During a discussion hosted by the Edmund Burke Foundation a couple of years ago in Rome, Viktor Orbán was asked if he considered himself a populist. A populist, he replied, is someone who promises the people everything and delivers on nothing. When someone runs on a platform and implements it? That’s just democracy.
I’ve noted before that the term “populist” has become a pejorative that progressives attach to anyone they dislike. This is, first and foremost, politicians with socially conservative views. This is not reserved only for the right wing, either. In Malta, for example, political parties of all stripes identify as pro-life. The same is true in many African and South American countries. There was once a basic consensus on life and family, while economic issues were up for debate.
But the terms of the debate have changed since the West was swept by the LGBT revolution, and now even staunch left-wingers can be smeared if they are not on board with every new manifestation of the sexual revolution. As evidenced by the marriage of big business and the gay lobby, economic leftism and a focus on workers has been exchanged for Pride floats with furries and leather gays sponsored by Coca-Cola. Progressivism is now all about sex, all the time.
Consider, for example, how a resurgence of left-wing social conservative politicians in Latin America was covered recently by the Americas Quarterly:
It’s no secret that the Latin American left has a strongman problem. From Havana to Caracas to Managua, self-proclaimed socialists are notorious for taking office only to never step down. But while left-wing autocrats and their human rights abuses garner much media attention, an emerging crop of leftist politicians in Latin America poses a more insidious threat: they’re embracing regressive social values. If they continue to fail in elevating the causes of equality, diversity and individual freedom, the new leaders on the left will leave the region’s most vulnerable and underrepresented communities at great risk.
Reread that paragraph for a moment to let it sink in: Socialists taking office and then remaining as dictators is bad. Their human rights abuses are bad. But leftist politicians with socially conservative views are worse. Left-wing politicians who support the view of marriage every nation on earth held circa 2000 and believe children in the womb should be protected are “a more insidious threat” than dictators are. It’s hard to get a better picture of self-described progressives’ real views than that.
The authors of the Americas Quarterly piece, Will Freeman and Paul Angelo, are deeply concerned that “socially progressive causes began to lose their luster in the mid-2010s,” which they chalk up primarily to the growth of evangelical groups and their mega-churches growing as a voting bloc. They do not consider the fact that wokeism has metastasized at an alarming rate, beginning right around…the mid-2010s. Western progressives are so outraged now at the thought of a biological male being denied access to the women’s bathroom that they forget how insane this sounds to entire nations of people still connected to reality.
As I noted in my review of Anne Applebaum’s recent book Twilight of Democracy, progressives refuse to admit that “populism”—if that’s the right word—is often a backlash against the consistent destruction of social norms. Applebaum and David Frum and other liberals have gotten on board with the LGBT revolution and now accuse those who vote for disruptors of being violators of norms—when in fact, many of them are voting in defence of norms far more fundamental than political proprieties.
Freeman and Angelo go on:
Now, after years spent championing the cause of women and minorities, Latin American leftists have veered to the right on social issues, leaning into traditionally conservative positions on gender equality, abortion access, LGBTQ rights, immigration, and the environment. The left’s conservative turn leaves marginalized communities bereft of their traditional political allies and jeopardizes freedom and safety. And if an economically populist yet socially conservative platform continues to prove a winning electoral formula, as it did earlier this month in Peru, regionwide poverty relief may ultimately come at the cost of individual rights.
Again, it is important to interpret what they are saying here. When they write “veered to the right,” they actually mean that many leftists have not followed them down the gender ideology rabbit trail. The trans movement and its accompanying insanities are very new, but anyone who has not adopted this post-2014 ideology is now a diehard social conservative simply for believing there are only two genders. Leftists in countries not as wealthy as America are still dealing with economic issues, and have not yet begun to obsess over pelvic platforms as we have here in the West.
But none of this occurs to progressive academics. Instead, they blast Peru’s new socialist president-elect Pedro Castillo for opposing “gender ideology,” because they don’t understand why he might not want thousands of girls seeking double mastectomies and growing beards after absorbing Western propaganda. They worry about Ecuador, a left-wing bastion, that still stubbornly refuses to rescind protections for pre-born children (with Rafael Correa even working to maintain these protections).
The disappointments are myriad. Brazil’s Bolsonaro, of course, is inevitably compared to Trump, the worst insult that can be conjured. The Dominican Republic’s President Luis Abinader disappointed the West by declining to redefine marriage and refusing thus far to loosen abortion restrictions; El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele opposes same-sex marriage and the use of government to promote “sexual diversity work.” To Western progressives who believe that “leftist” is synonymous with “sexual revolutionary,” this is all very confusing. Don’t these people know that it is 2021?
All of this has made progressives quite despairing. “[M]ore leftists have opted for the right-wing veer than not,” Freeman and Angelo write, not considering that perhaps they are the ones that have veered rather than their comrades. But no—Drag Queen Storytime, kids getting sex changes, and an entire month to celebrate sexual diversity and smash heteronormativity cannot possibly have anything to do with it. The West has long seen itself as a moral leader, but many other nations see us as a cautionary tale—and that includes economic leftists. Progressives, of course, are far too blind to see it. I hope it will be their downfall.
Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has appeared in National Review, The European Conservative, the National Post, and elsewhere. Jonathon is the author of The Culture War and Seeing Is Believing: Why Our Culture Must Face the Victims of Abortion as well as the co-author with Blaise Alleyne of A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide.