Our granddaughter attends a late Victorian primary school probably built originally for the children of mining families. It isn’t easy to tell because the whole area is now covered in houses, but those Victorian children may have seen railway coal trucks from the playground. Their social roots would have been working class but today all that has changed.
To make a point perhaps it is worth simplifying the class issue because a feature of recent decades has been the disappearance of the old working class. This seems to have coincided with a section of the middle class redefining itself as progressive although political enthusiasts have defined themselves as progressive for many decades.
However, modern progressives have created an exclusive social class by erecting barriers to entry. In that respect there is still nothing really new going on because this particular social division was always based partly on money and partly on social attitudes. Perhaps we might say that the significance of money has been downgraded.
The progressive class now seems to dance around three main totems – total government, total equality and total environment. Show a lack of respect for any of those totems and you are a barbarian. The totems are more diffuse and complex than this, but like shapes emerging from a primeval mist they seem to portend a less pragmatic, less honest future. Truth and honesty are not progressive totems.
Gender politics, climate change, sustainable energy, electric cars, recycling, hatred of capitalism while living off its fruits – the list is long and swallowing any of it particularly difficult for anyone who values rational analysis. This is the social barrier to entry, a much higher barrier than going to church every Sunday, shiny shoes and a neat garden.
It is not easy to avoid the conclusion that this is one point of progressive ideas – they are supposed to exclude the uncontrolled nature of rational analysis. Reason can lead anywhere and that they don’t like. But we’ve seen it all before, century after century, so we are not treading new ground here.
Instead of flattening out social divisions, modern social divisions appear to be as deep as ever as progressives raise the barriers to entry ever higher. In doing so they exclude those people Hillary Clinton described as deporables. It’s a strange idea but social mobility always seems to demand unwavering support for impossible ideas. Why? What are progressives avoiding?
From what we have seen over recent years, progressives seem to be afraid of democracy. A deplorable vote has the same value as a progressive vote and this is what progressives seem intent on changing. Ironically they seem to fear the egalitarian potential of democracy, the possibility that their own social position could be undermined via the popular vote. Hence the scorn poured on so-called populism.
Progressives seem to want a manipulated version of democracy, one which achieves its aims by impossible demands, by subverting reason, evidence and pragmatic politics. A world in which the unpredictable nature of democracy, free markets and even free speech are severely curtailed. It is essentially a reactionary, middle class outlook predating the universal franchise. It is not new.