In Defense of Liberals and Progressives

My brother Alex, who, for full disclosure, is my connection to the UN and Agenda 21 as with his work with the Environmenal Defense Fund, once asked me how I defined “liberal”.  I’m still trying to answer that question.

My focus has been to try to define a liberal philosophy from a conservative one.  Governing vs ungoverning given where we have been in post Eisenhower era is one clear policy distinction.   Another simplistic answer seems to be while conservatives allow for “punching down” to vulnerable communities in defense of mob rule against a minority population (ie the “republic” in Republican), liberals cannot/will not do this.

As Brother Alex knows, I’m still working on this.

But is there a significant need to understand the difference between a liberal and progressive?  Turns out there is, and I had no idea that this conflict existed.  Here is a link I received from a friend from a Google Group I belong to.  The link came with the following sentiment

“I’ve felt the same blowback the article describes.”

I have not experience this blowback myself.  I’m wondering if it is related to blowback from Clinton supporters that Eric Kirk describes here back on December 22nd.

Then afterwards, I’ve seen so many Clinton supporters blaming Sanders (who actually ran about the most kid gloves primary campaign I’ve seen in my adult life). Blaming young people for not turning out. Blaming third party candidates for running. Blaming the media for covering Trump events while she was attending private fundraisers. Blaming everyone and everything but Clinton and the campaign itself, and the insular culture which continues to permeate the Democratic Party as Nancy Pelosi barely held onto her leadership position and then cluelessly exclaims, “I don’t think Democrats want a new direction.” Well if she’s right, then the Democrats will continue to lose and lose, as will the rest of us. Cenk Uygar is right. Either the Democrats become populist now, or they will continue to lose. It’s really that simple.

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But back to the article.  The author Caitlin Johnstone, a progressive writes this…

“For a few magical months it was actually considered cool to be a real progressive, and all our liberal friends treated us like real people when we’d share our political perspectives. We were considered naive but harmless at worst, and we were allowed to have a political voice at the table.”

I had friends calling me crying telling me their friends and family were being absolutely vicious to them for wanting to support Jill Stein.

Liberals dominate public discourse in America. They dominate it so much you’d assume they must also dominate government elections if you didn’t know better….We need to take that away from them, that dominance of public discourse. We need to fight it, and fight it hard, because if we don’t we can kiss this whole revolution goodbye.

I am a Bernie Democrat.  I agree with Ms Johnstone that there is a media dominance that seems to dismiss ideas like universal health care, a complete re-jiggering of our foreign policy, or real solutions to our outrageously over-populated prisons or our outrageous wealth inequality.

I was miffed this election season by almost all media outlets I trusted such as Media Matters, the NYT, even the DailyKos.  All of these outlets had a finger or hand on the balance for Hillary Clinton.  But we do have to take this in context and remember that Senator Sanders wasn’t a Democrat and the entire Democratic establishment began the campaign with the idea that this was Hillary’s time.  Another important context that can’t be forgotten that much of this was also wrapped in our countries deep need for this to be a woman’s time.

But as someone who identifies as a liberal, we also have to consider this tendency to “middle” ourselves in an increasingly asymmetric political climate.  Here is an example that is seared in my memory from one of my top two favorite bloggers, Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum.

Bernie Sanders Would Have Lost the Election in a Landslide

It comes with this handy graphic

blog_postwar_democratic_candidates

So what does this mean?  Does this mean that we, on the left give up?  Is it only the right wing that gets to move from Eisenhower, miss on Goldwater, then go to Nixon, Reagan and now Trump with ever increasing movement away from policies, especially economic, that actually support middle and lower rungs on the wealth ladder?

That’s my beef with the dominate left-of-center conversation of our country, it’s not one of progressive vs liberal.  Yes, there is much I disagree with in Ms Johnstone’s article and links, especially when it comes to foreign policy, but these are not deal-breakers for me.

The problem I have with Ms Johnstone’s piece is not one of policy, it’s one of our existing political infrastructure.  There are rules to the game and these need to be respected, during the election cycles themselves, for our own good.  There is nothing we can do about it during a given contest.  If you want to change the rules, I’ll support you, but we have to take it to the American people pre-election, not during or post.

This includes impediments to most of today’s left-of-center politicians like the electoral college for presidential elections, Citizens United for all elections and the need to reform the practice of partisan gerrymandering.

But here is a another very important rule that doesn’t have an easy solution unless you change the structure of our government or the nature of elections.  We have a system that requires two parties.  If you don’t vote for Hillary, you are going to get Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.  You are going to have the entire government apparatus working to destroy everything those who came before fought hard to put into place in an attempt to create a modern nation build for all of us.

I put the words “needs to be respected” in bold.  I don’t like them, they are illiberal, they are regressive.   But please note that they are followed by the words “for our own good”.  We have to be smart about this.  We have to coordinate with each-other.  We have to understand that governing is complicated and it when we do get in power we are governors of all of us, those on the left and those on the right.

If the goal is to produce a pure governing system from one’s own perspective, this goal is not only unobtainable, but probably not something many of our friends on the left would agree on.  That’s why Dennis Kusinich could never have done what Bernie Sanders did.  Even though Senator Sanders used the phrase “revolution” as a campaign slogan, he is the epitome of someone who has worked with his socialist principles in-tact from within the system.  He is working with others to evolve the system while clearly defining the goals where we need to end up.

Senator Sanders as President, wouldn’t have gotten us Medicare Part E for Everyone.  He wouldn’t have gotten us free college education, not with a Republican Congress.  Not in four years, not in eight.  These are battles that will take years and will have to start with a united dialog explaining exactly why these programs are not only good for most or all Americans, but as importantly, we need to remind people why these ideas are essentially American.

I hope this post isn’t another example of blowback to Caitlin or my friend who linked to the piece.  I love your ideas, our ideas even those for which I may believe are not politically feasible at this time.  I also don’t think it’s fair or right that in our county we are going to have a Justice Gorsuch, or an Andrew Pudzer as Secretary of Labor or a Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, or a ….

One way or another, we on the left have to find ways to win every Presidential election until that time Republicans decide to govern in the interests of all our citizens again, not just campaign contributors who, btw, happen to need government’s protection the least.  We have to be smart and persistent and we have to be able to join together despite our differences.  For now and the foreseeable future, we will do this in the Democratic Party.

I hate the fact that many of the verbs in this post are in the imperative tense, but until that time we have enough influence to change the rules, understanding the rules going into each and every electoral contest just happens to be imperative.  imho.

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2 thoughts on “In Defense of Liberals and Progressives

  1. Just need to comment...... says:

    Actually, the democratic needs to learn to be more honest. Honest with itself, and honest as in not being crooks. Hillary got the nom by the bosses of the party being crooked in her favour. They cheated, lied, and made sure to not give anybody a fair chance at it. They were crooked. And after seeing the HUGE, overflowing crowds that Bernie brought in, and the small ones that Hillary had (where that media finger came in handy; zooming in to avoid showing all the empty seats as sooooooo many events), they needed to be honest with themselves.
    But, no. Just like how things are so often handled with the clintons; you don’t get old military bases turned into needed parks, but into small town crushing Walmarts, no matter how many people showed up to ask/demand/show how much the park is needed.
    Populist is based, i’m assuming, on the word popular. And if you want to win votes, you gotta be popular. You can’t go with the candidate who has an active “We hate HER” nationwide anti-fan club.
    Crookedness lost this one: they just couldn’t give up on it when it counted.
    Hillary tried the crooked thing against Barak Obama when he ran; but she couldn’t deny the miles of lines of black folks lined up at the polls. It was obvious from aerial footage who was there to vote, and for who. Little harder to do with the Berners. Dozens of stories of election fraud via crooked training of pollsters. Thousands of votes purposefully put into the “doesn’t count” bin due to them. DJ Trump keeps saying “voter fraud”, but he has the wrong word. It was election fraud.

  2. Miss K says:

    What a bias piece of crap this blog post is. No, seriously, if you want the dozens and dozens of polls that show Bernie Sanders WINNING by a landslide (Drum’s opinion piece that lacks hard evidence notwithstanding) don’t worry. They are all archived on the Internet, ready to view at any time. Bernie Sanders would have won. Easily. Anyone who can click a link to an exit poll knows this. He won the states your dear queen lost. He had reach that went beyond your simple-minded party rhetoric. He had everyone younger than Baby Boomers out there supporting him. Logic may be hard for democrats but not for real liberals and progressives and leftists.

    But we can’t use “liberal” anymore, can we? After years of fighting conservatives, republicans, libertarians and others on what it means and why it is completely different than “democrat” now your center-right, pandering, corporatist party had hijacked it. Now, instead of meaning “progress” (as in progressive ideals like single payer, ending wars/not starting new ones, cost-of-living minimum wage increases, for example) it means “whining” and “let’s compromise because that’s worked so well for us in the past and it allowed the so-called liberal party of democrats to move to the right”. It means “neoliberal” now, which you apparently don’t get/don’t care/have no idea what that is.

    Your grotesque defense of a corrupt, blatantly undemocratic 2-party system is also a pile of crap. Of course this is the scarier side of your argument. “Bernie was never a democrat!” is the rally cry of the democrats, who would like nothing better than to squash 3rd parties – a move that would do 2 things: remove the democrat’s favorite scapegoat for all things bad and admit, finally, that they aren’t interested in a democracy. If you need me or anyone else to explain why a 2 party stranglehold isn’t democracy then you are lost.

    Over 40% of registered voters are not party affiliated. At least 50% of them identify as progressives. They (we) have supported the democrats for a long time; being promised progressive ideals that never come true. After this election it is unlikely there will be even a modicum amount of support given to the democrats. Change must happen, real change, to the left, or kiss the party goodbye. I expect many of you party loyalists will still remain blind, still cry that we need to be “moderate” and reach a middle ground; it can’t happen anymore because “middle ground” is now squarely to the right. That benefits no one. Not anymore. Get on board with the rest of the country, which is finding the democrats constant neoliberalism and conservative arguments against progressive ideals (like single payer – see the democrat’s arguments against that) to be unpalatable.

    Lastly, in regards to you singling out Caitlin Johnstone; She’s a far superior writer than you are with much more thoughtful reporting and source material. I see you have limited source material, unsurprisingly. Her work is even more noteworthy since she isn’t beholden to blind loyalty to a private political party. But feel free to ignore everything in favor of keeping your groveling fealty to the democrats in tact.

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