Progressive intolerance is so absolute that it will not allow for the building of effective coalitions to combat an entrenched, financially powerful establishment. This woeful state of affairs exposes the lie that is the leftist expression of concern for the working class. For whenever it comes to a choice between following a course of sensible moderation in order to work with others to enact beneficial change or strictly adhering to rigid ideological purity, progressives always opt for blind allegiance to their radical party line.
The obnoxious display put on by a Dutch historian on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program is a prominent example of how frustrating this can be. Rutger Bregman first went viral when he appeared at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos in January. Bregman commendably called out the posturing billionaires at the swank gathering for their self-congratulatory philanthropic prancing as they vigorously dodged paying taxes in their home countries.
Arrogance Over Outreach
Carlson invited Bregman on his show precisely because he was sympathetic to this view. Instead of using this excellent opportunity to engage a conservative audience in discussing the very real problem of wage inequality, Bregman indulged in a calculated attack on Carlson.
In doing so, he may very well have won Team Blue Social Media for a day. Regrettably, that ego-massaging “victory” came at the expense of squandering a valuable platform where the progressive historian could have connected to a certain degree with people not explicitly aligned with his camp.
Bregman’s call for 70% tax rates is certainly not going to win over many on the right, but he has made valid and interesting criticisms of the failings of free market capitalism. As he has astutely noted, if the free market is really about rewarding those who bring the most “value” to a society, then why do we have entire industries of useless people making big bucks doing completely meaningless work?
Bregman’s intriguing assessment is completely undone, however, by the title of the book it comes from: Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek. The sheer insanity of a universal basic income in a world without borders should need no explanation. Western nations can’t give 7.7 billion people $15,000 a year each. But that absurdity makes sense when one realizes the author is pushing an agenda rather than seeking real solutions. Simply put, nobody advocating massive unchecked immigration can be a friend to the working class. Bregman’s open borders mania gives his socialist ideologue game away, and his contemptuous attitude toward a friendly host who does not share that same strict ideology shows that he is not at all interested in nurturing consensus for his ideas by attracting those who don’t already reside in his narrow socialist bubble. How then can he ever hope to induce substantial change?
Can’t Play With Others
Sadly, Bregman is entirely representative of leftists when it comes to dealing with anybody to the right of them. President Trump came into office touting many priorities that should have been warmly welcomed by Democrats, who profess to care about the working and middle class. The president’s willingness to use tariffs to level the unfair playing field on international trade that has so devastated American manufacturing in recent decades should have found stout support among the likes of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
But instead of vigorously striving to work with the White House on an issue in which much common ground can be found, both prominent progressives instead offered tepid, carefully nuanced support that proved utterly meaningless on a practical level. As both had big 2020 plans and are now, indeed, presidential candidates, they knew their leftist base demands continued hostility against Trump. Rather than help working class Americans by joining hands with a president hated by their supporters, these two political creatures kept their distance so they could later blast Trump in the strongest terms. Racist, sexist, etc. – you know how the song goes. Painting the president as a monster is far more important than helping him bring jobs back to America.
The great tragedy of progressive inflexibility is that it ensures that establishment programs that do serious damage to the well being of this nation are allowed to continue because sturdy populist coalitions cannot be created to fight them. Intelligent people on both the left and right greatly lament the obscene government handouts to Big Ag that allow for the production of cheap corn to such an extent that it is an ingredient in just about every processed food you can think of on American grocery shelves today. This is not just a handout to large corporate farmers, but to all those manufacturers of the myriad processed food items that are wreaking havoc on the health of our citizenry. We have an obesity crisis in our nation today and we are literally financing it by subsidizing the production of high fructose corn syrup. All for the benefit of huge multinational corporations with no loyalty to this country whatsoever.
Americans are struggling to find decent jobs and working longer hours for less pay and far fewer benefits. They are getting fat and becoming diabetic eating unhealthy food that their own government helps manufacture. But progressives would much prefer hammering populists across the aisle with their identity politics scarlet letters than work with them to combat these urgent problems. This is not flawed politics on their part. It is a deliberate commitment to ideology no matter the consequences. This is why leftists cannot be counted on in even the slightest way to help save this nation.