06/20/2006 05:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

True-Believer Progressives, Here's Why You Turn So Many People Off

I consider myself a political progressive. I'm against the Iraq war, rabidly pro-environment, a firm believer in economic justice rather than private-equity greed; pro choice... the list goes on and on. True, I go off the rez every once in awhile, but read the preponderance of my posts and you'll know where I am coming from.

I really do wish this progressive agenda prominence in this nation.

But reading some of the posts and Comments here and in other Blogs, I notice a key fault shared by many of my fellow progressives. A fault so endemic and irritating that it ignores the realities of politics and human nature. A fault that turns more people off than it converts.

Just as with the true believers on the right, the overarching fault of too many of the left's true believers is a combination of rampant self-righteousness and a lack of respect for other positions that may happen to differ with yours. Differ greatly, or differ slightly.

A fault that fuels articles, posts and comments that ring with the wrathful tone of I am right and if you are not 100% in agreement with what I say, you are a right-wing lackey of the Rove Administration. And in being that, you are either horribly naïve, or getting paid by them.

This is not new. It is a fault that true-believer progressives have suffered from for most of our political history. Early in the last century, followers of Socialist leaders like Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas were called wimps by Communists. More recently, presidential candidates who write books about global warming fail to receive votes from those who claim the candidate's proposed policies to fix things are insincere - and a candidate who can't win gets the true believer's vote instead. And those who say get out of Iraq by the end of this year rather than tomorrow- well, they are warmongers, you know?

There's nothing wrong with setting yourself up out on the edge. With an unjustified war, growing police powers and an official governmental disbelief in global warming, absolutist feelings that reflexively shout down all views that are not exactly like yours is a great psychological release.

But the louder you shout, and the larger the brickbats you wield toward everyone who is not exactly with your program 100.00%, well, that has never worked in terms of changing politics to make things right.

Why? It is because for buckets of reasons too complex to posit in one article, true believers in progressive causes have - for good or evil- never have been able to carve a major percentage beachhead in our political culture.

The best trajectory for change is to convince those who may not agree with you on everything, but agree with you on some things to side with you on those things you both agree on. That's how alliances are made, and sometimes, how minds are changed.

My fellow progressives, when you scorn everybody who does not agree with everything you say, a process inimical to human nature ensues. When you shout people down and call them names, they tend to get defensive and either shut down or shout back at you. When an ultra-progressive (of which I bear some traits) tells a moderate liberal "you are full of shit, fuck you," that's not the best way to get buy-in on any of your ideas.

Not the best way to engage your fellow citizens. For if you go down this absolutist path, you lose the opportunity to engage, and change, the minds of those whose critical mass we really need to change things about what is wrong with our nation and the world.