Why Are Progressives Reacting the Way They Are?

Three days removed from a political upset, and a somber cloud weighs on the heart of the nation. When half of the country expresses fear or apprehension, it is inevitable that such a cloud would descend.

But are progressives justified in their worries and the means by which they are expressing them? And why have they debased their behavior in the way they have in light of a successful democratic election?

There are a number of ways to explain the conduct that has characterized the progressive left since Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday. American millennials in high schools and colleges are holding “cry-ins” to lament the outcome; violence and conflagration have scarred protests criticizing the election; fear and paranoia of that which is to come have driven thinkers to compare the election to 9/11.

Overall, the hyperbolic reaction to the election troubles sober minds and concerns moderate hearts.


“Progressives took for granted that the rest of the country shared their idealisms, and they were shocked to discover the contrary.”


Richard Weaver, a conservative academic scholar, wrote of progressive radicals in an essay in Freedom and Virtue. In it, he notes, “It is a very pervasive idea in radical thinking that nothing can be superior to man.” By this he meant that radical progressives reject that a structure of reality, governed by permanent laws of nature, truth, and morality, exists independently of the will. Thus, for the progressive, nothing can transcend experience: he lives in a fanciful and subjectivized future, while the conservative learns from an objectified past.

As a result, for the progressive, reality as it should be resides in the imagination. The essence of humanity should conform to the visions of order concocted by the mind of the enlightened forward thinker. However, these dreams are inevitably idealized because they reside in a future that has not yet come, so they have not yet been tested. The experience of this ideal vision is rudely shattered when the reality that operates antecedent to and independently of it fails to comport with its standards.

Because it operates in the realm of the yet-to-be, the vision of society that the progressive obeys is “perfect,” and it is upon that vision that progressives construct their political demands.


“Donald Trump’s victory is a clear departure from the orthodoxy of their imaginative faith.”


But the vision has yet to materialize and the ideal has yet to manifest, so it is difficult for the progressive to defend it apart from his sentiments. Because the construction of the vision depends so intimately on the identity of its doctor, any disruption or threat thereto constitutes a direct siege upon the essence of the holder of the vision. Thus, he is left to defend it with mere emotion, philosophical fiat, and wishfulness, rather than with ideas grounded in reality as it is and in the independent structure and rules of nature.

This is precisely what occurred when Donald Trump won the presidency. The vision of order for American society that progressives have inculcated was rudely demolished when he secured his victory. The students in universities, who have been instructed in a fanciful idealism according to imagined morals, devoted their identity to the dream, and when it failed, it couldn’t possibly constitute anything more than a direct invasion of the sacrosanct realm that exists in their political minds. And because these dreams of order were not grounded in reality, but in high notions of future progress, their failure embodied an act of heresy, as the realms over which the progressives were lord were destroyed by actuality.

When this happened in the form of a Trump victory, the progressive was thrust from his Eden and forced to acknowledge, to some degree, that a political reality existed apart from their dream. The accusations and exaggerations are thus completely predictable: the recognition of this reality is a new experience for many progressives, especially students in universities who have lived their entire adult lives with a progressive president. Because the progressives have lived in their imaginations for the last eight years, they are wholly unaccustomed to the nature of reality as it exists.


“When one places faith in the ephemeral and fanciful ideas of a groundless imagination, one is bound to struggle with assimilation into reality.”


Donald Trump’s victory is a clear departure from the orthodoxy of their imaginative faith, an attack on everything that is fundamental to them. The natural reaction is lamentation as the color is drained from the superstructure that lives above the base reality of human nature.

There can be no real dialogue because the foundation of beliefs operates in a different language, a wholly distinct set of expectations, and an alien understanding of human nature. Progressives took for granted that the rest of the country shared their idealisms, and they were shocked to discover the contrary. The loftiness to which they elevated their visions explains the baseness that characterizes their current behavior: for if one understands something to be perfect, a departure therefrom deserves condemnation in the strongest terms.

For the progressive, the will is the law. Progressives generally reject transcendences, so order does not exist independently of human action, which the will directs. Identities are grounded in the whims of the self rather than in organic and objective structures of truth and human nature. The consequent weakness of these identities is revealed when they crumble helplessly in the face of even the slightest winds.

Donald Trump won the election. For even minds and sober thinkers, this is not a victory, it is not a massive shock, and it is not a cause for riotous lamentation. The primacy of politics is a hopeless source of contentment, and when one places faith in the ephemeral and fanciful ideas of a groundless imagination, one is bound to struggle with assimilation into reality.

About Thomas C

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A young American who loves Jesus, liberty, and dogs. "Our country is too big for union, too sordid for patriotism, too democratic for liberty."