Look, folks; I peg my progressive roots to the age of 14, when I worked for the McGovern Campaign, but my actual roots probably precede that. My father was a union steelworker, and my mom was the daughter of a union worker, as well. I was royally pissed off at the Kent State massacre. I thought Abbie Hoffman was amazing. Spiro Agnew’s and Richard Nixon’s names were said with derision in my house as early as 1968, and I cried, at the age of ten, when Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed. To this day, Bobby Kennedy is still my idol.
In am just as liberal as anyone out there who claims to speak for the progressive cause, and I have been for pretty much my entire life. So, it really pisses me off when someone comes along and insinuates or says that I’m not a “real” progressive, because I don’t think exactly the way they do. Being liberal or progressive is about being tolerant, and about understanding that not everyone sees every issue the same way. There are a lot of moderates out there who are actually progressive, but they don’t know it, in part because some of the loudest elements of the liberal media scream at the top of their lungs, telling us all what we should believe on every issue. Because they don’t believe exactly that, they figure they’re not very progressive. The problem with this is, they may hate the right wing, but they also come to hate us, even though they probably agree with us on most things.
What that means is, they’re more likely to stay home, which is virtually a vote in favor of the GOP. How can anyone call themselves a progressive, and claim that voter suppression is a major problem, at the same time they’re discouraging people from voting against the right wing? It makes no sense.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been looking at some of the loudest and most influential voices on the left, and I’ve detected a pattern. Let’s see if you can tell what it is.
Glenn Greenwald — Greenwald, 46, was actually apolitical until about 2006, when he wrote a book about the Bush presidency, basically calling it a failure. The book was “How Would a Patriot Act?” and among the gems from this tome, which bought him quite a following from progressives, was this one, from the introduction:
“Over the past five years, a creeping extremism has taken hold of our federal government, and it is threatening to radically alter our system of government and who we are as a nation. This extremism is neither conservative nor liberal in nature, but is instead driven by theories of unlimited presidential power that are wholly alien, and antithetical, to the core political values that have governed this country since its founding; for, the fact that this seizure of ever-expanding presidential power is largely justified through endless, rank fear-mongering—fear of terrorists, specifically—means that not only our system of government is radically changing, but so, too, are our national character, our national identity, and what it means to be American.”
Now, I don’t disagree with most of this premise. In the wake of 9/11, a lot of people went a little crazy. Liberals like Ron Silver and Dennis Miller went straight to the dark side. But for a guy who previously had no interest in politics to speak as if he’s suddenly an expert is silly. And the claim that the issue is “neither conservative nor liberal in nature” is just clueless. For Democrats/liberals who voted to give Bush more power, it was a political brain fart. For years, the right had asserted that Democrats were wimps, and Democratic politicians thought they’d be certified wusses if they didn’t vote for the Patriot Act. But for right wingers, authoritarianism is part of the culture. The ideological bent of the two parties are completely different. How many years did Bush simply try to undo Clinton?
Getting back to my main point, Greenwald is not a progressive, he’s a Libertarian. If you’d read his posts, his views are more in line with Ron and Rand Paul than anyone.
Now, how can anyone who had disdain for electoral politics until less than a decade ago suddenly have the expertise to tell us President Obama isn’t a “real progressive”? And who in their right mind would listen to him when he did? Is this guy qualified to judge progressives? Hell now.
Jane Hamsher — I’m not sure when Hamsher supposedly became a “progressive.” Her previous career was as film producer, and she wasn’t politically active back then.
I’m not even sure she’s actually today, except for financial purposes. I figure the right wing side is saturated and the liberal side is still fertile ground. Obviously, she thinks her FireDogLake rag is progressive, but I get a sense when I read it, that it’s more a parody of what some on the right think liberals are about. They spend as much time trashing the President and Democrats who aren’t 100% “progressive” as they do the far right.
And her CommonSense Media advertising arm – which went bankrupt a few months ago – seemed to toe the line, supporting both liberal and right wing groups. For example, while she supported a network of liberal blogs, she also helped BP propagandize in the wake of the oil spill they caused. And during the 2012 election season, CommonSense Media had politicians from both sides of the aisle as clients, at the same time she was castigating Obama supporters as “dumb Motherf***ers.” Why would we allow someone like that tell us what a “real progressive” is?
Arianna Huffington — As late as the late 1990s, this woman was a hard core right winger. She gained fame as the wife of Michael Huffington, who tried to buy the governorship of California as a right wing hack. Even after Al Franken kind of turned her to the left, which was nice to see, she was still more a centrist. Not that I have a problem with that, but over the last decade or so, she’s spent a lot of time telling us progressives what we should think about issues. She sold her Huffington Post blog to AOL for $300 million, and offered nothing to the bloggers who made her; not even a $20 Starbucks gift card. Does this sound like someone who should be telling liberals how to be liberal?
Cenk Uyger — Cenk is a piece of work. He’s so sure he’s right about everything he says and thinks. What he fails to mention is, he used to be just as adamant about what he said and thought back when he was a right wing Republican.
Yes, that’s right, folks. Until a relatively few years ago, Cenk was vocally anti-affirmative action. He was highly critical of the feminist movement and anti-choice. He was all in favor of the 1991 Gulf War (I appeared on TV against it), and he was a strong supporter of the War in Afghanistan and didn’t change his mind until a few years ago; about the time Obama started the process to end it. To his credit, he was against the Iraq War. But he was 30 before he voted Democratic at all, and he;s only been progressive for about 6-7 years, at most. Yet trashes Democratic politicians almost equally with Republicans. And he speaks to other progressives as if he was an expert on what a progressives should think and believe.
Look, I get that people change their minds. I welcome it. But I don’t care much for any progressive developing hard and fast rules about what progressives are supposed to think, and I certainly don’t need someone who was late to the game coming in and taking over from people who have been in it all their lives.
Markos Moulitsas — Now, I like Kos. He’s a decent guy, and compared to the four mentioned above, he’s the most reasonable, and the least reactively anti-Democratic Party. But when you look at his blog, it’s a mess. Its perspective is all over the place, and there is a lot of gloom and doom over there. I think the Daily Kos does more to keep people away from the polls than any liberal blog out there. As the owner and publisher of the blog, he needs to take more responsibility for what’s posted, and not allow so many people to lie, just because they take a liberal position on an issue. Negativity and dishonestly are like manna from heaven for the right wing, and they are Kryptonite for the left.
I’ve often wondered why he allows some of his lefty writers to be so extreme. One reason Markos may allow such posts to exist is because he, like so many of the loudest voices on the left, is a recovering rightie. Less than 20 years ago, he was a registered Republican, worked on the despicable Henry Hyde‘s campaign, and began a transition to liberal politics.
The transition’s pretty complete, and he’s done a lot of good things, like Netroots. But his diatribes against Hillary Clinton in 2008 and his inaccurate commentaries about Blackwater a few years earlier seem to demonstrate a desire to use right wing political approaches with liberal politicians and policies. And that is precisely why we keep losing to these bozos.
This is the problem, in a nutshell. There are all sorts of good progressives out there, who believe all sorts of things. No one should be lecturing about who’s a “good progressive” and who isn’t. There is a huge rainbow of progressive thought out there; there is no one way to think.
And don’t take anyone’s claimed expertise at face value (including mine). Think for yourself, and find out what is true and what makes sense. I tell the truth on this blog. I tell you what I think. I do NOT tell you whether or not you should think exactly the same way. And you should be suspicious of anyone who does. Anyone who claims the President isn’t liberal or progressive doesn’t know what s/he is talking about. If they expect a liberal president to waste his time submitting bills that have no chance of passing, they don’t understand how politics works.
Always remember, the GOP’s main goal is to depress turnout, because that works for them and against us. Negativity and confusion are guaranteed to keep Republicans in power. There is absolutely nothing progressive about trashing any Democrat at this moment in time. So, when you see that coming from an ex-Republican, be suspicious; don’t use it as an example.
Ex-Republican Johnny-Come-Latelies would do well to shut up and listen. They might learn something.