Who Gets to Be “Progressive”?

(Okay, before I start, I’ll remind everyone that PUB refers to “Progressive Unicorn Brigade,” those (usually white) “progressives” who demand perfection from Democrats. (I’m not a fan of the term “emoprog.”)

NixonI have been a progressive my entire life. Well, almost my entire life; when I was 10, the Nixon-Agnew people thought I was cute and they slapped a straw hat on my head and asked me to hand out bumper stickers in front of their headquarters, in the old Equitable Bank building on the corner of East Drive and Sulphur Spring Road, about two blocks from my elementary school. But when I was 14, in 1972, I did some canvassing and made some phone calls for the McGovern campaign. In any case, I was a liberal then and I’m probably even more liberal now. At the top of this page, you’ll see a “Progressive Mission Statement,” which are all things I believe wholeheartedly, expressed as positive memes that we could use to, you know, actually win elections. I’m as liberal as anyone out there.

I just happen to be pragmatic. All that means is, I realize that everyone doesn’t feel the way I do and that we need to compromise to get things done. I realize that we can’t employ the same sort of rhetoric as the right wing and expect to have any political success. Because of that, I suppose that makes me somewhat moderate on some level. Yes, I know this makes the heads of many PUBs’ heads explode, but it is quite possible – in fact, preferable, if we’re being honest – to be both progressive and moderate. There is no place in a democratic political system for intolerance of anyone except extremists.

I’ve seen the opposite meme constantly since the Iowa caucuses, however; apparently, as PUBs, you can only be “progressive” if you believe exactly the same things they do. If you vary in any way, you’re a “moderate” (used as a pejorative) or a “centrist” (an even greater insult).  Of course, this is complete bullshit, as anyone with a lick of sense knows. If you think “moderate” is an insult, then you’re insulting the vast majority of voters, which is why progressives have done exactly jack shit, politically speaking, in the past half century.  From 1933 through about 1966, progressives worked with the Democratic Party and we got all kinds of things done, like Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, voting rights, environmental legislation and workplace safety regulations. This country made steady progress toward fulfilling the ideals this country was founded on for the first time. Since 1980, however, we have been ineffective. To borrow the old James Carville line, “We’re right, they’re wrong.” So why are we always playing defense?

Protest 1It’s because this very loud, very intense and very strident band of faux “progressives” has completely fucked the progressive movement as a whole. They have a tendency to latch onto a candidate or an idea and hold onto it like a dog with its favorite chew toy, to our detriment. They are much like the right wing in many ways, in that they don’t understand what politics is and they take it really personally when the democracy doesn’t give them exactly what they want.

Here’s the deal, folks; issues can be personal, but politics is not. Politics is cold and calculated strategy and requires making sure you have the best possible personnel the democratic system will allow you to have. Yet, PUBs and professional lefties always let their butthurt define their “politics” and they screw us as a result.

We have so many examples. In 1968, they worked against Hubert Humphrey because of the Vietnam War and gave us the loathsome Richard Nixon as president. Yes, I know the PUB/Pro left line, that “Nixon gave us OSHA and the EPA,” but that’s bullshit; the supermajority Democratic Congress, with an assist from the still-existent liberal wing of the GOP, gave us those with a veto-proof majority. Meanwhile, he didn’t just fail to end the Vietnam War, he expanded it to the rest of “Indo-China.” PUBs screwed us then and they’ve been screwing us ever since.

In 1972, Nixon helped them nominate George McGovern, the worst candidate in the race. In 1976, they decided they didn’t like Jimmy Carter, so post-Watergate, no less, Carter barely won against Gerald Ford, who was the worst candidate the GOP has put up since Goldwater. Then, in 1980, with PUBs and the professional left supporting Ted Kennedy like a bunch of lemmings to the detriment of Carter, who probably had the most liberal four-year presidential term in US history, they handed us a Reagan presidency because Ted Kennedy was their chew toy. Even Kennedy, when asked, couldn’t explain why he was running for president, but their “Teddy or die” attitude marked Carter’s doom. PUBs did the same thing to Mondale and Dukakis, they tried to do it to Clinton twice and they did it to Gore and Kerry and gave us two terms of Dubya. They have also done it to us pretty much every midterm since about 1974, especially 2010 and 2014, when they targeted Blue Dogs, of all people, because they were just not “progressive enough.”

They still brag about that, sadly. I still see professional left bloggers and pundits pat themselves on the back for their “purge” of Blue Dogs. Never mind that most Blue Dog Democrats voted with the rest of the Democratic Party 90% or more of the time; only a half dozen voted with Democrats less than 90% of the time and only one voted with them less than 80% of the time and even he was at about 70%. And every single one was replaced by a teabagger. Their rhetoric is the reason we lost people like Feingold and Grayson, too.

I mean, think about it; in 2009-2010, Democrats in the House passed 375 bills in the House that were blocked by 375 filibusters engineered by the GOP in the Senate. The solution was to keep a House majority and turn 2-3 extra seats in the Senate Democratic. Who in their right mind would think that an effective political strategy would be to target BLUE DOGS and hand their seats to teabaggers? PUBs and professional lefties are basically the left’s version of right wingers and they have been hamstringing the movement with their twin tendencies; they demand perfection from everyone else and they make it impossible for anyone to meet their “standards.” It needs to stop.

The root word of progressive is “progress.” Therefore, anyone who advocates for societal progress is, by definition, “progressive.” Our ideology is supposed to be one of inclusion, yet PUBs and pro lefties have decided that they alone are the keepers of the definition of “progressive” and they have proceeded to make it so narrow that they have effectively created an exclusive club that only they can belong to.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

ScreamI’m sure you’ve heard these people scream, quite literally, about “single-payer,” as if it’s some sort of magical concept that makes all things possible. And yes, it may very well be a good way to structure a health insurance system. Eventually. However, many PUBs and professional lefties have apparently decided that “single-payer” is the goal, which is absurd. The goal must be to make sure that everyone in this country has access to the healthcare they need and that no one goes broke from getting sick. In other words, the goal is universal health care. Single-payer is simply one way to pay for it. Obviously, it’s not the only one, if you look at the evidence. In the last WHO survey of health care outcomes before the ACA was passed, the US ranked 37th. Of the 36 countries ahead of us, only the UK and Canada are single-payer systems, and they are 18th and 30th on the list. None of the top 10 countries are single-payer systems. Whenever a PUB suggests to me that the goal is “single-payer,” I ask the same question; should we aim to be number one in healthcare delivery, or 18th?

This is the problem; PUBs are ignorant, but they imagine themselves experts. They don’t know what single-payer is, they only know that their PUB mentors on the professional left told them it should be their new chew toy, so they use the term as a replacement for “universal health care.” They think that throwing the term “single-payer” around makes them look smart to other PUBs, which may be true. They do love belonging to an exclusive club. they have no idea that most people don’t know or care what they’re talking about.

I spent some time in Australia a few years back, and I hurt my foot. A roommate drove me to a clinic, where they took care of it with first class service and I was handed a bill for $25 Australian and jokingly asked what would happen if I didn’t pay. The doctor answered, “probably nothing” and reminded me to come back later in the week for a follow-up. That is how health care should work in this country, right? I think everyone would agree. Here’s the funny part; Australia’s is not a single-payer system. France’s and Germany’s systems are both in the WHO top 5, and both use a private insurance hybrid. Even Canada, which has been a single-payer system forever, is encouraging more private insurance.

I’m not saying that single payer isn’t potentially the best solution, but it’s not the only solution. Not only that, but getting there would require that everyone in this country just give up their current insurance in favor of a “government-run” single-payer insurance system. Anyone who thinks that is possible in 1-2 steps is living in a world of unicorns and rainbows. With the ACA, Obama and Congressional Democrats gave us a pony, but PUBs demanded a glitter-and-rainbow-farting unicorn. Worse, they demand that it just appear spontaneously. I say that because they don’t seem to think winning elections is necessary. They seem intent on making their political circle as small as possible. It’s a democracy; anyone can see that a small cadre of progressives can never get anything done without expanding their reach and yet they seem to take great pride in keeping their group as small as possible.

I am a progressive. Bernie Sanders is a progressive. Hillary and Bill Clinton are also progressives. President Obama is also a progressive. Anyone who wants to move this country forward is technically progressive and should be embraced as such. Even Blue Dogs, who largely represent conservative districts and states, often with Republican majorities, are as progressive as they can be and still get elected and they are certainly more progressive than the alternative. In a democratic system, it serves absolutely no purpose to limit our reach; in fact, it’s killing the progressive movement. Are black people not progressive unless they embrace Bernie? PUBs apparently think so. Just yesterday, someone posted this as a comment on Facebook (it’s not about black people and Bernie specifically, but it demonstrates the problem):

Bernie rocks. Only the rich, ignorant and gullible, the religious fanatics, the brain-washed, or the just plain stupid can’t see that.

Based on most polls, black people largely support Hillary, not Bernie. In 2000 and 2004, Nader, a PUB darling who helped give us eight years of Bush, received almost no black votes. Does that make black people “rich, ignorant and gullible”? Most women prefer Hillary; does that make them “rich, ignorant and gullible”? Do black “progressives” have to wear a dashiki and give a black power salute during every press conference in order to be “progressive enough” to join your club? For that matter, why would any white “progressive” believe that s/he knows more about what’s best for black people than black people do? I only ask because PUBs seem to think so. I mean, do these people even realize that their “membership” is as white as the Republican Party? How do Latinos fit into this little club? And it’s not just about race and ethnicity. If someone is against abortion in principle because of religious objections, but they’re against a legal ban, are they “progressive” enough to join the club? The answer is and should be “yes,” but the PUB purity patrol is so strict, one can only qualify if they refuse to refer to a fetus as anything but a “clump of cells” and refuse to refer to it as a “baby.”

Seriously, PUBs and professional lefties, think a little. The only way to turn this into a progressive country is to get most people behind progressive ideals. The smaller the list of progressive ideals, the harder that is to do. Worse, the more exclusive we make the “club,” the less likely people will be to join. Just because you think the minimum wage should be $15, why should everyone who wants to “only” raise it to $12 per hour be dismissed as “lesser” than you? I can tell you right now; while $15 can fly in most major cities, it would create major chaos in more rural areas. Rural business could not handle an increase from $7.25 to $15, even if you spread it over 3-5 years. Put simply, demagoguing issues is a political loser for our side. It works for the far right because they’re appealing to morons and racists. Aren’t we supposed to be better than that? If we’re supposed to be the tolerant ones; how tolerant are you if you dismiss other progressives with a wave just because they differ from you on a few key issues.

Also, be careful what you wish for. A lot of PUB positions on issues aren’t really progressive at all. For example, they practically climax when Bernie says he’ll break up the big banks and they jump on my ass whenever I point out, “no he won’t.” If that’s your ideal, you really should think about it more. Do you really want a president to have the power to just break up big banks because he feels like it? Really? Do you even realize that giving a Democrat that much power would also give the next Republican president the power to break up or kill Planned Parenthood? They are both private organizations that have a right to exist; giving one president that power would give it to all presidents. Would you like that?

klown kar2There is never one single solution to any problem we have, with one exception. The reason our government has become so useless and decrepit is because one of our political parties has become radicalized and unworkable. Get rid of the current Republican Party and what you will have is a new paradigm between progressives and a new “loyal opposition,” meaning actual “moderates” and conservatives who actually care about the country and who simply disagree with us on policy. This country will change in almost no time when we do that. We did it before, in 1932, and we can do it again. Instead of fantasizing about a “revolution” that will never happen, why not just win elections for Democrats and then work with them to get as much “progress” as possible. It is a democracy, so you will never get 100% of everything you want, but you have to admit, 10-15% every cycle for the next 6-10 cycles is certainly better than the -10% we’ve gotten for the last 20.

We’re supposed to be “progressives,” but our methods are causing this country to regress. PUBs and professional lefties have propagated a very narrow and impossibly restrictive definition of “progressive” and “liberal” that no one could possibly meet, not even them, truthfully. You can be progressive and support Hillary Clinton; she is progressive and the opposite of everyone on the GOP side of the aisle. You can be a progressive in a red district and support a Blue Dog, primarily because you know that’s the best you can do in your majority Republican district at the time. Not every district can elect a Los Angeles Fairfax/West Hollywood liberal. And frankly, an actual conservative is still more progressive than the cranks that have taken over the GOP.

PUBsWe have to be sick of this narrow-minded group of self-described “progressives” screwing the movement by acting like right wingers. Right wingers are not politically successful because they’re strong ideologically; in fact, they don’t win at all. Our side loses because PUBs alienate anyone who isn’t exactly like them.

It has to stop. Like NOW. The only person who gets to decide if they are progressive is the one who calls his or herself “me.” You don’t get to decide it for them, PUBs and pro lefties.

Everyone who is against the Republican Party is progressive at this moment in time. You do the country no favors by being a lefty version of a right winger.


Who Gets to Be “Progressive”? — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: I yam what I yam and dats all dat I yam (on being a pragmatic progressive) – nealumphred.com

  2. Excellent post, although it really does mean I have to back and can yet another draft post of my own. 🙂 What I have noticed in the same group is not just that they don’t understand politics, they don’t understand government. More precisely, how our government is structured and operates. I’ve had more than a few arguments about that, since it appears their idea is “we elect Bernie” (in this case), and because he’ll “have the people behind him” (actual quote) all these wonderful things will happen. We’ll have single-payer, free college, etc., etc., etc. Telling them that government doesn’t work that way, and in particular in this country it doesn’t, is waved aside.

    • Why? Two people can say the same thing, as long as you don’t plagiarize. 🙂 The word needs to get out. This kind of attitude is not okay. It never was, but now, it’s especially heinous.