In Praise of Progressive Diversity

I know I will probably sound like someone crazy when I say this, but to me, the best part of being progressive is our diversity. When I say that, I’m not actually talking about having friends and acquaintances of different races, creeds, ethnicities, sexual preferences and gender identities. That’s cool, too, but I’m not one of those who points at my friends with pride, as if I deserve a trophy for being so open minded. They’re my friends; I’m just happy they put up with my sorry Caucasian ass. No, what I am referring to is a diversity of thought. I know, I’m weird, but I truly believe that the hallmark of liberalism is, or should be, our acceptance of different viewpoints. And no, I don’t mean “tolerance.” I’m really beginning to hate the word “tolerance” because it indicates that the person or people to whom we should be “tolerant” are doing something wrong, but that being a good liberal means we should just pat them on the head and say, “there, there” or something.

You know, a lot of disparate opinions about something can all be valid. For example, take the Republican Party. No, really; take them. Please, take them and flush them out of the government. For almost 40 years, this minority party has had an outsized influence in all levels of government, precisely because so many so-called “progressives” have undermined the only other viable political party in this country in a way that keeps them in a position with too much power. It has been a disaster. Under the GOP, the United States has transformed this nation, but not at all in a good way. Think about it; in post-War America, we were a nation that truly believed we could do anything. With too much Republican power, we now think we’re too broke to afford to do anything good. Since 1981, everything we talk about  doing is discussed through the prism of how much something costs or whether or not it will make money. That’s simply not at all rational, especially given that we are still the richest nation in the world. Of course, if we keep electing Republicans, we won’t be the richest for long.

This year, we have an amazing progressive opportunity. The Republican Party is on the ropes and we have an opportunity to take the government back for the people. The GOP hasn’t been this weak since 1932; their constituency is shrinking and their politics is so bad, they nominated Donald Trump, of all people for the presidency. The country is moving way to the left and they are mired in the 18th Century, arguing over whether or not the Second Amendment grants the only absolute right we have and trying to cede the rights of LGBT people and women to the government.

There is no liberal in this country who shouldn’t be licking their chops and seeing the possibilities right now. Instead, we have a significant portion of the progressive movement – primarily white, college-educated, well-off men – who are spending all of their time trashing Hillary Clinton. This, despite the fact that she is running the most progressive campaign I’ve seen in my lifetime. I mean, the entire Democratic primary, she was insisting she was more progressive than Bernie Sanders and trying to one-up him. All liberals should be giddy at the prospect or taking all government away from the GOP and returning it to the Democrats; the Party that gave us the New Deal, civil rights, welfare and Social Security. Instead, we’re treated to a professional left that praises Jill Stein, who has zero chance of winning and can say any goddamn thing she wants because of that fact.

One of the best things about being a liberal is that I’m allowed to have compassion for people. As right wingers see it, compassion is for wimps, but to me, it’s part of who I am. I want everyone in this country to have access to a job, a roof over their head, nutritious food to eat, clean water to drink and access to health care when they need it. I want everyone to breath clean air and to adapt to and try to reverse climate change, if possible and, if it’s not possible, to deal with its effects as humanely as possible. I want equal justice for everyone, regardless of their life circumstances. I want to end wars for anything except to secure basic human rights for all people. I want everyone to have the freedom and opportunity to create a life they want for themselves. Put simply, I am VERY liberal; probably as liberal as all of those who claim I’m not a “real progressive” because I realize that not everyone thinks as I do and making progress in a democracy is a slow process.

The difference between me and the PUBs and professional lefties who muddy the political waters and make the current GOP possible is that I don’t see liberal or progressive as a narrow concept. I actually want to do everything I just listed, which means I need a majority of people behind me. While they seem to be fine calling themselves “progressive” and only whining about current conditions, I want to move forward in the direction we need to go. I also refuse to dismiss anyone who doesn’t agree with me, because I don’t have all of the answers.

I mean, take healthcare.  Right now, we have most liberals and progressives excited because Hillary Clinton is talking openly about a “public option,” but you have the pro left whining and complaining because she’s not talking about “single payer.” This, despite the fact that a public option would probably be able to provide health insurance for the bulk of the people who still don’t have it and will take most of the pressure off insurers, which will keep prices down. As I have said repeatedly, the issue is NOT “single-payer;” it’s making sure everyone has access to healthcare when they need it. Single-payer is just one way to pay for it. In other words, those so-called “progressives” who are supporting Jill Stein over Hillary Clinton are actually trashing a woman who can win and who wants to make the current healthcare system better, while expressing support for a woman who is peddling a fantasy because she knows damn well that she will never have to produce anything. So, who’s really more “progressive”?

The hallmark of liberalism lies is in our ability to accept the inherent diversity of thought on our side of the aisle. It’s simply a fact that a white liberal in rural Kentucky won’t approach politics from the same perspective as a Jewish liberal in Brooklyn. A liberal black farmer in Mississippi isn’t going to see things the same as a liberal white man who grew up in Southeast Washington, DC. A liberal Mexican-American in East Los Angeles will not have the same perspective as a black liberal in South Florida. To expect all liberals to see things the same, narrow way is the height of absurdity. We’re not all the same, and to expect us to think the same way about everything is immaturity at its zenith. What happened to us in 2010 and 2014 cannot happen again. Ever.

It is a basic fact that there simply are not enough people out there who identify as openly “liberal” or “progressive” to give us a majority. You may go to a liberal rally and see 30,000 people and get all gooey, but if you learned nothing else from the Sanders campaign, learn that. Far left idealistic liberals like us are not a majority, especially when we define “progressive” so narrowly that even most openly liberal people can’t qualify. Some of you may think you’re smarter than everyone else, but get real; if the 25% minority Republican Party, whose ideology is pretty much the opposite of ours, has had control for almost all of the last 40 years, you ain’t all that smart. It’s a democracy; we have no choice but to align ourselves with reasonable people who may disagree with us on some issues. That’s why we have to align ourselves with the Democratic Party; we can’t do it on our own. Instead of using the word “centrist” as a pejorative and calling people who disagree with you “low information voters” or even “stupid,” you should sit and listen to these people; you will find out what they think and why they think the way they do. Many of them actually make sense. And let’s be honest; most of them actually live under the conditions that we supposedly care about; there’s a good possibility they might very well know more and they may even have some great innovative ideas for fixing a problem.

One thing PUBs (Progressive Unicorn Brigade) and the professional left need a lot more of is humility; there is rarely one right solution to any problem. No one has all of the answers and, often, the answer to a problem is some sort of compromise, including input from many people, not all of whom will be as liberal as we are. Like I said, the best thing about being a progressive is our desire to want to fix problem and make society better. But the second-best thing is our ability to absorb all points of view, and formulate solutions from that. We have to do better than that. We’re not right wingers. They do everything in lockstep because they’re authoritarians. Doing things the way they do works for them, but it works against us. Diversity is our strength and we should use it more.

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