicly saying that people who don’t live there shouldn’t travel there for a holiday, and didn’t wear a mask at a large restaurant gathering, despite her own edict to that effect. You would think that progressives would disavow Whitmer’s double standard, but apparently, they’re so sure that they’re close to achieving permanent power that they aren’t bothering to try to improve the optics.
The aggressiveness of progressives—their willingness to arrogate power to themselves and run roughshod over the half of U.S. residents who disagree with them—isn’t, of course, confined to those holding political office. Whether it’s high-tech censoring dissident viewpoints; teachers’ unions making explicit their intention to cram critical race theory down our children’s throats and support the communist-oriented Howard Zinn slant on U.S. history; woke activists trying to end the careers of people who worked with or for President Donald Trump; or cowardly mobs lawlessly defacing, desecrating, and destroying statues, these and numerous other incidents indicate that many on the left have no interest in dialog, no tolerance for the perspectives and values of others, no respect for democratic processes, and no desire to keep our civil discourse cordial and free.
Their actions demonstrate that they want the power to tell us what to do and think and that many would rather grind our faces in it than reason with us.
I hope cooler heads will prevail. We really don’t want to go down the road of fanaticism, where people are flirting with such awful ideas as putting Republicans’ children in “enlightenment camps,” as advocated for by a former PBS attorney, or sending the rich to the guillotine, as one of Bernie Sanders’s groupies has fulminated.
Those of you in the progressive camp who approve, whether tacitly or openly, of the aggressive tactics mentioned in this article should consider two points.
First, by repeatedly ratcheting up the temperature, you run the risk of things getting out of control and making daily life miserable, not just for partisans on both sides, but for the many Americans who just want to get on with their lives. Second, if you manage to achieve the political hegemony that you crave so intensely, don’t assume that those at the top will do what you want them to do and that they care about you.
Those are the two most common—and lethal—mistakes made by those who support radical movements. You assume that the leaders share your values, but you’ll find out, much to your dismay, that the daily reality they’ll bring is a far cry from the promised utopia.
A prediction: If the petty tyrants in our midst don’t rein in their aggressive tactics, pressures will build until there’s a violent reaction. That’s exactly the outcome that the hardcore sociopathic revolutionaries out there want. Don’t let them dupe you. It won’t be worth it.
Mark Hendrickson, an economist, recently retired from the faculty of Grove City College, where he remains a fellow for economic and social policy at the Institute for Faith and Freedom.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.