The progressive dilemma

“Why do we hurt the people we love? “

This is an old question one could ask of today’s progressive movement. Progressives are committed to helping women and children, racial minorities, the poor and those at risk. Yet in many cases the policies that many progressives fight for are fundamentally incompatible with the goals of the movement.

Progressives see themselves as champions for women’s rights, but many deny the existence of biological sex, demanding that transgender women be treated as biological women, whether in sports, choosing public toilets or even in public toilets. prisons. In California – and across the country if Congress passes the Equality Act – biologically male inmates can be transferred to women’s prisons on the basis of “individual preference,” regardless of hormones, surgery or death. time spent living with the opposite sex. One can imagine the potential danger biological women could be exposed to if they were forced to share a cell, or simply be in enclosed spaces, with a transgender woman.

Although transgender women using a women’s toilet is not as potentially dangerous as forcing biological women together with transgender women in prisons, many women are uncomfortable that they can share the toilet. intimate space of the toilet with a biological man they do. dunno. Many progressives even oppose advising women that biological men can use women’s toilets. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Tennessee law that requires businesses and government facilities to post signs if they allow transgender people to use any public washroom they choose.

Progressives are known for their work on children’s rights. One would expect that preventing children from making irreversible surgical and medical changes to their bodies when they are not sufficiently mature emotionally or psychologically to make those decisions would be at the forefront of their activism. Progressives, after all, recognize that adolescents are often mentally and emotionally immature – indeed, they insist that people under the age of 21 who commit crimes be tried as minors because they are not mature enough. be held accountable for their actions – while also arguing that adolescents should be allowed to make permanent changes to their bodies.

One would expect that preventing children from making irreversible surgical and medical changes to their bodies when they are not sufficiently mature emotionally or psychologically to make those decisions would be at the forefront of their activism.

In her controversial book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” Abigail Shrier suggests that in many cases young girls do not seek a surgical sex change due to transgender or gender dysphoria. , but because of other mental disorders or simply because of the lure of social capital that comes with being transgender in a society that values ​​marginalized positions. Shrier is not arguing that sex reassignment surgical procedures should be banned, but rather that children should not be able to make these decisions until they reach an age at which they are psychologically more mature. Many progressives, on the other hand, demonize perspectives like Shrier’s – perspectives that ironically protect children – in favor of the claim that children have the right to irreversibly change their bodies.

Schools are another battleground where progressive politics have a huge impact. Progressives want to improve the educational outcomes of minority and low-income students, but many oppose charter schools even when these schools offer higher education to public schools, and even when they primarily serve minority and low-income students. , as in Newark, New Jersey, where 80% of the 20,000 charter school students are black and 16% are Hispanic, and 8,000 students are on charter waiting lists.

In the Unified School District of Los Angeles, where tens of thousands of students were on waiting lists for charter schools, progressives criticized charter schools because only 72% of students in these schools live in poverty, while the percentage was 16% higher in schools without a charter. They also argue that charter schools receive funding from public schools, although studies differ on this, with some indicating that in most states an increase in the percentage of students attending independent charter schools was associated with an increase in the percentage of students attending independent charter schools. significant increase in the total income of their host districts per student, total expenditure per student, local revenue per student and expenditure per student for support services.

While expressing concern for the safety of minorities, progressives argue that police funding should be cut (the initial rhetoric used the term ‘definancing’, but this has turned out to be a very unpopular way of framing the argument. ) due to police misconduct towards people and communities of Color. Yet a 2019 Vox poll found that while this is the racial group with the most unfavorable view of the police, most members of the black community nonetheless support hiring more police officers. A June 2020 survey, carried out after the murder of George Floyd, found that 50% of black respondents still said more police were needed on the streets. This is hardly surprising, because according to a national study of neighborhood crime, predominantly black neighborhoods average five times more violent crime and Latino neighborhoods average about two and a half times more violent crime than neighborhoods. predominantly white.

In addition to hard positions on national cultural war issues that are contrary to their general philosophy, many who call themselves progressives have an increasingly problematic view of Israel. Although President Biden says, “I think my party still supports Israel,” leading progressives such as New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders have harshly criticized Israel in connection with the recent war. of Gaza, frequently noting the disparity in casualties, calling Israel an “apartheid state” and questioning the $ 4 billion in aid the United States is giving Israel as well as a recent arms sale from Gaza. $ 735 million. As Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, noted, “There has never been this kind of vocal pressure from the left on issues related to Israel. It doesn’t matter that Israel’s enemies are hardly models of democracy, respectful of their citizens’ freedoms or even their lives, or that less aid or reduced arms sales could make Israel – President Biden says that his party supports – less able to defend itself.

In addition to hard positions on national cultural war issues that are contrary to their general philosophy, many who call themselves progressives have an increasingly problematic view of Israel.

So why do progressives, while professing their support for women, children, minorities and even Israel, often favor policies hostile to the very people they seek to help?

The progressive emphasis on the concept of equality, which has recently been replaced by “equity”, perhaps provides an explanation. Equity has less to do with ensuring that all people start in a place of equal opportunity and resources than it has to do with ensuring that all people end up in the same place, regardless of where they are. whatever their personal choices. In other words, if some children get a better education than others; or if transgender women are not treated the same as biological women; or if the police treat minority communities differently from white middle class communities; or if children do not have full control of their bodies; or if Israel has overwhelming firepower over its adversaries, the answer is policies that reduce disparities without considering the broader consequences of those policies.

Are educational opportunities unequal? Limit the best opportunities. Is there an inequality between adults and children when it comes to controlling your body? Emphasize freedom of choice even for children whose choices may be regretted later. Are transgender people treated differently from those whose gender matches their biological sex? Treat the two groups exactly the same, pretending that the differences do not exist. Are the police overly focused on minority communities? Reduce the number of police officers. Is the power struggle between Israel and Hamas characterized by inequality? Support policies that disadvantage Israel.

The quest for equality is at the heart of progressive ideology. It may sound like a noble pursuit, but ideological purity often results in policies that harm real human beings, and even the people we love.


Gregory R. Smith is an appeals lawyer and occasional contributor to the Jewish Journal. He is legal counsel for the Los Angeles law firm Lowenstein & Weatherwax.


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