Honor and Progressives

Interesting to see the word come up in a progressive piece, and even employed correctly to describe this particular problem.
Two changes are required for Democrats to diminish the 39-point margin by which whites without college degrees voted for Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton.

This first concerns social honor. Too often in otherwise polite society, elites (progressives emphatically included) unselfconsciously belittle working-class whites. We hear talk of “trailer trash” in “flyover states” afflicted by “plumber’s butt” — open class insults that pass for wit. This condescension affects political campaigns, as in Hillary Clinton’s comment about “deplorables” and Barack Obama’s about people who “cling to guns or religion.”

“My biggest boneheaded move,” Mr. Obama mused.

He was right. Democrats should stop insulting people. The high cost of doing so is dramatized by “I’m deplorable” T-shirts and Inaugural DeploraBalls. There’s no need to accept racism, sexism or homophobia from working-class whites or anyone else. Just live up to our progressive ideals by acknowledging social disadvantage more consistently....

That’s the first step. The second is for Democrats to advocate an agenda attractive to low-income and working-class Americans of all races: creating good jobs for high school graduates.
I sometimes get the sense that progressives think that step two is sufficient: that if they come up with a good enough set of government-based gifts, they'll win (and deserve to win) the working class without needing to treat the honor of working class members as important. This guy clearly sees both that this is not sufficient, and also understands just why.


jaed said...

Along those lines, it interested me that the more famous part of Hillary Clinton's characterization of Trump voters was that half were a basket of deplorables... but she went on to characterize the remainder as, essentially, a bunch of losers in need of the federal government to run their lives:

"...people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end."

This struck me at the time as even more insulting than the "deplorables" crack. I myself would rather be seen as a deplorable than as a loser at the game of life, a permanent dependent.

Grim said...

Agreed. It is alarming to realize that, should she have been elected, one would have been viewed as an enemy of the state. Yet the alternative was being viewed as a ward of the state, rightly subject to all its power and control and for your own good.

Texan99 said...

Yep, in her book you're either her dependent client or her enemy.

douglas said...

Well, then I choose enemy.

They think they only need step 2 because they think honor is outdated and wrong at it's base, and not worth concerning themselves with (or, conveniently enough, holding themselves to). I can't see how they ever get over that hump.

jaed said...

I think it's worse than that. They themselves have social honor—they expect certain kinds of respect for themselves, and give that respect to others of their class—but they think ordinary people aren't deserving of it. They will "generously" provide goodies to ordinary people (out of tax money, not their own), but respectful treatment? That would get in the way of virtue signaling, which is a form of social honor they use for themselves.

Deplorables, for them, live on only the physical level, and only want their basic material needs taken care of. Honor is for higher sorts such as themselves.

That's just not going to end well.

Grim said...

Jaed has the sense of it, I think. You cannot have a human ethics without a notion of honor. They reject talk of honor as wicked, but they cannot reject the thing itself. We can't do without it. You can't even evaluate an argument from a field about which you are not expert without a sense of honor: whose opinion is more worthy of respect, since I can't evaluate the merits given my lack of expertise?

So they think that they can buy the poor, the way you might buy someone in the throes of drug addiction. Offer them a material benefit -- another hit of the drug, say -- and they will crawl to you and do anything for you.

That's not right. This author understands why it is not right. The absolute first step is to learn to show honor to those you want to persuade.

jaed said...

As an extension of Grim's thought, if you want to persuade someone, you first show them honor. But if you are forcing someone, honoring them is not necessary. (Indeed, the use of force is in some sense a negation of honor: you are not an equal whom I need to convince, your opinions are of no matter, you are like an animal, or a rock.)

Faling to show honor to those you are trying to persuade is a revelation that you hold this attitude toward them—that the use of persuasion is a tactic you turn to out of weakness, not morality, and you would use force if you thought you could.

Texan99 said...


douglas said...

Yes, Jaed, you're right- they do have an honor code- it's just perverted in my view. Excellent points, thank you Jaed and Grim for that.

That last bit Jaed- "...would use force if you thought you could.", that's a bracing thought, but you're absolutely right.