The TownhallPoliticsSocial issues

Portland embodies Progressives’ identity crisis

By Matthew Delaney 

Progressives have a choice to make: Do they want to be a movement in service to the people, or a social club in service of their own fantasies? 

If you visit their utopia of Portland, Oregon, you get the idea it’s the latter. The problem is progressives have convinced themselves it’s the former.  

Portland is itself a fantasy land where residents live as left-wing stereotypes without a hint of irony. 

There was the guy walking his dogs downtown “hypothetically” offering to sell me psychedelics. Or the homeless man moseying through Pioneer Courthouse Square and picking through trash cans in broad daylight. How about the faux biker crowd at Shanghai Tunnel that promptly put their masks on when leaving their seats? And the “Red House,” still adorned in its Black Lives Matter and ACAB tchotchkes from an eviction standoff late last year.    

Everyone plays their part to make sure the show goes on. I don’t know if the city’s robust activist community is the source of this progressive schtick, but it’s definitely the most impassioned form of it. That’s why I took part in a water supply drive one day and a protest rally the next to get the full experience. 

Before I go any further, let me say this: I did not announce that I was a journalist to anyone. This isn’t my style — I like to let people know when I’m working and when I’m not — and the public has enough trust issues with the media as it is. 

So, all names are being omitted from this report to protect their privacy.   

Readers of this website won’t like to hear it, but there’s some real genius in progressive circles. Whenever they channel their zealotry into doing good deeds, they get people to associate their benevolence with their ideology. It’s the ultimate political win-win. 

The water supply drive managed to pull off that very feat. My contribution of two one-gallon jugs was a drop in the bucket of the 450 gallons of water collected for the Warm Springs Indian Reservation ahead of the coming winter.  

The reservation of 3,300 people, two hours outside Portland, has a documented history of water flow and contamination problems that have struggled to get fixed by the powers that be. Enter activist groups like Symbiosis PDX that make deliveries, or “distros,” to Warm Springs once or twice a month to provide a resource band-aid in the form of PPE, canned food, and diapers. 

As one of the veteran supply drive guys told me, “What this [event] is really about is showing how the state is failing people, and when they do that it’s usually the most marginalized people who pay for it.” 

I’d say this kind of event is the best progressivism, but that would be too narrow in scope: being helpful to those less fortunate than you is the best thing about people in general. Progressives are the ones smartly showing this side of themselves where everyone can see them.  

This humanistic glow is why it’s easier to stomach when attendees do indulge their desire to cosplay. For instance, some of them introduced themselves with code names like Dot or Bingo. Also, a small group did the ritualistic shouting of criticisms and demands at “the man” — the front entrance of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the culprit for persistent water issues according to activists.  

None of those antics could cool the warm feeling you got from being there, however. Even the keynote speaker, who rambled about her own leftist talking points, really sold to everyone how much of a difference we were making.  

“It’s a steep, uphill climb, to repair all the damage that this modern world has created,” she said to about 25 of us in the dreary cold. “And I just want every one of you to remember that whenever you get this little help, you are helping to push forward that repair, that recovery. Because your healing is slow. It takes a long time. But it always starts with something small, even as small as what’s here.” 

You could see how an event like this could sway our largely apolitical population. The events are a little intrusive on the public domain, yes, but that’s also what makes it the kind of experience that people bond over. It’s a unique act of service that creates a community in the process. It’s basically nirvana for grassroots activists because it gets people loyal to your cause for life. 

But it’s not exciting, interesting, or fun at all. It’s the kind of gathering that appeals to law clerks and suburban dads. In other words, normal people. 

Progressivism is about saving the world from certain destruction. It’s supposed to be exhilarating work that only a special few can tackle.  

It’s supposed to feel like the Trans Revenge rally. Well, I should say, if the rally became what it was intended to be. 

Roughly 30-40 black bloc members joined an equal number of protesters near the blacktop at Colonel Summer Park for what felt like a Farmers Market at first.  

People gave out free trinkets, and food and beverages. Kids ran around as their trans parents looked on. Pet leashes were double fisted along with coffee cups. I even met a very nice woman, who turned out to be the mother of the event organizer, a trans woman. It was quaint in a weird way.  

This was all just a pregame to an angry romp through southeast Portland. Speeches were meant to rev people up before taking to the streets, but there wasn’t a consistent message on how we should feel. 

One of them, a trans man, offered introspective advice, like telling the crowd that being trans is great but uncomfortable. Another speaker, a transwoman, advised everyone to show their haters love because they’re likely just jealous of their bold trans existence.  

Others took more aggressive tones. A non-binary queer person and Marine Corps veteran shared how they were outed, and subsequently sexually assaulted, when they served during the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” era. No doubt a horrific experience anyone can sympathize with, but not one that entitles them to claim things that aren’t factual, such as how “the enemy” is killing trans people in the thousands.  

The event organizer cited legislation passed in multiple states that restricted trans peoples’ ability to receive gender-based medical care and others that prevented trans people from competing in the sport they identify with. All of those are akin to death because they deny the ability for trans people to live their lives authentically. And that action needs to be met with force. 

“We did not get to where we are by simply lying down and being peaceful,” she told the crowd. “We did not simply ask — we took it. It took many of us fighting, dying, loving and refusing to assimilate into the status quo.” 

When it was time to take their rage to the streets, it appeared the angriest people were the drivers forced to circumvent the protest by getting off Hawthorne Boulevard.  

This didn’t go over well by at least one of the demonstrators, who vented their frustration on Twitter afterward: “Don’t you love walking in a circle in a neighborhood? Ya know, where’s nothing [sic] to do and no one to yell at? Now I’m just grumpy. Please do better next time.”  

Few things could’ve captured the motive behind the rally better than that disappointment. The “true believers” who showed up that day weren’t looking to spread acceptance for their life choices; they were looking to be antagonized so they could refresh their victim status and, in their minds, justify the need for retaliation. The progressive fantasy is a heroic one, and every hero needs a villain. Who exactly they’re “saving” is up for debate. 

What this ideology faces is an identity crisis. They want to help people, but they want to do it while wearing their anarchist costume. Just like how they want to fight the system, but at both the supply drive and the rally, speakers urged people to express their dissatisfaction with elected officials.  

Or how, in another tweet that got major traction in Portland’s anarchist Twittersphere, they told people to apply for jobs in the city government after a couple hundred were fired for being unvaccinated. Wouldn’t a group of people who believe every social and governmental system in this country is corrupted by their white male architects want to create their own? At the very least, wouldn’t they see that trying to join the state is contradictory to their purported “anarchy?” 

In a community that’s already fiercely private (and paranoid) as it is, they will never gain widespread trust in their cause by using pseudonyms, or dressing in all black, and definitely not by covering their faces. Their paradoxical, and frankly, unserious beliefs only make it harder for them to reach people in any meaningful way. 

So, in the question of what’s more important to progressives — the people or their personal satisfaction — this little window into Portland should give you the answer.

Subscribe to get early access to podcasts, events, and more!

Matthew Delaney


Matthew Delaney is a local journalist based in Washington, D.C. When he’s not questioning why he joined the media, he’s doing his part to restore some of its credibility with quality work

Tags: , , , , ,
Previous Post
Guilty or not, the agenda behind the Rittenhouse trial is clear
Next Post
The origins of America’s obesity epidemic part one: M.P.A.C.

Related Articles

Tags: , , , , ,