MCCOTTER: The Cultural Contradictions of Progressivism: The Left’s Hunger to Be Governed

The following is the fourth in an intermittent series exploring the cultural contradictions of progressivism.
“Woke” and other tenets of Leftist ideology would be grudgingly tolerated by the bulk of society, if its adherents chose to practice it personally. Most Americans still believe in the truism that one is fully entitled to tolerance, so long as what one is doing “ends at the tip of another person’s nose.” Unfortunately, the progressive (i.e., “regressive”) movement lusts to control others, eschewing tolerance to instead demand universal compliance to the tenets of their ideology. While one can readily cite numerous reasons for progressivism’s intrinsic totalitarianism, there is one reason that is often missed among the many others – namely, the Left’s hunger to be governed.

This oversight is understandable. Defenders of the permanent things of family, community, and country continually confront the Left’s incessant compulsion to coercively govern others. Yet, spurring the Left’s quest of control of others is the progressive’s own desire to be governed; and it stems not from society but from themselves – the disorder of the soul.

It is, as Russell Kirk wrote in The Roots of American Order:

The “inner order” of the soul and the “outer order” of society being intimately linked… Without a high degree of private moral order among the American people, the reign of law could not have prevailed in this country. Without an orderly pattern of politics, American private character would have sunk into a ruinous egoism.

It is their internal disorder – and the external disorder it creates and exacerbates – that compels the progressive to cede their rights and decisions to an elite (provided, of course, they are in ideological accord.) The cognitive dissonance this causes is self-medicated away by projecting the progressive’s sins upon their victims, branding them as “fascists,” “racists,” “The Patriarchy,” etc. As for themselves, the progressive believes they – and their ideological comrades – are intellectually and morally superior to their benighted, evil opponents.

Yet, the progressives’ ultimate aim is anything but democratic. While they ostensibly seek a collective, horizontal organization of society, what they are creating is an elitist-controlled “administrative state” of unaccountable experts. Power may be collectively delegated, but it is conferred upon a highly centralized bureaucracy – one that grows increasingly unaccountable with every new delegation of power and taxpayer money. However, so long as the ideological dictates of the collective are being implemented and expand the state’s power over both their opponents and themselves, the progressive base is contented and, for a time, sated with the external validation they need to believe their own self-delusions of superiority.

The progressive’s need for external validation is a symptom of their larger disorder of the soul. What are the “In This House We Believe” lawn signs but a cry for an external validation that stamps them as part of the elite collective – i.e., “our democracy”? Recognizing their need, one realizes the progressive is incapable of differentiating between an argument against their politics and attacks upon their person; and, as a result, deems objections to their ideology as an attack on “our democracy” and upon their sense of self.

The result is Manichean: one is either a good person for validating the progressive’s ideology and sense of self or they are a fascist who rejects the progressive’s ideology and refutes their intellectual and moral superiority. Ponder the progressive social media’s calls for severing ties with conservative family members; or recall a political argument where the progressive quickly “shuts down” when confronted with opposing ideas and/or facts.

Thus, the progressive believes that only through the collective’s pursuit and ultimate creation of a highly centralized, elitist government that controls and, ergo, precludes the self-government of others can the progressive finally order both society and their soul. It is this desperate hope that allows Governor Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) to aver the Golden State is a bastion of freedom. It is also why in his novel 1984 George Orwell wrote, “Freedom is slavery.” Succinctly, the Left’s hunger to be governed confuses subjugation for liberation. Only by being subsumed within the collective can one be free – or, if coerced into compliance, will one be “forced to be free,” as Rousseau euphemistically put it.  

(Speaking of Governor Newsom, one should differentiate between the true believing Leftist who hungers to be governed, and a cynical office climber who hypocritically appeals for progressive votes, even as that politician is feted at the French Laundry during a COVID lockdown they ordered. Though these latter also have disordered souls, they decidedly don’t wish to be governed by anyone, themselves included, apparently.)

Regrettably, while the progressive has placed their hopes in the collective (a.k.a. “our democracy”) to bring order to society and their souls, this cultural contradiction of progressivism is born of a backward hope: Leftists believe controlling others will one day allow them to control themselves; but their efforts only deepen their disorder in their souls. A sound mind realizes one can only order their own soul; and, so doing, recognizes their duty to protect and respect the rights of others to do the same within a truly tolerant free republic.

In conclusion, then, this cultural contradiction of progressivism, the Left’s hunger to be governed, presents our free Republic an existential conundrum: how can a revolutionary experiment in self-government survive, if an ideological minority pathologically craves a powerful, elitist administrative state to make their and everyone’s decisions for them?

A Human Events contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Radio Show," among sundry media appearances.

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