Progressives, Poverty, and Police: The Left Blames the Wrong Actors

When you see all those shuttered business, jobless citizens, empty houses, abandoned pets at animal shelters, and the myriad of other distressing sights, remember this: a virus did not do this—government did this. Politicians, informed by experts (who have been wrong about almost everything), and hectored by the media (whose agenda is obvious), authored the destructive rules that have disordered human life. They did this with clear evidence in plain view that it was unjustified.

Elites must have known that the consequences would more devastating than the effects of a virus that for the vast majority of people is at worst mild and cold-like—if it is felt at all. If they did not know this, then they are incompetent. However incompetent our leaders are, had they simply erred on the side of liberty all of this could have been avoided. But they do not appreciate our freedom. Why should they? They’re inside the castle walls. They won’t suffer like the fate of the proles ad serfs. Not in the short term, anyway.

For all of those who are horrified by police officers harassing black and brown people in predominantly black and brown communities (Democracy Now has become hysterical in their coverage of this, see “‘Weaponized and Racialized’: Police Departments Use COVID-19 to Target Black & Brown Communities“), why don’t they write a letter or make a phone call to the progressive mayors of those cities passing these draconian rules and ordering their police officers to enforce them and tell them to stop? Progressives dwell on power, but they do nothing to challenge it. Indeed, they are instruments of it.

DC mayor threatens 90 days in jail for leaving home during coronavirus
Mayor Muriel Bowser threatens Washington, DC, residents with jail and fines if they leave their homes during the lockdown. Nearly half of the population of the city is black.

If rank-and-file progressives knew anything about the character of inner-city urban life in America they would know that the enforcement of shelter-in-place rules is going to fall disproportionately on black and brown people. They want to blame on “white privilege” a situation those whom they admire created. In reality, this is the result of the actions of progressive politicians.

This is a very simple truth to grasp: When a big city mayor orders police to arrest people who are on the streets and in the parks in neighborhoods that are disproportionally black and brown, then black and brown people are more likely to fall under the control of the police who are tasked with enforcing that law. Here’s another truth: affluent white people are not going to grasp or admit to the reality of this. It’s too good of an opportunity to signal superlative virtue by trashing the cops.

Let a Marxist sociologist explain this.

White people are more likely to live in communities with large houses, big yards and comfortable dens, individual bedrooms with privacy, easy access to games and other enjoyments with which to while away the hours. Whites are, on average, better off than black and brown people, and therefore can more easily shelter-in-place to work and recreate. Parents in these communities can turn their kids loose in the backyard—or, more accurately, force them to outside on their own property (the coddlers don’t let their kids go to the park, anyway). The more affluent can spread out.

In contrast, black and brown people are more likely to live in overcrowded neighborhoods in cramped apartments with no yards. They live much of their lives outside where there is space and fresh air (what fresh air there is given the NIMBY-shaped distribution of pollution). The inner-city poor need streets, parks, and other outdoor spaces in which to move around. When politicians make shelter-in-place rules, then, with the social media world always present and waiting, the public is going to see videos of police harassing black and brown people.

Predictably, progressives bash the “racist pigs” for enforcing rules they’re ordered to uphold by progressive mayors. It’s a tick (you also see it in the calls to abolish ICE among the open borders activists). But one needs to ask oneself a simple question: Who controls the police? Who do you think runs Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, and the other big cities? Right-wing libertarians who care about civil liberties? Or progressives who have no qualms about imposing restrictions on freedom of movement, who play the race game to stay in power, but then do little to lift up the communities they claim to represent? You know the answer. Progressive city leaders talk up civil rights, but then pass rules that sharply curtail them, ordering police to enforce them on the folks who are going about their life.

Police are working men and women doing their jobs. Rank-and-file progressives trash the cops for doing the jobs elite progressives order cops to do.

Given policing patterns in a class-ordered system, what we are witnessing is the predictable consequence of passing laws and ordinances that criminalize normal behavior and trample on civil rights and liberties. This is not about the police. It is about the politicians—many of them Democrats—who authored the lockdown and all the liberals and progressives who support them—the same liberals and progressives who are horrified when police stand down from enforcing unjust orders.

* * *

I get pushback from self-identified progressives when I point out that it is progressive policies that lie behind so many of the woes of working class people. I understand the identification with progressivism. I used to be one—albeit never comfortably because I am a civil libertarian. Then I deepened my understanding of history and the scales fell from my eyes. It was the activist Richard Grossman who really woke me up on this (“Defining the Corporation, Defining Ourselves” and “Challenging Corporate Law and Lore”).

Many of the self-identified progressives I have spoken with would likely be more comfortable identifying as comrades on the populist left, those who support small “d” democracy, local control, and personal freedom. They are alienated from their identity based on professed values. Their understanding of their politics is corrupted by ideas that don’t belong in the totality of their value system. We used to have a populist tradition in America before corporations took over and engineered big city progressivism to provide reformist cover for their wealth and power, a cynical strategy to gain the trust of the people with whom they would damned if they would share in the the wealth produced by the community.

Progressivism insinuated itself into leftwing circles as part of what Antonio Gramsci calls ideological hegemony, where the establishment rules the people by incorporating them into the structure of power. The imperialists have long depended on collaborators to control the proles, just as the feudal lords used them to control the serfs and the kings the peasants. Plug the practice into the modern domestic situation and you have diversity, equity, and inclusion, what is more honestly known as tokenism. It’s the New Civil Rights and progressives use it to bash the proles and serfs with nonsensical notions of “white privilege” “white fragility” and “microaggressions.” Just look at happens when you transgress the doctrine laid down by the theologian of the progressive order. You’re a heretic. A racist. A xenophobe. A pariah. You’re not just wrong. You’re bad. You’re evil. A sinner. This is the way monarchs operate: the king selects among the obsequious and compliant tribal leaders and puts them in position of privilege while tasking them with controlling the other tribal members. The beauty of the nation-state is that it detribalizes the people. The ugliness of progressivism is the people’s retribalization to produce collaborators.

Progressivism is not just a dead end. It’s a tool elites use to control those who would and should oppose them. So it must be those racist cops who are the problem, not the perverse urban politics that keeps down and in line the lumpenproletariat.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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