A Solution for the Progressive Crisis of Meaning


Facing an apparent progressive wave (fueled by generations of maleducated youth), the question facing moderates and conservatives is what to do about it.  Arguably, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States because he seemed more likely than the alternatives to do something.  That historic event did not, however, answer the question of what to do.

When Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo ignored her own COVID-19 rules to address a progressive identity-politics crowd, she gave one of many recent indications that the country is fundamentally experiencing religious turmoil, defined by different sources of meaning.  This is the topic of my latest essay on Dust in the Light:

The progressive works that she enumerated in her speech to the crowd, however, are not sources of meaning. They simply constitute a platform of using government to take from some people to give to other people. We’ve seen this in the overt Marxism of leaders of Black Lives Matter. More-locally, we can see it in the head-spinning pivot of Democrat Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell from complimenting the “good symbolic step” of changing Rhode Island’s name to the demand that we address “poverty and inequalities,” including a requirement that employers pay workers no less than $15 per hour regardless of the market value of the work being done.

The meaning that progressive policies provide is one and the same as that which Mitchell calls “pagan.” The emphasis is not on the experiences and attitudes that make one’s life better; it is on the contrast between groups. And in the progressive framing, those groups aren’t temporary and circumstantial categories of individuals — people who happen to be employers now and people who happen to be low-wage workers for the time being. They are identity groups with implicitly permanent and distinct conditions and beliefs. The emphasis is on the method of punishment and reward through redistributed wealth between two groups. One group pays, and the other receives.

As I go on to note in the essay, Ranglin-Vassell subsequently posted a helpful tweet that makes clear that she represents a group-based worldview.

Placed in this context, the answer is clearly not to respond in kind, but to provide a different source of meaning.  Happily, an extremely compelling one already exists close at hand.  We just have to decide to prioritize it again.