Sustainability of Progressive Politics

July 2, 2008

What is sustainability?  It seems to be a term that has been loaded with additional baggage since the Progressives have reappropriated the term for their own use.  It seems to be a word describe the longevity of a given system, usually in an ecological context.  Yet, as with many ideological terms of the left, it manages to translate itself into virtually every facet of human life.  For example, sustainability encompasses what kind of house you live in, the food you eat, the types of vacations  you go on, the politicians you elect, your choice to have children (or not), the types of investments you make, and many other aspects.  But what is sustainability with regard to politics?  (I am not speaking of sustainability policy–I’m speaking of the longevity associated with political constituencies.)

Victor Hanson wrote at his Works and Days blog about the sustainability of San Fransisco–no, not the ecological sustainability, but rather the sustainability of the (strongly-Democratic) human population:

I spent some time speaking in San Francisco recently…  There are smartly dressed yuppies, wealthy gays, and chic business people everywhere downtown, along with affluent tourists, all juxtaposed with hordes of street people and a legion of young service workers at Starbucks, restaurants, etc.  What is missing are school children, middle class couples with strollers, and any sense the city has a vibrant foundation of working-class, successful families of all races and backgrounds.  For all its veneer of liberalism, it seems a static city of winners and losers, victory defined perhaps by getting into a spruced up Victorian versus renting in a bad district, getting paid a lot to manage something, versus very little to serve something. All in all, I got a strange creepy feeling that whatever was going on, it was unsustainable–sort of like an encapsulated Europe within an American city. The city seems to exist on tourism, and people who daily come into the city to provide a service, get paid–and leave….

I remember SF in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a kid visiting with his parents. A much different place altogether of affordable homes, vibrant docks, lots of construction—and children everywhere.

This is the future of the Democratic Party:  “smartly dressed yuppies, wealthy gays, chic business people.”  Child rearing is generally not high on the list of priorities of such people, and consequently the future looks bleak for that demographic.  Even the babbling Paul Begala caricatured the Obama coalition as “eggheads and African-Americans,” and lamented that the Democratic Party is losing touch with its working-class, child rearing base (who often “cling” to religion and guns.”)

The Republican Party, as well a most conservatives, are not viewed as in support of sustainability, at least as far as the left has defined the term.  Yet Republicans have dominated in so-called Jesusland, where incomes are a bit lower, and the people work in manufacturing, farming, the military, and extractive industries, and most importantly, families are a bit larger.

As the old cliche goes, the future belongs to our children.  And conservatives have more of them.  Indeed, if you look at this table, you can see that the Blue States tend toward the bottom of the list in terms of birth rate, with California being the lone exception.  Red States dominate with higher birth rates.

Perhaps we ought to redefine what sustainability is.  It ought not mean organic soy milk, fair-trade coffee, the Toyota Prius, or voting for Obama along with the rest of your sorority.  It should be more radical than that.  It should be an unabashedly pro-human philosophy, as we should recognize that sustaining humanity is our top mission, not sustaining nature.  This mean using nature for human  benefit, not Gaia’s.  It means giving economic vitality to humans by creating trade pacts where they can export to the world market.  It means opposing autarky.  It means recognizing that human life is more important than nature, and affirming human’s mastery of nature.  This sustainability is really humanism, and is the stuff of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the Globalization, where in each case people have created systems to increase fertility, wealth, and freedom.

Sustainability, as the Progressives understand it, places nature as the master of humanity.  (Indeed, Michael Crichton has commented on how environmentalism has become a religion in the postmodern parts of the world.)

So who should own sustainability now?  The party of Progressive (extinction), or the pro-live-birth conservatives?