OWS and the Progressive Fantasy

The proclamations of the Occupy Wall Street crowd ring familiar.  They want top-quality free health care, education for all, and fairness.  They denounce capitalism, wealthy people, personal responsibility, and in effect, reality.  Sounds like Progressive philosophy to me.

Sara Robinson, senior fellow at the progressive Campaign for America's Future, delivers a spot-on descriptive quote in an article from The New Republic.  In this article Robinson is attempting to put forth why the progressive message is not heard and understood as well as the conservative message.  In doing so she leaks a key tenet of the Progressive philosophy:

Talking about policies and programs doesn't do it: progressives (have) always been at our best when we speak from a place of strong moral authority, rooted deeply in a daring vision of the kind of world we'd like to create. If we can't envision that world clearly in our own minds, we certainly can't describe it with conviction to other people.  [Italics added.]

She is absolutely correct.  Her statement is the perfect analysis of progressive politics.  Recapping Robinson's statement in different words, she paints progressives as:

  1. Coming from a place of self-designated moral supremacy;
  2. Having a utopian, audacious, and reckless vision of the world they want to create but are unable to describe; and
  3. Lacking a roadmap of how to get there.

Similarly, from Benjamin R. Barber's article in The Nation: "What we lack is a coherent progressive narrative explaining and justifying liberalism's role in the radically changed circumstances of the twenty-first century[.]"  What?  All these gifted, morally enlightened, and educated writers cannot come up with a narrative?  Could it be that there isn't one? 

The basic difference between Progressive politicians and pundits is simply the fact that the OWS crowd is brand new and spontaneous, whereas the politicians and pundits have been perfecting their confusion for over a century.

Of course, Progressives aren't really moving towards anything in particular -- just retreating from a world they don't like.  All they can do is flail away aimlessly at the symptoms of societal imperfection because there are no perfect cures -- a fact they refuse to accept.  They abhor exceptionalism because it justifies differences in the skills and abilities of individuals and the superiority of one individual, group, or society over another.  They want to ameliorate nature's natural inequities and human behavior.

Nancy Pelosi's famous Obamacare statement is a wonderful example: "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."  In other words, because of our superior moral authority, we can just dive into health care even if we don't know exactly what is waiting for us and will have a notoriously wasteful federal government handling things for us.  (A friend of mine believes that even if the health care bill isn't well-thought out, they will fix problems as they arise.  That's the Tooth Fairy influence.)

I'm guessing you wouldn't trust your IRA with a financial advisor who says, "I'm a good person.  I like dogs and children and I eat my broccoli.  I have never made money before or matched projections, and I don't know what I will do with your money.  Nor do I know what strategies I will implement going forward, but I certainly will do a good job for you.  And, oh, if I screw it up, I promise to make it better somehow.  Trust me."  This is what Progressives have done with our health care and want to do with the rest of our culture.

Interestingly, many in the media have declared the OWS movement to be similar to that of the Tea Party.  This is pure nonsense.  Unlike OWS, the Tea Party people know what they want and are clear about it.  The movement has undertaken legal and peaceful means to try to be heard and affect policy, it holds meetings and functions with permits and approvals as opposed to illegally invading and remaining at non-approved sites, and it has put forth actual proposals -- e.g., balanced budgets and lower deficits.  Of course, their position is easy to articulate because what they want is profoundly American and, in detail, is historically what made this country great.  What OWS wants is unknown, but appears to be the opposite.  Of course, we don't really know what they want because, being good progressives, they don't know.

OWS is more similar to the rebels in North Africa and the Middle East.  They are willing to tear down everything and then worry about the details.  This type of thinking makes them the perfect poster child of the Progressive movement.

Going forward, I submit the progressive and OWS mission statement should be:

We hate the world and those people who do well within it, and will have none of it. Stick with us, and we will somehow figure out how to make it perfect. We don't have any specifics at this time, but put your trust in us and all will be grand. We will tear down everything and everyone that is doing well, and when the dust settles, we are convinced that something better will pop up.

Now that is a well-articulated progressive narrative.  And if you read between the lines, it is already on the signs in Manhattan.