Liberals think history is on their side.

tags: election 2016

Damon Linker is a senior correspondent at He is also a consulting editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press, a former contributing editor at The New Republic, and the author of The Theocons and The Religious Test.

All people who passionately devote themselves to politics believe that their convictions are the right ones, the ones that most closely align with the public good as they conceive of it. But not all people who passionately devote themselves to politics believe that their convictions are bound to prevail in the fullness of time, as the culmination of capital-H History itself.

But many self-righteous liberals believe this.

You can see it in the way they're responding to Donald Trump's stunning upset victory in the presidential election (along with accompanying Republican victories in the House, Senate, and elsewhere in the country). They see it as a shocking and appalling setback, yes, but also one that in the longer term they are bound to reverse. The racists, sexists, bigots, and xenophobes managed to eke out a victory this one time. But this is but a hiccup in the inexorable unfolding of justice. Everyone knows the good guys (meaning themselves) are sure to win in the long run, which means, just as surely, that the bad guys glorying in temporary triumph will soon die off or get deposited on the trash heap of history, enabling the forward march of progress to resume its rightful course.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is nonsense, the purest fiction.

This doesn't mean liberal goals are unworthy of devotion. But it does mean that there is nothing — nothing at all — to guarantee that those goals will ultimately win out. History doesn't have sides. Liberals aren't on its leading edge, and Trump voters aren't wallowing in its atavistic backwash waiting to be dragged down by the undertow. Yes, since the end of World War II, liberal ideas and institutions and goals have usually come out on top and spread widely throughout the world. But there is no evidence that these things are bounds to prevail in the long term. None.

The reason why it’s so important for liberals to rouse themselves from their dogmatic slumber is that it is their historical dogmatism, their certainty in progressive triumph, that inspires them to insult, denigrate, mock, and denounce millions of Americans who stand on other sides of our nation's political and cultural divides. Why bother to treat them with a base level of respect if you suspect that they and their onerous, ignorant prejudices are bound to die out any day now? We are the future waiting to be ever-more-fully born; they are the dead weight of a rapidly dying past. ...

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