by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Over the past decade, a new and virulently illiberal progressive movement has taken shape in the United States. Centered around identity politics, control and censorship of speech, and proposed government takeovers of much of the economy, today’s New Progressive now sounds and looks almost identical to the radical fringe elements of leftism as recently as the late 1990s. Although the actual number of these New Progressives may be small, the movement has broad and approving reach in the media, and has become a disproportionally large part of the national political debate.
For conservatives it is essential to understand the origins and nature of this new progressivism. Although the cultural, economic, and political ideas that undergird this movement can be traced back to at the least the late 1960s and the emergence of European postmodern philosophy, in the American context, the most useful starting point for understanding what is happening today is Occupy Wall Street (OWS).
Occupy brought together three ideas for the first time that were formerly on the fringe. First is the idea that group identity bestows differing rights and obligations on individuals, rather than individuals all having equal rights and obligations. Second, OWS created the concept of a battle between the 99 percent and the 1 percent, which replaced a more nuanced approach on the left to how wealth is distributed. Finally, it offered a deep distrust of and desire to silence corporate entities that OWS claimed are not persons and therefore essentially have no rights.