When Progressives go aggressive

âÄúThe surest way to corrupt a youth,âÄù wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, âÄúis to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.âÄù Elections always energize the nastiest of partisan politics, and this presidential race is no exception. Over the past six years, the political spectrum has shifted left and given the Democratic Party greater popularity with the American public. This popularity is worrisome, however, since many Democratic supporters have transcended the concern over what is best for the nation and are pursuing a vendetta against the Republicans. That is no way for a democracy to be run. Policies centered on inequality, health care, climate change, and civil liberties have been at the fore of progressive activism. They are nothing if well-intentioned. Who can argue with personal freedom or access to health care for all? Few people could, but the problem is not with the principle but with the practice. Fighting the sorrows and injustices of the world takes more than good intentions. Yet the status quo has many deep flaws, so even the smallest change surely must be for the better? Be careful. The call for reform is not always in the name of justice or the greater good. Take the protester whose moral impatience leads them to value their right to free speech over othersâÄô right to assemble. Or at the Democratic National Convention last week, when Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post, went on record that the media needs to be more concerned with the âÄútruth,âÄù rather than being bi-partisan in its coverage. According to her, on issues like climate change, the press should not let the opposing opinion be heard. Likewise, Minneapolis recently hosted The National Convention for Media Reform, which was a collection of left-leaning activists (as well as a few who hold less conventional views) whose basic theme called for greater government transparency and objectivity from the media. The main theme of media objectivity was laudable, but the discourse and writings made it clear that the goal was not objectivity; like HuffingtonâÄôs comments, the concern was that their preferred political perspective be dominant. It just so happens that currently it was not. Such a trend raises questions. How often does the progressive movement really appreciate and understand opposing views? A neutral, purely objective media seems a pipe dream, as its demise has been predicted for some time. In a free society, people are free to read what they will. Naturally, people turn to news outlets that project a bias already held by the viewer. In fact, that parallels the greater picture of U.S. politics. In July, The Current hosted a talk by author Bill Bishop about his recent book, âÄúThe Big Sort.âÄù He argues that people are moving around the country to areas that have values similar to their own. Again, this seems natural and it would be illiberal to force people to not move where they want. It does, however, exacerbate the intensity of partisan politics. When people are around like-minded peers, they become ever more assured of the superiority of their viewpoint. According to Bishop, those with dissenting opinions tend to keep quiet. The night before his talk Bishop made an appearance on the Daily Show, and remarked that Jon Stewart believed the youth of today would not put up with the partisan politics that is now so prevalent. Bishop agreed, but seemed to ignore that most of those who watch the Daily Show are pretty intolerant of the Republican ideology the show so readily mocks. To its credit, the progressive movement does support admirable goals. Too often, however, criticisms of universal health care or the apotropaic calls for higher taxes are met with bromidic counterarguments or pure contempt. It is normal, even virtuous to fall back on oneâÄôs own beliefs. But the best reforms are made with consideration of real and sober criticisms against it (recall the progressive slogan âÄúDissent is PatrioticâÄù during the Invasion of Iraq). The Republican brand is deeply tarnished, and for good reason, but it still has a valid platform on many issues. The best writing is less persuasive and more thought-provoking, so as the election marches on, that is our goal. If you read something in this paper that goes against your beliefs, take time to consider it in context. Simply because one disagrees, however violently, it creates no right to simply dismiss those opinions as invalid. Knee-jerk reactions always lead to bad politics. Democracy creates a symphony of ideas, harmonious and discordant. Fear the day it falls silent. Those at St. JamesâÄô Street welcome comments at [email protected]