In the lexicon of modern American politics, there are few pieces of rhetoric more likely to elicit an eye roll from the Left than the slippery slope argument. Whether it’s in response to gun control measures or gay marriage legalization, progressives never tire of castigating conservatives for their hysteria in the face of progress and equality.
This argument has recently found reincarnation in the form of debates surrounding the use of gender pronouns and fake news. Those against any legislative attempts at regulation of these issues assert that such laws would pave the way to the restriction of the First Amendment and freedom of speech. While those in favor of such legislation contend that it is necessary for the improvement of society.
Setting aside for a moment the irony of progressives criticizing emotional rhetoric, it is the nature of the progressive ideology that creates the slippery slope. Progressivism feeds on the correction of perceived injustices and inequalities. It is also an ideology that is incredibly absolutist in its views. It doesn’t merely try to lessen injustice, but rather wipe it out entirely. These two traits, working in conjunction, guarantee that any attempts at placation will be met with an ever-escalating chorus of protests and demands.
The issue of gay marriage and LGBT rights is a perfect illustration of this point. At the time of the Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, which essentially legalized gay marriage, there was a contingent of dissenters who argued that if members of the same sex are allowed to marry, then what’s next? Would human and animal unions soon be sanctified by the state?
Though those dissenters certainly earned the ridicule they received, there was a kernel of truth in their reactionary hyperbole. With the goal of legal same-sex marriage accomplished, progressives quickly moved on to transgender rights. This was followed closely by a shift in focus to a smaller subset of transgendered people, who insisted upon being referred to using “preferred pronouns”.
It’s not difficult to see the emerging pattern. Each time a new issue is presented, the focus shifts to a group representing a smaller and smaller percentage of the population; going, respectively, from roughly 3.5% to 0.3% to a fraction of that.
There also seems to exist an inverse relationship between the size of the “oppressed” group and the level of vitriol reserved for “oppressors” – which is simply those who oppose or even show hesitation in accepting the new proposed norms. Those questioning the actual size of the disenfranchised group are met either with accusations of bigotry or the assertion that the number is irrelevant.
And why is this? Should society be curtailing rights to comfort less than a quarter of a percent of the population?
In the eyes of progressives, the answer is invariably yes. Injustice is injustice no matter how small, and all injustice must be ended. So measures to accommodate those who are “oppressed” are absolutely necessary, regardless of the cost.
On the other end of the spectrum, gun control is an issue that progressives have generally been on the losing side of for the past decade. There do remain some liberal strongholds of intense firearm restriction. However, the country as a whole has spent much of the new millennium actually loosening gun regulations. And contrary to the progressive narrative, gun homicides have continued to steadily trend down.
But despite these encouraging statistics, 2015 and 2016 were years that saw calls for gun control reach a fever pitch. Nowhere were the cries louder than the home of progressivism, the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton gleefully named the NRA as the enemy she was most proud to have made. And Democratic congressmen staged a sit-in on the house floor in a call for an increase in gun restrictions.
This goes back to the absolutism of progressivism. The size or trajectory of the issue of gun violence is irrelevant. One person dying from a firearm, much like one person being “oppressed”, is one too many and must be addressed.
The fact of the matter is that if left unabated, the progressive crusade would continue its tyrannical march ad infinitum. All the while completely unaware that they’re rowing against the tide of reality. That reality being that one of the inherent flaws of a free society is the presence of inequality. By that same token, the beauty of a free society lies in its inequality. As individuals are able to excel and rise above those around them, it is out of that inequality that innovation is born. And innovation, unlike government mandates, is what truly drives a society forward.