Insulting the opposition didn’t win Clinton the election — it may even have helped her lose it — but the only lesson the progressive movement seems to have learned is that Trump did a better job of it, so they have to catch up and pass him.
It’s become a race among themselves to come up with the strongest insults. “Racist” isn’t good enough; now it has to be “white supremacist.” “Alt-right” isn’t good enough; according to John Scalzi, it now has to be “Nazis.”
I’ve even seen a report of “Twitter & Reddit bots that correct instances of alt-right by responding to users w/ ‘white supremacy!'” It’s political auto-correctness!
A spice store told all Trump voters that “you just committed the biggest act of racism in American history since Wallace stood in the schoolhouse doorway 53 years ago”, then was surprised when people got mad.
I won’t say that building a political movement on insulting people dooms it to failure. The election showed it doesn’t, at least in the short run. But Trumpism makes no pretense of being an intellectual movement. It’s a personality cult that would evaporate without him. In a battle of ideas, insults may confirm the dedication of the people who are already committed, but it drives people who are in partial agreement away. It creates the impression, with good reason, that the movement is just going to denounce and smear anyone who doesn’t fully conform.
As the hardcore progressives build a wall around themselves, they don’t appear interested in alliances against Trump’s worst policies. Whether there’s even a basis for an alliance isn’t clear. Clinton said that the elected president would have “the power to shape our children for the next four years of their lives.” Does even Trump claim that as a presidential power?
Those of us who care about opposing Trump’s quest to maximize personal power and minimize civil liberties will have to do it without the progressive movement. But that shouldn’t stop any individuals who call themselves progressives from realizing they need something better. There are no border guards on this wall except fear of being different.