Earlier today, a right winger on Twitter asked me to define “progressivism” in 140 characters or less. Of course, I responded by informing him that such a thing is impossible, because we’re a diverse lot. Progressives don’t have a single set of beliefs or views on issues or ideology. That’s what separates us from people like him. Of course it’s possible for a right winger to express his entire belief system in less than 140 characters; they don’t really have a belief system, except for “anything that pisses off liberals.”
But we can’t be like that. Progressives hold a spectrum of views, and they constantly evolve, because we’re always learning.
I just wish more liberals understood this basic concept. Unfortunately, too many do not, especially PUBs and the professional left, who seem to think there is one way to be a progressive or liberal and anyone who doesn’t agree with them exactly is some sort of “sell out.” If you look closely, you’ll find a lot of similarities between PUBs, many professional lefties and the extreme right wing.
Consider the way they talk about President Obama. Here’s the most liberal president we’ve had since FDR, and the professional left has spent six years suggesting that, because he hasn’t done what they want him to do, he’s somehow a “centrist.” Quite often, they refer to Obama as a Republican. In fact, they refer to every Democrat who’s not as stridently far left as they are as a DINO (Democrat in Name Only). Ironically, most of the PUBs and pro lefties who label them that way aren’t even Democrats, despite the fact that they refer to themselves as the “Democratic base.”
This is why progressives have been losing for more than a generation.
First of all, Obama is as progressive s he possibly can be. Unfortunately, most of the people who have chosen to define “progressive” for us have no idea what the word means. Being “progressive” is not based on a static set of “beliefs” based on issues that few people actually care about. Likewise, variance from your positions on those beliefs do not disqualify someone from the ranks of “progressive.”
First of all, Obama is as progressive as he possibly can be. Unfortunately, most of the people who have chosen to define “progressive” for us have no idea what the word means. Being “progressive” has nothing to do with a static set of “beliefs” based on issues that the people who apply the liberals have decided are the only issues important enough to matter. There is also a tendency on the part of PUBs (Progressive Unicorn Brigade) and pro lefties to focus on specific processes, rather than overall goals.
Here’s an example. The issue was universal health insurance, NOT a “public option” or “single payer.” Note the difference. The root word of “progressive” is “progress.” Anyone who wants to see society move forward is technically “progressive.” A progressive is someone who thinks everyone should have access to health care. It can include people who think Obamacare is a great bill, it can include those who think it’s a great start, and it can include those who believe it’s a flawed bill. There is no one way to think, but if you were advocating for the death of the bill in 2010 because it “didn’t go far enough, you were actually not “progressive,” because you were advocating for the death of a bill that will eventually give 20-25 million more people access to health insurance, based on your demand that the bill be perfect out of the gate.
Likewise, if you spent most of the 2009-2010 election cycle complaining about Democrats and Obama for not getting things done, you were not being “progressive,” and frankly, you were showing yourself to be so politically ignorant that no one should take you seriously on anything political.
During the 111th Congress, House Democrats passed 375 bills that were blocked by filibuster in the Senate. Many of those bills were quite progressive in approach. They were passed by Democrats and blocked by Republicans, yet, PUBs and professional lefties targeted DEMOCRATS. Just yesterday, a pro left blog was proudly discussing the successful “purge” of Blue Dogs. Of course, they didn’t mention the fact that every single Blue Dog who lost was replaced by the most virulent strain of Republican ever seen; the teabagger.
Many self-described “progressives” simply don’t understand politics very well. They might understand issues, but their vision of most issues is actually quite narrow, and they don’t get politics at all. Consider this quote from Cornel West a few years ago
“I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.”(…)… That’s what we have. Richard Nixon is to the left of him on healthcare. Richard Nixon is to the left of him on guaranteed income. And the same policies in terms of imperial foreign policy is at work.” :
I don’t care how much education West has, that statement is purely ignorant of both history and process. Start with the fact that a president can’t do anything without Congress. That means, Obama can’t alleviate poverty without a Congress that will help him do so.
The first error above is based on this idea that the President can do anything significant about alleviating poverty on his own. He can’t. Alleviating poverty costs money, and only Congress can spend money. Of course, he’s also wrong on another level. Didn’t Obama prevent an all-out depression? Doesn’t that count as alleviating poverty? Preventing unemployment from hitting the 15-20% range would seem to be a pretty significant poverty fix, right? How is preventing companies and industries from just plain disintegrating not a method of reducing poverty? To suggest that Obama has done nothing about poverty is either supremely ignorant, or it reflects a very narrow mindset. And West isn’t ignorant.
His characterization of Richard Nixon as being to the left of Obama on “healthcare” and “guaranteed income” can only be described as either willfully ignorant or pure propaganda. Contrary to contentions made by the professional left, Nixon had no intention of creating a universal health care plan. In fact, Ted Kennedy was promoting one, and Nixon’s response was to create the HMO concept, which is anything but a universal halth care system, and which actually exacerbated the problem with healthcare costs. And in 1973, with inflation starting to rear its ugly head and the economy starting to hit the skids, Nixon actually vetoed a minimum wage bill, making the following argument, which you may have heard before:
H.R. 7935 would raise the wage rate to $2.00 for most non-farm workers on November 1 and 8 months later, would increase it to $2.20. Thus in less than a year, employers would be faced with a 37.5 percent increase in the minimum wage rate.
No one knows precisely what impact such sharp and dramatic increases would have upon employment, but my economic advisors inform me that there would probably be a significant decrease in employment opportunities for those affected. When faced with the decision to increase their pay rates by more than a third within a year or to lay off their workers, many employers will be forced to cut back jobs and hours. And the worker will be the first victim. (Source)
Like I said, people like West and other professional lefties are not ignorant, but it is this narrow mindset that has caused the progressive movement to stagnate. Calling Blue Dogs and Obama “Rockefeller Republicans” isn’t just wrong, it confuses the issue, because it reflects an ignorant view of the current state of the Republican Party, Nelson Rockefeller is long dead and buried, and his GOP no longer exists. While it’s true that Rockefeller Republicans are either independents or conservative Democrats now, they are still miles above the current Republican, which makes such a comparison hopelessly dated and irrelevant.
That wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t confuse voters to such a degree. Voters who think Republicans are idiots are too often told by PUBs and professional lefties that Democrats are just as bad. So, why would people vote under those circumstances? In 2010, we needed to elect 2-3 more Democratic Senators, but their Eeyore complex actually gave us MORE Republican Senators and enough Representatives to flip the House to the GOP as well. And it’s continued. Like I said, to this day, these same obstructionist self-described “progressives” continue to high five themselves for handing the government to the GOP. But it’s not “progress” to “cleanse” the Democratic Party of Blue Dogs if you are also helping the far right keep control of the government.
No one is a progressive just because they have the “correct” position on issues. Being progressive requires putting in place a government that will create progressive changes in the country. How does anyone expect to make the health insurance system better when the government is hell-bent on destroying it? You want more LBJ and FDR-style reforms? Elect a Democratic President and then get them a Democratic Congress.
It’s time we stopped allowing people like these to define who’s progressive and who isn’t. We are a diverse bunch. Perfection is impossible, so we have to stop killing ourselves by trying to attain it. But more importantly, we cannot be like the right wing and denegrate everyone who has a different view from those who are usually wrong, anyway.
We have to reverse our fortunes and win. And we can’t do that by being just like the right wingnuts. In fact, that’s what’s killing us.