There Are No Shades of Gray in Today’s Progressive Movement

Liberals have a tendency to eat their own. In their inexorable march leftward, progressives seem to forget that they’re leaving devotees behind, people who support their ideas, but only to a rational degree. Nowhere is that more clear than the so-called women’s movement.

This tendency toward political self-immolation isn’t limited to any given issue. Indeed, as Victor David Hanson writes for National Review, it seems to be a deeply engrained trait.

“Leftist revolutionaries cannot be satisfied, because they have long ago been given all they asked for, and are now rebelling for the idea of rebelling against something,” Hanson writes, “even if it is reduced to a micro-aggression or founded on a myth like ‘Hands up, don’t shoot.’”

The rise of PC culture is one visible outgrowth of this perpetual dissatisfaction, one whose absurdity speaks both to liberals’ successes in moving the national conversation leftward, but also their inability to discern a useful stopping point.

Rather than maintain the moral high ground by peacefully speaking out against ideas or people with whom they disagree, they instead tended towards censorship, and when that didn’t work, devolved toward infantilism. Rather than argue they sought “safe spaces” to recover from “triggering” comments, they toyed with Play-Doh rather than engage with new, challenging ideas, and generally seem to exist in a state of constant emotional peril, as if their “privilege” will be rooted out and shouted down. Oh, and we almost forgot that violence has been added to the repertoire.

But the unwillingness to allow for any level of dissent has reared itself across the liberal platform, most notably in the women’s movement. Women’s activist Cleta Mitchell writes for the New York Times:

I became involved with the women’s movement in the early 1970s, when, as a junior at the University of Oklahoma, I was one of five founders of the Oklahoma Women’s Political Caucus. For over a decade, I traveled the state working for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Later, as an Oklahoma state legislator, I was a champion of women’s rights, including supporting abortion rights within the Roe v. Wade framework. …

Our fight was ostensibly about respecting women’s choices, whatever they may be.

But the women’s movement doesn’t live up to that idea. If women choose to be chief executives and officeholders and columnists and doctors and partners in law firms, great! If they choose, however, to be moms and wives and attend Bible study or bake cookies, they are “bitter clingers” and “deplorable.” And if they happen to be conservative professional women, they are invisible.

The ugly truth is that the women’s movement has morphed into a giant abortion-rights lobby, demanding abortion far beyond the Roe v. Wade trimester construct. For someone like me, who has done a lot of soul-searching over the years, ultimately coming to believe that life begins at conception, I’m no longer welcome in the women’s movement.

That fact was thrown into sharp relief during the Women’s March on Washington in January, when a group called New Wave Feminist, who are pro-life, were removed from a the march’s list of partners and disinvited from the march itself. Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa was taken aback by the turn of events, which seemed to run counter to the core message of feminism.

“We have a different opinion, but there are so many ways are beliefs overlap,” Herndon-De La Rosa told Slate. “The idea that feminism is this club, and you can be anything you want, but not pro-life is so ironic.”

It also diminishes the complexity of the issue, which is fundamentally not just about rights, but also contains moral and religious elements. As candidate Barack Obama said in 2008, “Those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren’t expressing the full reality of it.”

But there are no shades of gray in today’s progressive movement. You are either with them or against them. You are either in or you’re out. Such a strategy would work if “women” were a cookie-cutter monolith, not an incredibly diverse group who have different hopes, dreams, beliefs, talents, and views. Today’s progressives does not recognize such distinctiveness, nor do they tolerate such independent views. 

And that fact should scare the heck out of Democrats who are leaving millions of would-be supporters behind, or worse, tossing millions of would-be supporters from their ranks, in the name of “unity.”