Next is the big lie that progressives are all about human freedom. What they have promoted is more accurately called license: the selfish freedom to do whatever you want no matter the cost, which then must be picked up by the taxpayer. Hence the elevation of abortion into the most important sacrament in the progressive church. Sexual pleasure and license can now appear to be “cost free” because no matter how careless or stupid people are, the consequences of their bad choices can be eliminated or mitigated on somebody else’s nickel. Progressive freedom is all about the freedom to indulge selfish appetites without the restraints of virtue, shame, guilt, or morality––unless, of course, one desires to better oneself economically without the state meddling in your business and filching your earnings. Then we will hear fire-and-brimstone sermons about the “greed” of the “selfish” redolent of Cotton Mather.
Genuine political freedom, on the other hand, the freedom to run our lives and the state according to high principles that seek to make us better human beings worthy of freedom, always entails the need for personal responsibility and accountability, and the acceptance of risk and failure. But these are all anathema to the progressive, who wants the state to take responsibility for our actions, insulate us from the consequences of our bad choices, and compensate for our loss of true freedom by distracting us with the license to gratify our appetites. But as political philosophers from Plato to Tocqueville have pointed out, this “soft despotism” ends up empowering the state and “enlightened” elites, and thus puts at risk our political freedom and autonomy.
Finally, the arch-virtue of the progressive, tolerance, is in fact the rankest intolerance. We should tolerate pornography and vulgarity in the public square, but stamp out religious speech or criminalize conservative criticism as “hate speech.” We should understand and sympathize with the terrorist and not rush to judge him, but reflexively condemn and hound those who try to stop him. We should seek out and promote diverse points of view, but censor or silence those of “conservatives” and other ideological reprobates. We should show “civility” in our political discourse, but savage with relish political enemies. We should admire and privilege non-Western religions, but attack Christianity and Judaism as oppressive superstitions. We should praise and promote all lifestyles no matter how distasteful or sordid, yet ridicule traditional mores and virtues. We should root out racism, sexism, and homophobia, but make an exception for minorities, feminists, and Muslims.
Failed economic theory, illiberal racial policies, elitist snobbery, political freedom reduced to selfish license, and intolerance of disagreement and dissent––these are some of the pathologies of progressivism that have been illustrated every day of Obama’s presidency. It will take November’s election to show whether a critical mass of Americans has finally had their fill of this rancid progressive wine, or whether it returns once again in a new bottle.
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