Do you know the best thing about being a progressive?
It’s the diversity.
And by that, I don’t just mean having friends of different races, creeds, ethnicities, sexual preference and gender identities, especially if you’re pointing them out to everyone else as if they should be a badge of pride. (ahem) I’m talking about diversity of thought, diversity of opinion and diversity of position on issues, as well as our ability to listen to all points of view that are base on reality, our ability to accept that none of us has all of the answers, and that there really can be multiple solutions to a problem.
Something interesting happened yesterday. A guy who writes for Digby’s blog, Hullabaloo, David Atkins, took a quote from one of my posts, and posted it on the blog, with a shout out on Twitter. Here was the quote:
“Republican rule has transformed this young, vibrant nation from a nation that once believed it could do anything, into a nation that believes it’s broke and can’t afford to do anything. Think about it; everything we discuss doing these days is through the frame of how much it costs and whether or not it will make money, which is not rational. While we are still the richest nation in the world, with Republicans in charge – especially the current crop – we won’t be for long.” (Source)
Not long after that, a “progressive” chided him and Digby for daring to “endorse” me, because I allegedly “hate” Snowden and Greenwald. As I pointed out at the time, I didn’t see that he was endorsing me; he was endorsing the quote and the article. But I don’t “hate” Snowden and Greenwald; I have ever met either. Although my encounters with Greenwald over the years have been generally unpleasant, and he seems to be very childish, my dislike of him is professional – it is based on what he writes.
But consider this concept. If a progressive disagrees with another progressive on something, then what? They have their progressive membership card revoked? Is everything else they say thereafter wrong? Apparently, you are not allowed to like them anymore. Besides being middle school-level behavior, such a narrow-minded creed is certainly not “progressive,” or “liberal” in nature. one of the great things about being a liberal is our love of tolerance. Yet, there is a small-but-significant group of (almost always white and rarely working class) self-described “progressives” who do this sort of thing all of the time. They appoint themselves as the sole arbiter of what is “progressive” or “liberal,” and they adopt an absolutist stance against anyone who doesn’t fit into that very narrow frame. Because I don’t follow what they think my position should be on the NSA non-story, I can’t be in their “club,” and I’m a “liberal traitor” or some such nonsense.
Well, screw that.
One of the great things about being a liberal is that I’m allowed to have compassion for people. To right wingers, compassion is for wimps; for 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 us all to breath clean air and to adapt to and try to reverse climate change, if 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. In other words, I’ a liberal. VERY liberal.
The difference between me and these narrow liberals who are always trying to sell the narrow concept of “liberal” and “progressive “that they demand from others is, I actually want to DO all of the above, whereas they seem to be fine calling themselves “progressive” and doing little more than talking about it. In many cases, they whine about it. And they dismiss anyone who doesn’t agree with them.
Take health care, for example. The actual goal is to make sure that everyone who become sick or injured has access to the medical care he or she needs. THAT is the goal. Not “a public option” or single-payer, but getting everyone covered, keeping everyone possible alive and preventing families from losing everything due to illness. Yes, we will need a “public option” at some point, to keep costs under control. And single-payer is another possible option to control costs, although I will point out that most universal health care systems are not single-payer systems.
But I was ripped apart by a number of these “progressives” because I was in favor of Obamacare, and didn’t consider the “public option” to be a dealbreaker, and because I acknowledged early on that single-payer wasn’t going to happen. I was happy as a clam to get 80 percent of what we wanted/needed, and I was willing to work for as much of the other 20 percent as we could get. But many of these “progressives” were willing to give up the 80 percent, because they weren’t getting the other 20 percent. Some actually conducted a campaign to “kill the bill”! Just because not everyone was as sold on certain things as they were.
Once again, the hallmark of being a progressive is in our ability to accept the inherent diversity of thought on our side of the aisle. It’s simply a fact that a liberal in rural Kentucky isn’t necessarily going to have the same perspective as a a liberal in Brooklyn. A liberal black farmer in Mississippi isn’t going to see things the same as a liberal black man who grew up in Southeast DC. To expect that 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.
There’s another aspect of this to consider, as well. There simply are not enough people out there who identify as “liberal” or “progressive” to give us a majority on any issue. We need to align ourselves with reasonable people who disagree with us on some issues. It’s why we align ourselves with the Democratic Party; because 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,” sit and listen to these people instead, and find out what they think and why they think the way they do. Most of them actually make sense. And since they live the issues we supposedly care about, they might very well know more than we do about them. They may also have some great innovative ideas for fixing a problem.
No one has all of the answers. Sometimes, the answer to a problem is a compromise. Sometimes, it may include input from many people. Not everyone who disagrees with us is wrong. In fact, there are often many degrees of “right” and many people occupy a spot on that line.
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’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; use it.