Who’s “Progressive Enough”?

Okay, so Beto O’Rourke announced a run for president Thursday, and immediately, the “usual suspects” have started a major bitch-fest about him.

Now, I don’t know if I’ll vote for him in the primary. I actually hoped he would instead opt to run against John Cornyn to put a Texas Democrat in the Senate. But the most common complaint I see about him, especially from so-called “progressives” is patently absurd. The most common complaint is that he’s “no progressive,” and I’m sorry, but that’s just stupid.

I know this because the same types of people claimed the following were “not real progressives” at various times

Bill Clinton
Hillary Clinton
Barack Obama

There are many more, but let’s start with these three.

Don’t get me wrong; there are a few things that pissed me off about all three of the above.

But come on; during Bill Clinton’s eight years, he and Hillary tried to push the first-ever universal health insurance system, and it was the people who claim he was “no progressive” who sunk that effort for almost 20 years. During his two terms, he also helped to pass and implement a ban on assault weapons, which lasted for ten years and resulted in the saving of tens of thousands of lives. In addition, he also led the implementation of the Brady Law, requiring background checks on all gun sales at federally licensed gun dealers. Go ahead and name a progressive political who has done that much regarding the scourge of guns.

At the same time, Bill Clinton was also a genius with the economy. For the first time since the 1960s, the middle class was expanding, and incomes were increasing at the same time. Though Trump likes to brag about his economic record (actually, Obama’s, but we’ll get to that), the fact of the matter is, Black and Hispanic unemployment nosedived and through Clinton’s economic opportunity zones, a lot of distressed neighborhoods actually showed signs of economic opportunity.

Again, I understand that some aspects of Bill Clinton’s eight years in office were less than ideal from a progressive standpoint, but that just means he wasn’t perfect. To claim he’s not progressive is just unfair and extremely inaccurate. I would challenge any self-described white liberal “progressive” to come up with anyone with a more progressive record than that.

As for Hillary, again, she tried to revolutionize the health insurance system when she was First Lady, but she was stopped by the left more so than the right because many in the professional left didn’t think the Clinton health care plan was “perfect” enough because it didn’t take the private insurance industry out of the system completely. (Sound familiar?) This, despite the fact that the vast majority of countries with universal healthcare rely on (heavily regulated) private insurance.

Hillary Clinton was a very progressive Senator, leading the way on children’s healthcare, and in making sure the families of first responders who responded on 9/11 were taken care of. During her eight years in the Senate, she sponsored and co-sponsored more progressive bills than Bernie Sanders has in 30 years in both the House and the Senate. The people who claim she’s not progressive seem to worship Bernie as a “progressive” icon deride Hillary as a “centrist,” when her time in the Senate saw her as the 11th most progressive Senator, which does not indicate a centrist bent at all.

Then, there is Obama. Barack Obama was easily the most potentially progressive president of all time. He was elected with a positive progressive platform and he wanted to do a lot for everyone. And yet, it was self-described “progressives” who undermined him at every turn. Certain white “progressives” derided him the entire time he held office. Their view was enormously racist; they felt that Obama had to prove his progressive bona fides by acting more like their cartoon images of Huey and Bobby and less like a conventional politician. Apparently, they thought he should walk around the White House in a dashiki and give a “black power” salute to everyone in the “establishment.”

I mean, all Obama did in his first few months as president was to stave off an economic depression and force every company that received federal bailout money pay it all back after Bush had essentially told them to keep it. Then, in his second year, he personally saved the Affordable Care Act and got it passed, even as many self-described “progressives” were calling for its destruction because the “public option” wasn’t “robust” enough. Mind you, they had no viable option for a replacement, but they advocated for the bill to be killed and Obama single-handedly kept the bill alive until it could pass.

And in the nearly nine years since the ACA passed, these same “progressives” have been bitching about the law constantly. And in 2010, they derided Obama as a “centrist,” which is a pejorative to the professional left and the unicorn variety of “progressive” and they helped lead the way to the election of a Republican Congress. Obama, the guy who put everything he had behind every progressive project he could think of, was undermined by white progressives and, for the next six years did everything they could to undermine him, while at the same time undermining a Democratic challenge to Mitch McConnell by claiming she was too insulting to Obama. No irony there, huh?

What I’m trying to say is, There is no such thing as a “real progressive” according to those on the professional left and those white people who pose as an authority on such things. They define the term based on a politician’s positions on a truly arbitrary set of “issues” they decide are the most important and no one can vary from their position on anything. The current Democratic field of candidates for president is the most progressive in history, and all of them are a progressive alternative to Donald Trump. I have no idea who I support yet, which is how it should be. It’s important to watch and learn about each candidate and determine which one seems like they are best suited for the job. As for their affinity for “progress,” having the “correct” positions on the issues the (primarily white) professional left decides are most important is no indication of their ability to lead “progress.”

Besides, most of the professional left is completely out of step with what matters to most Americans, so those issue stances are likely wasted, anyway. For example, the issue is universal access to healthcare, not “free healthcare” or “single-payer.” Single-payer is one possible solution, but it is not the only, or even the best one. If the “single payer” is the US Treasury, why can no professional lefty even envision the GOP cutting the hell out of it? Also, the Medicare-for-All people seem unable to explain how patients can cover the 20 percent of costs that Medicare currently does not cover, and do so without private insurance picking up the slack. Also, the issue is “debt-free college,” not “free college.” And so few people make below $10 per hour in most of the country, it’s difficult to see a $15 per hour minimum wage as a major issue right now. Hell; even Walmart and McDonald’s pay more now.

Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, and many other Democratic candidates are plenty progressive. Don’t listen to anyone who claims they are “too centrist” or something equally silly. Vote for and support the candidate you like most, but do so without degrading the other Democratic candidates for the nomination. And then, once the Democratic rank-and-file chooses a nominee, support them with all you have, THAT is how we progress.

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