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The election is over. Progressives won. No, seriously, progressives really did win.
Not that you'd know it by looking at the self-described "progressive blogosphere," however. The discussion of the election in most far-left liberal circles seems to be, "Well, Obama's not progressive, but at least he's not Romney."
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."
I have been a progressive (no quotes) and a liberal all of my life. I started getting involved in politics back in 1972, when I was 14. My goal has always been to see that the best person available wins in a primary, and then the best person to survive the primary wins election. THAT is how you make progress, and progress is the root word of "progressive." it is not "progressive" to tilt at windmills and keep missing, which is what the self-described "progressive movement" has been doing for more than forty years now.
What prompted this piece was a column with the following headline:
The article is actually a transcript of am interview by Amy Goodman with Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. The question itself is absurd, because it requires that there be a static definition of "progressive," when there is no such thing. And that's the problem I have with many self-described "progressives." There is no static definition of "progressive," and there shouldn't be. The very concept is basically the liberal version of "Tea Party-think," and that should have absolutely no place in progressive politics.
One problem with these self-described "progressives" is that they don't really understand politics very well. They often understand issues quite well, although their vision of these issues is usually quite narrow. But they don't really get politics. For example, in the article above, Cornel West says,
"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.
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. But I'd also argue that his and the Democrats efforts to prevent a depression did exactly that, anyway. If the economy had kept going in the direction it was headed when Obama took office, we might have seen unemployment in the range of 15-20%, millions of companies and industries just plain disintegrating, and a poverty rate roughly 3-4 times its current rate. So, to even suggest that the president has done nothing about poverty reflects a very narrow mindset; only those poor whom you choose to recognize matter. And this is what's wrong with this subset of "progressives."
His claim about healthcare is also historically inaccurate. The Health Maintenance Organization, or HMO, was a Nixon brainchild; a compromise, so that he could avoid Ted Kennedy's first try at a national health insurance system. And it could easily be argued that the HMO concept was at the heart of our current insurance system problems.
Nixon was also not "to the left of" Obama on "guaranteed income," whatever that means. Nixon was barely to the left of Reagan when it came to welfare, and we all know what a disaster Reagan was for that system.
But the key point I want make about the above is this notion that Obama is a "Rockefeller Republican," because the notion is just wrong-headed. Nelson Rockefeller is long dead and buried, and the Republican Party he used to belong to also no longer exists. For 32 years now, the GOP has been increasingly dominated by a far right wing that is far to the right of anything Rockefeller could ever have dreamed of back in the day. All Rockefeller Republicans are now either independents or conservative Democrats. Therefore, the comparison of Obama with Rockefeller is hopelessly dated and irrelevant.
And it also reflects a profound ignorance of political reality. President Obama is a progressive, but his policies can only be as progressive as the rest of the government allows. There are three co-equal branches of government. Congress makes the laws, and the President executes those laws. The President can't pass health insurance reform. He can advocate for it, which he did quite well, and he can work with the sides to get something they can pass. (Might I point out that he, almost single-handedly brought it back from the dead?) But he can't just create a new health care system. He needs Congress.
Put simply, the president can only be as "progressive" as Congress will allow. He can't do anything just because we think it's the right thing to do. The majority of the American people have to think it's the right thing to do, and they have to elect a majority to Congress who think it's the right thing to do.
As soon as Obama was elected in 2009, this group of "progressives" started whining. The economy was tanking, and millions of the people "progressives" claim to care about so deeply were losing their jobs. The banks were about to collapse. But these "progressives" started complaining because they didn't get their glitter-farting unicorn. For two solid years, they complained that Obama wasn't "progressive enough," because he wasn't completely reversing everything Bush did out of the gate. For two solid years, the Republicans in the Senate blocked everything they possibly could, to the point that 375 bills passed by the Democratic House stalled in the Senate, but these "progressives" complained about the Democrats, calling them "spineless" and "ineffective."
The solution to the gridlock was 2-3 fewer Republican Senators. Instead, "progressive" whining gave us MORE Republican Senators and flipped the House to the GOP, as well. But these same "progressives" actually gave themselves a high five because they got rid of a bunch of Blue Dog Democrats. Just about every Blue Dog who lost was replaced by a teabagger, but hey; at least we "sent a message," right?
Let's put this "sending a message" thing to bed right now. This phrase should be seen as a signal of their lack of political sense. The only people who "send a message" to government are those who win. People who don't win elections never get to make policy. Think about it. Go ask the average American who the Peace and Freedom Party's candidate for president was in 2008, and out of 1000 people, you might get one who even knows there IS a Peace and Freedom Party.
The root word of "progressive" is "progress." Being "right" on a particular issue doesn't make anyone "progressive." And frankly, I'm tired of certain "progressives" redefining the word to meet their selfish needs. I don't need Cornel West to tell me who's a progressive and who isn't. And I'm getting sick of people who think many of us are not "progressive" enough because we're willing to compromise a bit on issues in order to make progress. Obamacare is an awesome law. It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. In other words, it makes "progress" on an issue in which "progress" was needed.
It's not possible to actually deny Obama's progressive record, if you use an actual definition of "progressive" that isn't exclusionary. Either we are moving our society forward, or we're not. And there is no doubt that we are. The fact that it may not be on your pet issue doesn't mean progress isn't being made.
If you want Obama to do more, give him the tools to do so. If you want him to be like FDR, then give him a Congress that can get things done. If you want more LBJ-style laws like the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and more War on Poverty legislation, then give him a Congress that can help him. FDR and LBJ could NOT have done what they did with the current GOP in charge of the House and with current filibuster rules and 45 Republicans in the Senate. Both had a Democratic supermajority and a Rockefeller Republican-style GOP to deal with.
The definition of "progressive" is simple, but broad.
If you desire to move this country forward, and prevent it from moving backward, you're a progressive. It's really that simple. And that broad. We're supposed to be the tolerant ones.
Whining about everything, and voting for people who say all the right things, but who have no shot at winning, doesn't make you "progressive," it makes you gullible. "Obstinate" is not a synonym for "principled," and "compromise" is not synomymous with "sell-out." You are not "progressive" because you are against the NDAA and the drone program, especially when you put them ahead of jobs and education in level of importance. You are not "progressive" because you were willing to advocate killing Obamacare and leave 20 million uninsured, because it doesn't cover the other 10 million. In fact, you're the opposite of "progressive," and we real progressives are tired of you pretending to speak for us, and muddying the waters.
It's a new day, and 2014 will NOT be like 2010. We can't allow it.