It’s the defining characteristic of today’s progressive left: Anger. And it’s not just the rioters like Antifa, or the unspeakably rude people who confront administration figures in restaurants and gratuitously yell at them. Take a look at any of the new icons of the Democratic Party when they are speaking — for example Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Ilhan Omar — and you see them seething with barely controllable anger, if not outright fury. Same with essentially every left-wing commenter on CNN or MSNBC.
And I’m just getting to the Democratic presidential candidates. Bernie Sanders. Is there anybody angrier? Always, and about everything. For that matter, all the contenders who have broken out of the less-than-1% category (and most of those who haven’t) are putting on a show of trying to out-angry all the others. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris. Anger must be what sells these days to the categories of voters they are pursuing.
But how about Joe Biden, you say? Certainly he is not as angry as these others. You must have missed Biden’s July 5 interview with Chris Cuomo of CNN. Having just been outmaneuvered by Kamala Harris at the first Democratic debate, Biden decided that it was time to show that he can do anger with the best of them. According to that New York Post report of the interview, “throughout it all, Biden was angry.” It reached the boiling point when Cuomo raised the issue of Russian election interference, drawing this outraged response from Biden:
“You think that would happen on my watch, on Barack’s watch? You can’t answer that, but I promise you it wouldn’t have. And it didn’t.”
My observation is that, at least for those of the progressive mindset, the less they have to be angry about, the angrier they become. You can’t look at the economic history of the United States over the course of my lifetime without seeing tremendous improvements on essentially every measure. Here are some statistics that I can easily find, using the mid-60s (when I was in high school) as a baseline:
Life expectancy at birth in the U.S. was 70 years in 1965. Today it is 79.
Real per capita GDP has gone from about $22,000 in 1965 to $58,000. It has grown by a factor of more than 2.5.
The change in real per capita GDP shows up in numerous measures of physical well-being throughout the economy. One of my favorites is the size of the average new house. In 1973 (earliest year I can find) it was under 1600 square feet, and by 2015 it had reached about 2700 square feet. The neighborhood where I was growing up in the 60s consisted of similar houses of about 1200 square feet, many filled with large families. Ours had 4 kids; a neighbor had 6. When we went to sell that house in 2004, we were told that no large family nowadays would even consider such a place. The house could only be sold to a single person.
In 1965, legally-enforced Jim Crow was just coming to an end. Today, it is a distant memory.
When first calculated about 1960, the federal “poverty rate” was 22%. Today (most recent Census data - 2017) it is said to be 12.3%. But even that figure is a manipulated consequence of the systematic exclusion of well more than $1 trillion of annual government “anti-poverty” distributions that did not exist 50 years ago. Without the systematic exclusion, the poverty rate today would be lucky to hit 2%. Back in the 60s, if you traveled anywhere in the South, the very real poverty of many of the people was right in your face. Today, you will be hard pressed to find anything comparable to the severe real poverty of that time.
Those are just a few things that you can find in easily-available statistics. Let me mention a few more things that are obvious from personal observation: the appearance of computers and smart phones at prices that just about anyone can afford (today the government passes out free smart phones to the poor - not counted in the measure of “poverty” of course); the tremendous increase in the availability of fresh food (in the 60s we thought that frozen vegetables were a great innovation); the huge decline in the cost of travel, particularly air travel; the decline in the relative cost of clothing; the universal availability of air conditioning (we never had it when I was growing up); the ability to find any product or service quickly on the internet; and so forth through many, many other examples.
You would think that anyone alive today, and having the privilege of living in the United States, would be filled with amazement and gratefulness. And many are. But not the progressive left. Over there, they somehow find an endless supply of smaller and smaller and less and less significant grievances to be furious about. The more privileged they are, the angrier they are. Take the student body of an Ivy League university. That’s about as privileged a group as you can find anywhere in the world. And yet those people are furious beyond belief. Somebody has more money than I do! I feel “unsafe”! My culture is being “appropriated”! The “corporations” are “ripping us off”! The distribution of income is less than perfectly fair and just!
My favorite thing to be really, really angry about is the failure to upend the economy to “solve” climate change. Over at RealClearPolitics, in a given list of links, they tend to pair two articles on related subjects. This afternoon, they paired my recent post “The Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time — Part XXIII” with one from Mother Jones titled “It’s the End of the World As They Know It.” This is the tale of some “scientists” who have become completely distraught and furious about the failure of the world to intentionally impoverish the people and end capitalism as the proposed “solution” to the barely-noticeable (and probably not even real) world temperature increases of the past century or so. The principal subject of the article is a climate researcher named Kim Cobb. Here is her reaction to the election of President Trump:
Cobb entered what she now calls “an acute mental health crisis.” Most mornings, she could not get out of bed, despite having four children to tend to. She would sob spontaneously. She obsessed about the notion that the US government would take no action to address climate change and confront its consequences. “I could not see a way forward,” she recalls. “My most resounding thought was, how could my country do this? I had to face the fact that there was a veritable tidal wave of people who don’t care about climate change and who put personal interest above the body of scientific information that I had contributed to.” Her depression persisted for weeks.
I guess Ms. Cobb will be voting for one of those really, really angry Democratic candidates in the primaries. The chance that any such candidate, even if elected, will have any measurable effect on the “climate” is zero. But maybe Ms. Cobb will get some kind of perverse satisfaction out of seeing lots of already poor and maybe middle class people around the world further impoverished to solve her imaginary climate “crisis.” Of course, she gets to keep her government grants for doing climate research with a pre-determined conclusion and using it to try to stampede the people into giving up their freedom and prosperity.