Is US progressive politics, especially in cultural issues, incapable of attracting majority support. Not so much in terms of the usual self-fulfilling marginalization, but there are absolute limits to the mutability of moderate ideologies in  order to build working majorities.

In these conditions, it seems almost certain that tit-for-tat will act less as a restraint than as fuel for an ever-escalating cycle of vengeance.
And yet, I understand why conservatives feel pushed in this direction. Cancel culture is like an offensive weapon with no good countermeasures — the very problem that led nuclear strategists to conclude that the best defense is a good offense. The only way to harden yourself against attack in such a scenario is to build a (Trumpian) sort of ideological bunker that criticisms from the other side can never penetrate. But that strategy leaves you blind to uncomfortable facts, and unable to curb egregious abuses even by your own side — support for racial prejudice, say, or looting.
The alternative is to build your own offensive capability as a deterrent. While holding your enemy at bay with doomsday threats, you can fight proxy battles to chip away at institutions controlled by your opponents — deploying civil rights lawsuits, for example, to deter religious colleges from enforcing biblical prohibitions against homosexuality; stripping liability protections from social media platforms whose moderation policies tilt too far left.
We’ve collectively arrived at this place because neither left nor right has institutions powerful enough to constrain their side’s militants, which means deterrence is bound to fail.…

“Should that make us deeply skeptical that the larger culture of progressive politics, especially when it comes to cultural issues, is capable of attracting majority support in America? Absolutely.”

Now, there are some things small groups can push through even though much of the population opposes it.

But I think that a lot of people currently overestimate how much the very small group of true progressives can accomplish against the will of the majority over the long run. 

And, no, moderates are not a cohesive political group that are united in their love of Joe Biden or Mitt Romney.

But, no, the vast majority of them aren’t secret progressives who love AOC either. 

This also explains why liberals have to be careful and strategic to win elections whereas conservatives can seemingly do whatever they want: Conservatives have a larger base, so they have a lot more room for error!

(That should also increase your respect for Biden’s victory.) 

Another way of looking at this.
Ideological composition of Republican Party:
75% conservative
20% moderate
4% liberal

Ideological composition of Democratic Party:
51% liberal
35% moderate
12% conservative

No wonder Rs, but not Ds, stand a chance if they mostly rally the base.


the essence of the “culture war” is an expanse in an unsteady state

  • 3) This makes it easier for Rs to swing people even against progressive policies they might like at first sight..
  • 4) ..makes me skeptical that other data does show the “larger culture of progressive politics” is popular..
  • 5) ..and helps explain why Rs have more room for error.

  • April 3, 2021