Saying What “Progressives” Want to Hear

July 26, 2007

Liberals like to think of themselves as “progressives,” which is not only a euphemism to avoid the stigma attached to “liberal,” but is intended to convey that they are a step ahead of conservatives — socially, culturally, morally and, not least, intellectually. But have you ever noticed at a presidential debate, like the one last Monday, the types of questions these “progressives” in the audience ask of Democratic candidates, or the types of predictable, vacuous answers they applaud?

Some self-styled progressive elites like to think of red-staters as reality-challenged, but when you observe the progressives in action at these forums, it’s hard not to conclude they are driven mainly by emotions and largely ignore reality. If it sounds good, regardless of whether it makes sense in the real world, it will score well. The key ingredient to impressing a progressive is to demonstrate that you care.

If you want to ingratiate yourself to these audiences, just say something brilliant like, “I abhor war,” or “Dick Cheney is evil.”

If you want to risk a little higher level of sophistication, you can say, “We need to get our troops out of Iraq, where our soldiers are dying in a civil war” — which, of course, implies we have no stake in the war, which, in turn, implies that our soldiers’ deaths have been in vain.

When asked whether our soldiers have died in vain, you can say, like Barak Obama did, “I never think that our troops … who do their mission for their country are dying in vain.” Or, offer John Edwards’ nearly identical response: “I don’t think any of our troops die in vain when they go and do the duty that’s been given to them by the commander in chief.”

These candidates know better than to say our troops died in vain, so they deny they believe it, even though the logical conclusion of their position is that they have. The question isn’t whether they followed orders and did their duty but whether the cause they died for was worthwhile. And yet the enlightened progressives in the audience appear completely oblivious to the law of non-contradiction, which holds that it is impossible for something to be both true and untrue at the same time and in the same context.

Or, consider the subject of Darfur, about which a YouTube questioner asked, “Imagine yourself the parent of one of these children (at a refugee camp near Darfur). What action do you commit to that will get these children back home to a safe Darfur?”

Gov. Bill Richardson dutifully included in his answer this gem: “The answer here is caring about Africa. … Doing something about poverty, about AIDS, about refugees, about those that have been left behind. That’s how we restore leadership in this country.” (APPLAUSE).

Applause? Give me a break. How would doing “something” about poverty, AIDS and the rest restore leadership in this country?

Richardson elaborated that we need to get a U.N. peacekeeping force there and that we need to respond with diplomacy. To quote the caveman on the Geico commercial, “Wwwwwhat?”

How about meeting force with force, Governor? At least Sen. Joe Biden recognized the folly of Richardson’s answer and said, “Those kids will be dead by the time the diplomacy is over.”

But no one in the Democratic field addressed why a military intervention in Darfur is more justified on humanitarian grounds than our continued presence in Iraq. Why do “progressives” seem to get exercised about death and tragedy where our national interests are not at stake, but not otherwise? Even if all the slander Democrats have disseminated about Bush were true, does that make the plight of the Iraqi people any less urgent?

Finally, when the candidates expressed their various proposals to establish arbitrary withdrawal dates, did the progressives wonder, much less ask, why we don’t begin withdrawal immediately? If our presence is causing the problem, and if our troops are, in effect, dying in vain, why let them stay another minute beyond the time it physically takes to remove them?

It won’t do to answer that we can’t just pull them out without regard to the stability of the region because these candidates say we are causing the instability. But if they insist on taking the contradictory position — that circumstances exist that militate against an immediate withdrawal — how can they possibly know precisely when those circumstances will change enough to allow our withdrawal? If they can’t — and they can’t — then why do they propose such arbitrary dates, other than to appease their enlightened constituencies?

But making sense or being consistent aren’t necessary for success at a Democratic debate or on a liberal talk show, like HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” What matters is that you say what the progressives want to hear. That’s the ticket.