It’s the silly season and there is no escape since it the stupidity and schoolyard banality of the GOP candidates has infected the air. Today there is the Democratic caucus in Maine and Republicans hold a primary in Puerto Rico. Apparently there is a very large turn out in Maine where there are 30 delegates …
Mar 06 2016
Mar 05 2016
Five states are holding primaries and causes today as the leading presidential contenders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Drumpf, seek to extend their leads. On the Republican side voters are down to just four choices since retired brain surgeon Ben Carson officially suspended his campaign yesterday. Up for grabs are 155 GOP delegates in four states, …
Mar 01 2016
I’m rather ambivalent about the presidential election and even more so about the primaries, especially the Democratic primary, the endless senseless debates, the social media pie fights and the press’ obsession with polling. My friend Atrios, who started me off on this blogging thing, pretty much sums up where I stand primarily: I suppose it’s …
Mar 04 2015
The Hill reported on Monday that centrist Democrats were preparing to fight the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of the party fearing that a shift to the left would lead to greater losses in 2016.
The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.
“I have great respect for Sen. Warren – she’s a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side.”
Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, “it’s going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition.”
“To the extent that Republicans beat up on workers and Democrats beat up on employers – I’m not sure that offers voters much of a vision,” Peters said.
Warren’s rapid ascent has highlighted growing tensions in the Democratic Party about its identity in the post-Obama era. [..]
Leaders at three centrist groups – the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), the New Democrat Network (NDN) and Third Way – arranged a series of meetings with moderates after the disastrous midterm elections to “discuss the future of the party,” according to a source close to the NDC.
The laughable part in that article is thinking that Barack Obama’s election in 2008 brought about a shift to the left in Democratic caucus was bad for the party:
One sign of the shift is the decline of the Blue Dog Coalition, a once-sizable bloc of conservative Democrats that is nearly extinct. More than two-dozen of its members were ousted from office in 2010.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who is viewed as a centrist, said the centrist strain of politician is declining and estimated that “there’s fewer than 100” left in Congress.
“We need more moderates and centrists in both parties,” Carper said. “Part of politics is the art of compromise.”
The problem with that thinking is that it was centrist/right wing/Blue Dog policies that lost the Democrats the House in 2010 and this year the Senate. You can’t compromise with the right wing fundamentalists who are dominating the GOP. That lesson should have been learned during the debt ceiling fight in 2011 when Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) bragged that he got 98% of what he wanted. That’s not compromise, that’s caving. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) got the message and held the Democratic caucus together during last week’s battle to pass a clean funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Today that clean bill passed.
Third Way and “Fix the Debt” Democrats are nothing more that tools of Wall Street and billionaire Pete Peterson who founded and funds Third Way and commissions like Pres. Obama’s Cat Food Commission (that the Democratic congress refused to form) that was nothing more than a cover for destroying Social Security and what is left of the social safety net. None of that is centrist, it is pure corporate right wing ideology. Now they’re back and want the left to shut up, especially Sen. Warren.
Here’s “Uncle” Charlie Pierce from Esquire’s Politics on these charlatans:
Like the shingles, “centrist” Democrats lay dormant in the body until they erupt again and your face feels like it’s burning off. They all showed up at the Cafe today for lunch, and there was some whoopin’ and hollerin’ and triangulatin’ going on, I’ll tell you. I had to threaten to call the cops to stop them from dancing on the counter like scalded monkeys.
“I have great respect for Sen. Warren – she’s a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side.” Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, “it’s going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition.”
Who in the fk is brother Peters, you say? Glad you asked. Among his other qualities, he’s rich as hell. So, it should be pointed out, is Senator Professor Warren. But who is advocating for policies guaranteed to take a little money out of their own fat wallet? [..]
Actually, the great American middle-class was born at a time in which the top tax rate was in the neighborhood of 90 percent, and in which financial institutions were carefully regulated, and when there was a general political consensus that public investment and a thriving middle class were good for everyone. Damn, I liked Ike. [..]
Remind me again. What was the fate of all those Democratic candidates who ran away even from this administration’s very modest efforts at moderating income inequality? Nice to see you again, Senator Lundergan Grimes.
As Richard Eskow so pointedly notes Democrats in 2010 and 2014 ran on those centrist policies and lost. Now they want to do it again in 2016. That’s not just insanity, it’s political suicide.
Shout louder, Sen. Warren. Somebody has to keep this country on a better path.
Jan 12 2015
I have 4 articles for you this morning!
First, 3 regarding free speech, consistency, and hypocrisy in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings:
But as Daniel Wickham points out (as amplified by the journalist Glenn Greenwald), many of the 40 leaders attending the rally in Paris don’t have the best record of defending the principle of free speech so viciously attacked earlier this week:
Aug 26 2014
New York State’s Primary is September 9. New York registered Democratic voter’s will have an option for governor and lieutenant governor, despite incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo’s best efforts to keep his challenger, Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, off the ballot. Prof. Teachout and her running mate , Columbia Law professor, Tim Wu are gaining name recognition are gaining recognition and important endorsements from labor unions, environmental groups to the National Organization for Women (NOW). The campaign’s platform is clear in it’s support of a Democratic liberal agenda that opposes corruption and fracking; calling for support and funding of free public education; increase of the minimum wage; fair taxation; rebuilding infrastructure and real campaign finance reform.
The campaign has focused attention on Gov. Cuom’s failures to live up to his 2010 campaign promises and has criticized his selection of conservative Democrat, Kathy Hochul, the former Democratic representative to the federal House, as a running mate.
Teachout and her running mate Tim Wu unveiled the first installment of what they called the “Hochul Dossier” detailing the Erie County Democrat’s conservative leanings. The first segment dealt with Hochul’s stint in Congress and several votes she took siding with House GOP leaders against the Obama administration. [..]
Teachout said Cuomo’s choice of Hochul is part of a pattern of behavior that shows the governor is at odds with Democratic primary voters. She also noted his failure to support more ardent redistricting reforms and his lack of support for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate. [..]
Democrat Zephyr Teachout says Gov. Cuomo’s choice for lieutenant governor is too conservative Christie M Farriella/for New York Daily News Democrat Zephyr Teachout says Gov. Cuomo’s choice for lieutenant governor is too conservative
With barely two weeks to go until the Democratic primary, gubernatorial hopeful Zephyr Teachout’s campaign launched a new broadside against Gov. Cuomo’s pick for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul.
Teachout and her running mate Tim Wu unveiled the first installment of what they called the “Hochul Dossier” detailing the Erie County Democrat’s conservative leanings. The first segment dealt with Hochul’s stint in Congress and several votes she took siding with House GOP leaders against the Obama administration.
“Kathy Hochul is a choice that Andrew Cuomo made that reflects his own Republican values as opposed to Democratic values,” Teachout said on a conference call with reporters to announce the dossier. The campaign plans to release three other segments of the dossier over the next 10 days.
Teachout said Cuomo’s choice of Hochul is part of a pattern of behavior that shows the governor is at odds with Democratic primary voters. She also noted his failure to support more ardent redistricting reforms and his lack of support for a Democratic takeover of the state Senate.[..]
Among the votes cited by Teachout and Wu were instances where Hochul supported GOP-led efforts to strip away portions of Obamacare, block funding for groups affiliated with the scandal-plagued community group ACORN and hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to produce documents related to the “Fast and Furious investigation.”
The campaign also released this video of Ms. Hochul’s conservative leanings.
Professors Teachout and Wu may be underdogs but they are giving disgruntled Democrats in New York a clear choice on the issues and the kind of government most New Yorkers really want. The choice on Speedometer 9th is a choice between real Democrats or Republicans cloaked in a Democratic facade.
Feb 28 2014
You can tell it’s an election year, all the hypocrisy comes out of the closet:
After spending weeks subjecting the public to unfounded and widely debunked claims that Obamacare contains a hidden “bailout” for private insurers, Republicans have undertaken a complete reversal, and are attacking Democrats for cutting corporate welfare for insurance companies by too much.
Specifically, they’re attacking the Affordable Care Act’s reduction in overpayments to carriers who participate in Medicare Advantage, reflected in lower payment rates for program providers, which were officially announced late last week. [..]
When confronted, they retreat from pretending to oppose the cuts on the merits, to claiming the real problem is that Democrats used the savings from the cuts to fund Obamacare. But this is a non sequitur. A diversion. The attacks specifically express outrage on behalf of seniors who, Republicans claim, will lose doctors or get stuck with higher premiums specifically as a result of the ACA’s Medicare Advantage cuts.
But remember, Republicans actually support the cuts. All of these supposedly horrible things would happen under their plan, too, regardless of how the savings are spent. So right away it’s clear that the attacks are straightforwardly deceitful.
While some the beltway deficit scolds mourn the death of “entitlement reforms,” the The National Republican Campaign Committee has begun attacking Democrats for supporting Simpson-Bowles:
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) tried a political ju-jitsu on Thursday as it sought to turn former state CFO Alex Sink’s attacks on David Jolly on Social Security against her. Sink, the Democratic candidate, takes on Republican Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in a special congressional election for an open seat in Pinellas County on March 11.
On Thursday, the NRCC bashed Sink for saying she supported Simpson-Bowles.
What digby said:
I have never understood why Democrats who have to run for office are so wedded to the idea that they will be rewarded for being “the adults in the room” and doing the “hard stuff” like cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits but they do. You’d think they’d remember what happened to them in 2010 when the Republicans ran against the Medicare cuts in the health care reforms by portraying them as monsters turning old people into Soylent Green. But they didn’t.
The president may have decided to keep his proposal to cut benefits from his new budget, but it’s quite clear from the talking points that they still very much want to get “credit” for being willing to do it.
Supporting cuts the social safety net, especially in the state of Florida, is not going to fly very well with elderly voters. And, yes, they do vote. So why aren’t Democrats giving the people what they want, an expansion of Social Security and open Medicare to all?
Nov 12 2013
In the wake of last week’s off-off year elections, Bill Moyers sat down with Washington correspondent for The Nation, John Nichols, and professor of communications at the University of Illinois, Robert McChesney, to discuss how big money and big media conglomerates are raking in a fortune, influencing elections and undermining democracy
This past Tuesday, special interests pumped big money into promoting or tearing down candidates and ballot initiatives in elections across the country. It was a reprise on a small scale of the $7 billion we saw going into presidential, congressional and judicial races in 2012. To sway the vote, wealthy individuals and corporations bought campaign ads, boosting revenues at a handful of media conglomerates who have a near-monopoly on the airwaves. [..]
“Democracy means rule of the people: one person, one vote,” McChesney says. “Dollarocracy means the rule of the dollars: one dollar, one vote. Those with lots of dollars have lots of power. Those with no dollars have no power.” Nichols tells Moyers: “Dollarocracy has the ability to animate dead ideas. You can take an idea that’s a bad idea, buried by the voters. Dollarocracy can dig it up and that zombie idea will walk among us.”
An Election About GOP Extremism, Unions, Wages and Dollarocracy
by John Nichols, The Nation
Two states will elect governors Tuesday and one of those governors could emerge as a 2016 presidential contender. The nation’s largest city will elect a mayor, as will hundreds of other communities. A minimum-wage hike is on the ballot. So is marijuana legalization. So is the labeling of genetically-modified foods. And Seattle might elect a city council member who promises to open the fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
Forget the silly dodge that says local and state elections don’t tell us anything. They provide measures of how national developments – like the federal government shutdown – are playing politically. They give us a sense of whether the “war on women” is widening the gender gap. They tell us what issues are in play and the extent to which the political debate is evolving.
Oct 30 2013
Who Buys the Spies? The Hidden Corporate Cash Behind America’s Out-of-Control National Surveillance State
by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen
Democratic leaders are full-fledged players in the national surveillance state, right along with Republicans.
Long before President Obama kicked off his 2008 campaign, many Americans took it for granted that George W. Bush’s vast, sprawling national security apparatus needed to be reined in. For Democrats, many independents, and constitutional experts of various persuasions, Vice President Dick Cheney’s notorious doctrine of the “unitary executive” (which holds that the President controls the entire executive branch), was the ultimate statement of the imperial presidency. It was the royal road to easy (or no) warrants for wiretaps, sweeping assertions of the government’s right to classify information secret, and arbitrary presidential power. When Mitt Romney embraced the neoconservatives in the 2012 primaries, supporters of the President often cited the need to avoid a return to the bad old days of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld National Security State as a compelling reason for favoring his reelection. Reelect President Obama, they argued, or Big Brother might be back.
But that’s not how this movie turned out: The 2012 election proved to be a post-modern thriller, in which the main characters everyone thought they knew abruptly turned into their opposites and the plot thickened just when you thought it was over.[..]
As the storm over surveillance broke, we were completing a statistical analysis of campaign contributions in 2012, using an entirely new dataset that we constructed from the raw material provided by the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenues Service (which compiles contributions from so-called “527”s). In light of what has transpired, our quantitative analysis of presidential election funding invites closer scrutiny, particularly of the finding that we had already settled upon as perhaps most important: In sharp contrast to endlessly repeated claims that big business was deeply suspicious of the President, our statistical results show that a large and powerful bloc of “industries of the future” – telecommunications, high tech, computers, and software – showed essentially equal or higher percentages of support for the President in 2012 than they did for Romney [..]
But the point that our findings document is perhaps most instructive of all. Many of the firms and industries at the heart of this Orwellian creation have strong ties to the Democrats. Bush and Cheney may have invented it, but national Democratic leaders are full-fledged players in this 21st century National Surveillance State and the interest group pressures that now help to sustain its defenders in Washington work just as powerfully on Democrats as on Republicans.
- Existing data sources used for studies of campaign finance have a variety of serious flaws.
- As a result, the degree to which major parties’ presidential candidates depend on very large donors has been underestimated and the role small donors play exaggerated.
- The relation between the money split between the parties and the proportion of votes received by their candidates in House and Senate races appears to be quite straightforward.
- Firms and executives in industries strongly affected by proposed regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions heavily backed Mitt Romney. So did much, but not all, of finance.
- President Obama’s support within big business was broader than hitherto recognized. His level of support from firms in telecommunications and software was very strong indeed, sometimes equaling or exceeding Romney’s. Many firms and sectors most involved in the recent controversies over surveillance were among the President’s strongest supporters.
- Republican candidates showed sharply different levels of contributions from small donors; President Obama’s campaign, while heavily dependent on large donors, attracted more support from small donors than did his Republican opponent.
- Big business support for Tea Party candidates for Congress was substantial, but well below levels for more mainstream Republicans. Many of the same sectors that strongly supported Romney also backed Tea Party candidates. Backing for Tea Party candidates by Too Big To Fail banks ran above the average of business as a whole by every measure.
Read “Party Competition and Industrial Structure in the 2012 Elections: Who’s Really Driving the Taxi to the Dark Side?” (pdf), by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen.
Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts and a Senior Fellow of the Roosevelt Institute, Thomas Ferguson discusses the finding of the study with Real New Networks Jaisal Noor.
As Yves Smith at naked capitalism noted this is a good explanation why “Obama started looking more stressed than usual around the time of the Snowden revelations.”
Aug 27 2013
We’re launching yet another war against a Middle Eastern country on the basis of false pretenses. Our own damned government is spying on our every communication. People who expose crimes by our government are thrown in prison for decades or forced into exile and hiding. High ranking criminals get away with their crimes. The rich keep getting richer at the expense of everyone else. Our leaders declare they can have us killed without even the Constitutionally-mandated niceties of charging us with any crime at all, let alone any warranting the death penalty. The Constitution no longer applies. Politicians are bought and owned by the wealthy, which trample our rights with impunity. The world is burning and yet we keep drilling and fracking.
Yet the most pressing story of the day is how shameful Miley Cyrus’ antics on stage at an MTV award show were.
May 30 2013
(crossposted at Voices on the Square)
Back in 2009 I wrote a diary over at Kos: Fundamental flaws in progressive ideology. The point was to show how the idea of being a “progressive” contained the idea of selling out within it. The actual record of “progressives” in this era speaks for itself — forty years of decreasing global growth, neoliberal economic policy, and so on. We’re not really progressing toward anything — unless you count the future described by Gopal Balakrishnan:
We are entering into a period of inconclusive struggles between a weakened capitalism and dispersed agencies of opposition, within delegitimated and insolvent political orders. The end of history could be thought to begin when no project of global scope is left standing, and a new kind of ‘worldlessness’ and drift begins.
Against this background, progressivism appears as a sort of holdover from a previous era.
In the midst of all of this, in progressive blogs you have recognitions such as: Twilight of an Empire: More Than Just Bridges Are Crumbling In America. Eric Stetson recognizes that austerity planning is already hurting America, and will get worse in the future. Here is his lament:
Schools, libraries, parks, advanced weather forecasting, and other features of great modern civilizations? Forget about it! All being cut to the bone.
So few jobs being created that labor force participation is the lowest since 1979 and food stamp eligibility is the highest ever?
Who cares! It sure isn’t the government’s responsibility to do anything
about unemployment, right? — the reaction from America’s politicians
on this score is as deafening as John Cage’s infamous symphony of silence.
Even spending money on disaster relief for American cities destroyed by a hurricane or a tornado is no longer
an automatic thing, but instead a political football. Our politicians
are so tight, the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud.
Eric Stetson, however, simply does not imagine more in his conclusion than that America should “demand more of its leaders.” What makes Stetson think that America’s leaders are at any point going to pay attention to such a call to action?
Meanwhile, at the Atlantic, the complaint is now that we have Presidents who routinely break the law, and nobody really cares. Or rather, I suppose, nobody with a shred of power really cares. Our most progressive journalists are telling us: we can expose it, at least for now, but we can’t do anything about it.
And then you have climate change. Climate change is going to be dreadful if we stick with capitalism, as there will be crop failures and famine, and it’s not going to be mitigated by any climate change bill written by the fossil fuel industries, nor will just a bill for a bill’s sake do. While the progressives were applauding the EPA’s assertion of its right to regulate “carbon emissions,” what was strictly necessary, as James Hansen was telling us we had to get back to 350 parts per million in atmospheric content, was that we have some sort of phase-out of fossil fuel production so we can keep the grease in the ground. While radical transformation is necessary, the progressives at DailyKos.com are arguing that “fixing the economy first is not the best way to pass a climate bill.” How is a phase-out of fossil fuels not “fixing the economy”?
Let’s move, now, to FDL. Michelle Chen, a name I don’t see a lot at Firedoglake, tells us that we have “a budget that tightens belts by emptying stomachs.” Chen ends her lament about proposed cuts to the food stamp program with a pointed criticism of “free markets”:
So that’s the theme of this year’s budget debate: that millions of people can’t afford to eat is not a cause for alarm for politicians so much as a burdensome line item. And erasing public benefits make it easier to make the poor invisible in the public mind. After all, food stamps symbolize not only the failure of “free markets” but the power of social policy to reduce endemic human suffering.
Well, OK, social policy to reduce suffering is good. Is that what the progressives have gotten for us?
Well, not a whole lot of it, unless you’re counting a watered-down and inadequate stimulus (now being erased through sequester) or a Heritage Foundation-inspired health insurance bill. Generally speaking, what progressives do every election year is to retreat on all of their presumed off-season goals and to declare themselves firmly in favor of the Democrat and against the Republican, without any serious consideration of what the Democrat actually supports. This is how the progressive vote was delivered for Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama and for numerous lower-ups in Congress, and this is how said vote will be delivered for the next neoliberal austerians who plan to run for Federal-level offices in 2016.
Even worse is the conceptual schemes progressives have had to invent in order to defend their political choices. The Democrats are better than the Republicans, stop whining and start working, you can’t have everything you want, and so on. The result is stuff like this: we didn’t like it under Bush, but now we’ve changed our minds, say many progressives.
Now, the idea of calling liberals “progressives,” if I recall correctly, started out in the late 1980s as a result of the senior Bush’s campaign against “the L word.” The idea, then, was to identify liberals with the promoters of what was once called the “Progressive movement” during what was once called the “Progressive Era” (fundamentally, from 1890 to 1920).
In general, the progressive critique of American society’s political dysfunction cannot bring itself to name, correctly, the design flaw operating in both politics and the economy. The name of this design flaw is “capitalism,” and understanding it as an operating principle of the capitalist world-system is quite necessary to understanding why progressives may have had success in the Progressive Era, but cannot seem to find much of it (outside of legislation protecting gay rights, and a few initiatives here and there to legalize marijuana) today.
Progressives in the Progressive Era confronted a young, expanding capitalism that had not yet experienced two world wars, nor had it fully established the consumer economy of the golden age of capitalism (1948-1971). This explains, more or less, their success in getting reforms enacted in that earlier era. Their success was just beginning!
Progressives in this era, on the other hand, are being asked to defend a doctrine of incremental change leading to a better world, when nowadays declining rates of economic growth clash with increasing demands for corporate profit. As the resultant neoliberal political economy facilitates the theft of everything that isn’t nailed down for the sake of meeting this demand for corporate profit, progressivism is increasingly being forced into either of two directions: 1) the general apparatus of apologetics with which the Democratic and Republican Parties (and other parties, elsewhere) defend reactionary legislation designed to privatize and deregulate the economy and subject it to fiscal austerity while the whole of society is militarized in anticipation of public dissent against the abolition of the middle class, or 2) a general sense of distressed spectatorship as the worlld gets worse, accompanied by a growing sense that something fantastic has to be proposed to cure the disease (such as what one sees in a recent diary of One Pissed Off Liberal).
An interesting discussion of the original Progressive Era in this light can be found in Cecelia Tichi’s collection of biographical sketches titled Civic Passions: Seven who Launched Progressive America (and What They Teach Us). In this regard, Tichi views the Progressive movement of 1890-1920 as a reaction to the “Gilded Age” of the 19th century, and regards our era as a new Gilded Age, one of corporate hegemony and political corruption. Tichi can find corruption in both eras, as well as muckrakers.
Reading history can be comforting, and engrossing, as Tichi’s book amply demonstrates. The reformers Tichi depicts were able to “get the ball rolling” on concrete efforts to change living conditions for American society’s worst-off individuals, and to instill some humanity into America’s emerging consumer society. In reading Tichi’s biographical sketches, one can’t help but want to duplicate their successes in today’s society. One would, for instance, like to campaign much as Alice Hamilton did against unsafe conditions in lead mines, or as Florence Kelley did in organizing against child labor. One would like to conduct the sort of worker-empowering social science that John R. Commons conducted in Pittsburgh, or pursue the same sort of pioneering efforts for social justice for Black people that Tichi depicts in her biographical sketch of Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
Some of the activist strength Tichi extols may still be useful today — but we are no longer in the Progressive Era, and that the efforts of the original Progressive Era activists earned their successes through an emergent, felt need for a class compromise that circulated in the halls of the wealthy and powerful in that, adolescent, emergent stage of the expanding capitalist world-system. The problems of child labor, horrific work conditions, and excessive poverty merited fresh efforts at reform in light of the increasing prosperity of the capitalist system at that time. We are no longer in that era, and so if progressive efforts are to continue to have success, they need to be underwritten by some other way of thinking than progressive ideology. In saying this, I am in solidarity with writers such as Aaron Schutz, whose book “Social Class, Social Action, and Education: The Failure of Progressive Democracy” described progressivism as a “middle class utopia,” (28) and Shelton Stromquist’s Reinventing “The People,” in which progressive reformers are said to pursue “an ideal of social harmony in which the interests of labor and capital would be reconciled.” (23) I also agree to a certain extent with Chris Hedges, whose Death of the Liberal Class complains of the resistance progressives no longer offer corporate elites. Mild reformism was, without doubt, both effective and beneficial in an era in which the capitalist system required a “middle class utopia” if the crises which it generated were not to overwhelm the system as a whole. Our era, on the other hand, is an era of a declining middle class, of deepening poverty for the multitudes, and increasing poverty amidst record profits for the super-rich. The reconciliation of class interests is off the table. The consumer society no longer serves as the pretext for profits among the wealthiest when the wealthiest can just compel the government to print money for their enrichment. The dire poverty of urban immigrant populations at the turn of the 20th century may not be part of our landscape today, but this fact itself forms a pretext for keeping present-day poverty off of legislative agendas, to the detriment of all of us. What we need today are more movements such as the Zapatistas, or the various movements for ecological justice, or the MST.
In this environment “progressivism” appears as a sales-pitch for the Third Way. Progressives are now people who tell you to vote for the Democrat because she/ he is better than the Republican — it might still ring true, but it becomes less and less important with each passing election, with each issue that becomes vitally important everywhere but in Washington DC. Once progressivism was robust; today it has reached a cul-de-sac. If anything, today’s world needs a class struggle more than ever, and a vision of civilization free of capitalism and the crises it promotes with increasing frequency (see e.g. Greece, Spain, global warming, pollution in China, war in Africa) today. When the capitalists, with their governments in tow, are forcibly undoing all of the good done by the progressives and social democrats around the world, while at the same time bringing Earth’s ecosystems into increasing crises, another compromise is not going to restore the world to stability.
Indeed a recent Gallup poll tells us that the number of liberal Americans is growing. But this poll result is itself the product of an impoverished political discourse both with the Gallup pollsters and with America as a whole. So, for instance one can also read of polls that say that “young people are more likely to favor socialism than capitalism” as well. What I’d like to suggest, here, is that an opposition to the 7% at the top (as their fortunes improve) will have to be made up not just of progressives, nor even (perhaps) mainly of progressives, but of people with a diversity of political beliefs (socialists, anarchists, post-capitalists and so on) outside of progressivism. These people exist already — the leap forward is not that a non-progressive Left needs to be created from nothing, but rather from the mere discussion of theory to an engagement with the world. Bhaskar Sunkara:
After all, the problem with the Left isn’t that it’s too austere and serious; it’s that it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to make the changes necessary for political practice. We can be rigorous and ideological – without being afraid of being heard outside our own circles. Mass exposure wouldn’t spell the end of a vibrant socialist critique.
The future of resistance is in the diversity of non-progressive Left approaches, and in making that diversity actionable, not in progressivism or liberalism. Being a “progressive” or a “liberal” is easy, but obsolete. I’d like to think I can do better, so at this point I don’t claim to be a progressive.
May 16 2013
I am so tired of all the posturing on either side of the political divide. I am so tired of those taking sides, vomiting up, along with their bile, the inevitable “lesser of two evils” mantra. Obama, Boehner… whoever… I’m sick of them all.
Whether Republican or Democrat, really, haven’t we had enough of epically bad governance? No? No, apparently not… epically bad governance isn’t compelling enough. We still have to try to lessen the stupidity of one side by magnifying the screwball antics of the other.
keyrist. i am so tired of it.
crossposted at dKos