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In the world of progressive politics, all eyes are turned to Great Britain.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, represents progressivism in its most uncompromising form. He and his party are proposing massive increases in social spending, tax hikes on businesses and the wealthy, rent control in major cities, a ban on fracking, a boost in the minimum wage and the re-nationalization of railroads and water companies.

Michael Gerson mug

Michael Gerson

Corbyn himself has advocated unilateral disarmament, has urged the United Kingdom to leave NATO and has seldom found a socialist revolutionary he didn’t admire (including Hugo Chavez).

And according to a recent YouGov/Times poll, Corbyn’s Labour Party is 1 point behind the Conservatives in voting intention.

There is no immediate election on the horizon in the United Kingdom. And the disturbing ties between British leftism and anti-Semitism are emerging as a serious scandal. But there is little doubt that Corbyn’s forces have consolidated their hold on the Labour Party, that the party did better than expected in the 2017 election and that Corbyn is no longer unthinkable as a future prime minister.

Whatever else Corbyn’s ascendance might mean, it is the death of Blairism — former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s attempt to define a center-left alternative to the Labour Party’s hard left. No more political trimming and tacking. Corbyn supporters regard themselves as part of a people-powered social movement — dedicated to economic equality and environmental protection, opposed to militarism and in revolt against a compromised establishment.

There is no exact political equivalent to Corbyn himself in America, at least outside the faculty lounge. But a similar spirit could be seen in Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign — the romance of ideological purity. Sanders’ supporters were as opposed to (Bill) Clintonism as Corbyn’s are to Blairism, and for the same reasons. Many on the left have lost patience with centrism. They feel part of a progressive wave, a movement. They see no need to compromise, just to organize.

In America, this tendency on the left is reinforced by Donald Trump’s consolidation of power in the Republican Party. Trump’s extremism — his combination of plutocracy, misogyny and nativism — has encouraged ideological ambition in his opponents. His vulnerability is taken — not as an opportunity to build a broad political coalition against Trumpism — but as a chance to win without compromise. A chance to bury conservatism itself.

Compared with Great Britain, this is a big and diverse country. So this trend on the left is not found everywhere equally. But consider recent events in California. In February, the state Democratic Party refused to endorse Sen. Dianne Feinstein for re-election. Though a liberal by almost any standard, Feinstein was not liberal enough for delegates at the party convention. Her challenger, state Sen. Kevin de Leon, attacked her support for school vouchers, for anti-terrorist surveillance, for “a criminal justice system propped up by institutional racism,” and for the Iraq and Afghan wars. “The days of Democrats biding our time, biding our talk, are over,” de Leon told cheering delegates. “Leadership comes from human audacity, not congressional seniority. ... We demand passion, not patience.”

Some progressives talk of California — with its political argument between left and lefter — as a model for the nation. A recent (and much tweeted) article by Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira concludes that bipartisanship is dead because the GOP is no longer a functioning partner. Describing our politics as a new civil war, they argue: “At some point, one side or the other must win — and win big. ... Now the entire Republican Party, and the entire conservative movement that has controlled it for the past four decades, is fully positioned for the final takedown that will cast them out for a long period of time in the political wilderness. They deserve it.”

In the GOP, fanaticism seems to have all the passion and energy. On the left, the same is increasingly true. But there are problems when politics ceases to be the realm of partial agreement and becomes a conflict of social movements. The virtues essential to self-government — civility, compromise and moderation of temperament — are devalued. The incremental reforms necessary to solve public problems become impossible. Opponents are dehumanized and viewed as enemies. The cruel and intemperate come to dominate our political life.

Simply put: If the response to Trump is a general radicalization of American politics, the damage will last generations. Somehow, in the midst of so much fanaticism, moderation must find a passion of its own.

Michael Gerson can be reached at michaelgerson@washpost.com.

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(13) comments

mocha1

Cassandra, get outside your liberal bubble. Holocaust denial, antisemitism, 911 denial are all liberal beliefs. If you would have read my post instead of letting your lib emotions run wild I stated leftist control of the media is similar to what allowed Germany to sanction the holocaust. Not the denial you have promulgated. Libs are so predictable because they live in their bubble and are driven by leftist emotional arguments and there fore reject rational arguments. Also why it is impossible to have a rational discussion with a true lib because they operate out of that emotional response. Like your response to this post will be a personal attack instead of any rational thought out dialogue.

kingman10

wrong again mocha1. The conspiracy nut cases you mentioned and more, are all from the hard right, and you know it. Just check out the sites your pal buggs likes to visit All kinds of radical conspiracies there, take you pick. Now you point out for us one site that s considered a bona fide leftist or progressive, and show us they are antisemitic, or Holocaust deniers or 911 deniers. You won't have a hard time finding right wing sites that showcase those beliefs. Conservatives are so predictable because they live in a bubble and driven by emotional arguments and reject facts and rational arguments. Why is it impossible to have a rational discussion with a right wing wack job, because they operate out of emotional and irrational responses, and get personal when cornered in a lie. I bet your response to this post will be a personal attack instead of any rational or verifiable thought out dialogue with facts.

oldhomey

Gosh, I hope you don't take this as a personal attack, but your statement, "Holocaust denial, antisemitism, 911 denial are all liberal beliefs" is so astonishingly stupid that it blocks out any sort of rational thought. Why have you chosen to get into this discussion when you are so bereft of a rational thought?

Cassandra2

" Holocaust denial, antisemitism, 911 denial are all liberal beliefs." Wow, Mocha, you just undermined ANYTHING you might have to say in the future with this ridiculous, patently false statement. I challenge you to provide evidence to back up this claim. This should be amusing.

mocha1

Listening to progressives who live in a world where they only entertain one viewpoint , it is easy to see how Germany could enter as a nation of the holocaust. They were told day after day of the evilness of the Jews and non-Aryans. All of the trouble of the nation was due to these elements. In order to have happiness and a nation of peace and prosperity this segment of the population must be eliminated and the nation purified. Think of what we hear hourly on the national media. Trump evil, republicans evil, conservatives evil, Christians evil homophobia’s, Countered with democrat and liberals love the people, Muslims are of peace, illegals great for our country, our country is becoming better more babies we kill. And you wonder when one of these left learners takes a gun and kills as many as possible, oh that’s right, it is the guns fault.

Cassandra2

Listening to ranters like Mocha, Hoaxer and Chippy, one is surprised they aren't leading the charge when it comes to Holocaust denying. They are all equally good at avoiding facts that they don't agree with and spreading fake news that they stand by steadfastly.

johnnybragatti

Climateshoax should check into MSH, (Mendota State) with his buttey : Buggs MaNure,
and maybe they together can get a deal and do a poster gig,
and call it : "Crazy Geezers United Coalition of WI."???
Go for it dudesickle.

oldhomey

I agree somewhat with this, even though Gerson is a conservative whose politics I generally don't agree with. I think the Democrats could hurt themselves by going for the most far-left of their party when they field candidates in the next two elections. If ever there was a time that the world needed moderation, it is now.

Climatehoax

I never can figure out why people who assault others because of their political beliefs, leave convicts out of jail early, sue businesses, burn down buildings, shout down opposing speakers, block streets, riot, engage in racism, give slap on the wrist punishments for criminal activity, etc, etc are called PROGRESSIVE, I think it’s the opposite

oldhomey

well, Climate, you live in your own little alternative universe, apparently, where all this takes place. I don't live there, so I can't tell you anything.

Climatehoax

Listen to something other than MSNBC, or CNN and you may actually get facts of what goes on in our country.

Cassandra2

Please enlighten us as to what Rense, InfoWars and NaturalNews are saying, Hoaxer. LOL!

oldhomey

Sorry, Climate, unlike you I rely very little on getting my news from television, though I have CNN on right now because of the bombing of chemical weapons facilities in Syria. It is the first place we all should go when an event like that happens, because they are geared up better for blanket coverage instantly.

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