Dissent. Diversity. Unity.

Tag archive

Hillary Clinton

No, Progressives Aren’t Afraid of the Word “Liberal”

in Political Thought by

I’ve recently heard it said and many blindly accept that people who call themselves “progressive” do so because they have become afraid of the term “liberal” ever since conservatives led a “liberal” smear campaign.

This claim implies that:

  1. people who call themselves “liberal” and people who call themselves “progressive” are fundamentally the same, hold about the same values, and seek very similar policy reforms. The only difference, according to this claim, is that…
  2. progressives are afraid of owning the word “liberal” or, more to the point, that people who call themselves “progressive” are afraid, which in turn implies that people who call themselves “liberal” are courageous.

First, it should be pointed out that the term “progressive” historically precedes “liberal” as these words are currently used in America. When West Wing’s Matt Santos says that it was liberals who have always fought on the right side of history, he is being anachronistic: the term liberal was not applied in that way at many of his historic examples; indeed, it was progressives who fought for policies that changed the face of America. The Progressive Era (1890s–1920s) helped enact many standards of our nation today—the 40-hour work week, the weekend, that child labor is illegal and considered wrong, and so on. And progressives laid the groundwork for now-integral programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The government programs and regulations that have kept America from degrading into a brutal, inhumane, and depraved society have come into being through the actions of people who proudly called themselves “progressive.”

And yet people still claim that liberals and progressives are fundamentally the same. This claim is difficult to disprove simply because there is not one, universally accepted definition for either term, though you can find several articles online attempting to parse the difference. David Sirota argues that today’s liberals want to help people through government subsidies but are unwilling to impose impactful government regulations or create game-changing programs; instead, liberals want to throw tax-payer money at a problem to temporarily ease the discomfort, whereas progressives want to solve the problem at its root.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is one example of liberal vs. progressive approaches. The ACA’s original proposed legislation was a hybrid of liberal and progressive solutions to the problem of the dysfunctional US healthcare system that leaves millions unable to access affordable care. In addition to the reforms and programs we are all familiar with, including Medicaid subsidies, the original bill also included strong government regulation of insurer premiums as well as a government-run insurer that would compete with the private insurers (the public option) and, likely, bring private rates down as a result.

But insurance company lobbyists had a talk with the liberals who run our Democratic Party, and the progressive elements of the legislation were the first to be scrapped. We were sold the promise that Medicaid with subsidies, along with toothless and spotty regulation, would be enough to create universal healthcare for all Americans.

But today 30 million Americans remain uninsured, and an estimated 32 million are underinsured—that’s 62 million Americans who can’t afford to get sick.

The liberal vision for creating universal health coverage in the United States, divorced from progressive oversight, regulation, and policy, has failed.

And when we compare the positions and policy proposals of self-proclaimed progressives to those of self-proclaimed liberals, the difference that emerges is indeed one of courage—but not on the part of liberals.

Progressives are fighting to make our national minimum wage a living wage to pull millions of people out of poverty—and, incidentally, off of government-assistance programs, which would mean saving billions of tax-payer dollars every year, money that is now essentially subsidizing the labor costs of very profitable corporations.

Liberals, however, have meekly and reluctantly been pulled and pressured to state that they would support—not propose or fight for—a $12 minimum wage, which would help people in some areas of the United States but would still leave many, many others struggling to survive below the poverty line.[1]

And while both progressives and liberals accept the science of climate change, it is progressives who are fighting hard to do something about it—seeking to aggressively transform our energy system (which, incidentally, would also make energy cheaper and more accessible to everyday people as well as create millions of jobs that cannot be shipped overseas), halt the increasingly dangerous extraction and transport of fossil fuels, and help those communities that will be impacted the most by the oncoming devastation of climate change.

Liberals, meanwhile, make a few symbolic and largely surface protections and regulations but are unwilling to meaningfully take on the entrenched fossil fuel corporate interests.

In fact, when Native Americans stood their ground (literally, they stood on THEIR ground—the land is theirs, and it is sacred) to stop the construction of an oil pipeline from being run through their water supply—and, by the way, the water supply of 17 million other Americans—progressives fought alongside them. It was progressives who took a moral stand and stated clearly and unequivocally that it is WRONG to support corporate oil interests over the rights of Native Americans and despite our critical need to start aggressively addressing climate change and protecting our world for future generations.

And during the months-long Dakota Access Pipeline standoff, liberal Democrats and, in particular, Hillary Clinton—then the Democratic nominee for president and the person liberals proudly hold up as their standard-bearer—stayed silent. They equivocated and said “no comment” amid pleas from the water protectors that they take a moral stand, that they do what they had previously said they would do: protect Native American rights and act to address climate change. But instead, Clinton and other liberals were morally spineless.

And it is here, when we compare progressives with liberals, that we see the myth break down.

No, progressives and liberals are not the same.

No, progressives are not afraid.

We are not afraid to call out, clearly and emphatically, what is right and what is wrong. We are not afraid to be put in conservatives’ rhetorical crosshairs.

We are not afraid to be radical—because that is not only who we are; it is what we do.

The word “radical” means to “get to the roots.” Progressives seek to solve our society’s greatest problems and challenges not through moral equivocation, not through back-room corporate compromise, not by clipping gingerly at the edges, but by diving in, getting our hands dirty, and fixing what’s broken.

We seek intelligent, meaningful change. Progressives truly fight for people, for our world, for our future.

Vision.

Moral strength.

Courage.

That is the difference between progressives and liberals.

 

[1] The living wage varies by geographic location. You can find your area’s living wage here. Although it is the general progressive position that the national minimum wage should be changed to a flat $15/hour, I disagree with this approach. I believe we should create legislation that mandates that the minimum wage be tied to the living wage, to be determined by a handful of independent agencies, and it should vary by locality. This not only would help ensure that the living wage is appropriate for each local economy but would also incentivize local businesses and chambers of commerce to look more closely at their fellow businesses’ practices—and how those practices may inflate an area’s living wage in a way that benefits only themselves while hurting the greater community.

A Time of Great Challenge and Adversity: A Look Back at 2016

in Election 2016 by

For the last two months, I’ve been mostly muddling through the days, swimming in a sea of thoughts following our elections. While I’ve completely accepted and absorbed the consequences to these results, I’ve been racing through my mind about the many pathways and outcomes we may soon have to face.

Despite the enormous gulf that exists between us, we must not degenerate into demonizing our fellow citizens. One cannot blame people for voting the way they did. Despite what I might think about their choices, we must respect the will of the people and join together as Americans. For those who refuse to do so, I ask you to remember that no election result is permanent and those who fought you this cycle might as easily become your allies in the next election. Voters can change minds, in other words, so diminishing them for their choice is never a way to go about conducting politics.

Our feelings of frustration are better directed at the Democratic Party, the candidate herself, and the campaign she ultimately ran. While they may never admit it, the date of September 10 will always be seared in my mind as the date the election was sealed. For it was on this date that Mrs. Clinton called “half” of President-elect Trump’s voters “deplorable.” A comment so flippantly made, so carelessly delivered, with the added distinction of being prefaced with the words, “You know, to be grossly generalistic . . .” All above a little podium sign that prominently displayed in purple and white “Stronger Together.”

How could any person expect to lead a country—much less win an election—after saying such remarks as these? Any person thinking forthrightly about the qualities of leadership and governance would do well to remember the lessons of this sad episode. More was expected of the woman candidate running for president, it’s true. And some of that double standard was indeed very unfair and biased, to be sure. But I also must believe that some of those expectations were a result of the competency and experience that were her supposed calling card.

2008 should have been a clear lesson that this also was not a winning strategy with the broad electorate. To be sure, experience in governance is a good thing to have. But experience may also be predicated upon poor judgement and lead to equally bad consequences, making such qualifications as useless as choosing a novice. With anchors such as the Iraq War, the intervention in Libya and the nonintervention in Syria, one could be forgiven if the Democratic nominee had all the foreign policy hallmarks of a Republican over her opponent. Perhaps this heightened the contrasts this election year, though I doubt it.

When answering a question from a young Muslim woman in the second presidential debate about how to combat the rise of Islamophobia in our land, Trump’s response was (paraphrasing), “Radical Islamic terrorism is a problem, and Muslims should report on other Muslims about suspicious behavior, like in San Bernardino, or Orlando, Paris, or 9/11.” The Clinton response was no more comforting, if not downright vague: “Thank you for your question. I’ve heard this question many times before.” After invoking the names of Captain Kahn and Mohammed Ali and then reciting some rhetoric about the American ideal of tolerance and respect, she said, “We need our American Muslims to be part of our eyes and ears, on our front lines.” The woman later responded that the answers, other than delivery and tone, were not much different from each other in substance and meaning. Me neither.

How did we get here? That I believe is the most important question we can ask ourselves this day. While the decisions and results of the candidates and their campaigns will vex none but historians and biographers any longer, this should not mean we should easily forget what we all witnessed and endured this year.

We must earnestly look back to see how a nation of laws and norms end up nominating and electing among two of the most unpopular people in the country. Is it any wonder that turnout dropped to the level as that of 2004? Why was the media so derelict in its duty to give fair and equal representations of all candidates? Why were our great journalistic bulwarks so mistrusted on one end and so painfully slow to grasp the realities on the other? Could these not be related in any way? In the coming weeks, I’ll do my level best to review these issues one-by-one and to seek a framework to learn the hard lessons from this campaign. From this, I’ll also try to provide a window into the past to provide not only comfort but also perspective for these times.

We will soon face these challenges together, as a country should. And like it or not, all countries must overcome these great periods of challenge or else silently fall into the dust bin of history. Lately, I have searched our great volumes of history in search of any parallels in our nation for moments of great tragedy and adversity. For those who think this is the greatest test our country has faced, let me remind you of the American Civil War.

Living in the twenty-first century, few scars of that terrible conflict can be seen on the landscape or in the streets. But the frightening figures should be known to us all. Lasting nearly four years, millions of men, women and children were made casualties, orphans, or refugees from the fighting. All done in the name of southern independence, emancipation, or simple conquest, depending on one’s viewpoint. Whole families and communities were torn asunder, heroes and villains were prevalent on both sides, and to this day, evidence of its impact can be seen if one looks carefully. Battlefields are one piece of evidence, but perhaps our latest election results could also be seen as yet another.

In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Cassius at one point says, “How many ages hence, shall this our lofty scene be acted over, in states unborn and accents yet unknown?” So must we too ask this question about our current state of affairs, here and the world over. I look forward to having this conversation with you and finding out from the journey ahead. We might not see the fruits of our labors, but let us begin.

 

Stop the Corporate Democrat Lie: Progressives Must Refuse to Concede the Narrative

in Election 2016 by

Here’s the story and we’re sticking to it. Because it’s true:

The Democratic Party colluded with the Clinton campaign to elevate Clinton and to suffocate Bernie Sanders’s exploding grassroots campaign for the party’s nominee for president. And if they had not, Bernie Sanders would likely now be our president-elect instead of Donald Trump, and Democrats would likely have a majority in both the House and the Senate.

As we all reel from the shock of Trump’s election as president of the United States, we ask: How did this happen?

The Democratic Party. They did this. They did it to themselves. They did it to their country. They did it to the world.

Despite the fact that Clinton had decades of problematic baggage and was, at best, a weak candidate and that her candidacy only continued to weaken as more information came to light about her and her inner circle.

Despite the fact that Bernie Sanders polled as one of the most popular, well-liked, and trusted politicians in modern history and consistently held double-digits predicted leads over all Republican primary candidates, including Trump, far outpacing Clinton.

Despite the fact that thousands of Sanders’s supporters warned the DNC and all its establishment superdelegates that coronating Clinton would result in a Trump presidency and the loss of critical down-ballot races.

Despite all this, the Democratic Party machine closed ranks, pushed aside and silenced Sanders supporters, and elevated an unelectable candidate as their nominee when we could have had a landslide candidate.

We’d like to think that this loss will be the Democratic Party’s come-to-Jesus moment. That after they did everything in their power, including dictating the mainstream media narrative for both candidates, perhaps the Democratic Party will see the error of their ways now that, as Sanders’s supporters predicted, Trump has defeated Clinton.

But don’t count on that happening.

People in power like to stay in power. And admitting that their very occupation of that power is their—and America’s—downfall would mean that they would have to willingly, for the good of all, give up that power. And they’re not going to do that.

Instead, the Democratic Party elites will try to take control of and distort the narrative.

They will blame third-party candidates—in particular, the Green Party’s Jill Stein—for “stealing” the votes from Clinton, implying that if Stein had not been on the ticket, then all those votes would have gone to Clinton.

In fact, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman started spinning the lie immediately, tweeting, “Btw, Jill Stein managed to play Ralph Nader. Without her Florida might have been saved.” Regardless that even assuming that EVERY Green voter in Florida—people who are disgusted with the corporate oligarchy and moral equivocation that are Clinton’s hallmarks—had voted for Clinton, Stein’s 63,156 Florida votes wouldn’t have come close to closing the 131,695-vote gap between Trump and Clinton in the Sunshine State.

But let’s also remember that those voters chose third-party alternatives precisely because they’re sick and tired of dynastic politics that recycle the same myopia of policy possibilities—none of which offers the majority of Americans any real relief from the economic pressures our rigged economy puts on everyday people or seriously addresses the crises our world faces.

(By the way, the whole Nader-caused-Gore’s-loss-in-2000 narrative? That’s a myth, easily debunked here and here and here, among many other places. Do your homework before trying to rehash that one.)

Or perhaps Democratic Party loyalists will blame the media for amplifying Trump’s every move, for making him the focal point of the entire primary and general election. And they will do that while ignoring their own role in coordinating with the media to promote Clinton and dismiss Sanders during the primary. They will make the mainstream media take the downfall even as they played that same media like puppets during the primary.

Or they will blame James Comey and the FBI, the same James Comey they lionized back in July when he came under attack for absolving Clinton of any criminal charges as a result of her choice to use a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

They will blame the Russians. WikiLeaks. Millennials. Minorities, even (just watch, someone will do it). And, of course, they will blame Bernie Sanders.

They will blame everyone but themselves. They will refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and thus, they will continue to make decisions based on hubris and outdated perceptions of U.S. and global dynamics. And they will do so at the expense of the American people and the world.

If we let them.

So we must not let them take control of the narrative. When they engage in their roulette wheel of a blame-game, shut it down. Give the facts. Don’t let them off the hook.

We cannot take back our country, create a just economy, fight discrimination, and take aggressive steps to address climate change until we clean out the Democratic Party.

And we do that by telling the truth.

Go to Top