The Long Haul for Progressives

Progressives who are serious about change need to stop whining and stay in the game


| March-April 2010


Ralph Nader is a hero of mine. His populist rhetoric prompted me to get involved in politics at a young age. His groundbreaking work as a consumer advocate motivated me to pursue a career in journalism. His tireless pursuit of the powerful in the name of the powerless still serves as an inspiration.

Ralph Nader also makes me crazy. It’s true that as a perennial presidential candidate he has forced politicians from the two major parties to address issues often ignored in popular discourse, including poverty, corporate malfeasance, and campaign finance reform. But in pursuit of votes, he has also insisted on repeating ad nauseam that there is little to no difference between Republican and Democratic candidates.

One need only revisit George W. Bush’s reaction to 9/11—or consider what a President Gore would have done in the same situation—to conclude that Nader’s self-aggrandizing claim is as contemptuous as it is intellectually crude. Yet it’s this very sort of mantra, adopted in one form or another by a host of progressive thinkers, that gives otherwise rational, passionate people an excuse to disengage from the political process. Especially when they sense, or are told by the media, that an elected official dared to entertain compromise, retreated, or, God forbid, changed his or her mind in the face of fluid circumstances.

Take, for example, the ongoing evaluation of President Obama’s first 14 months in office by many of the left’s most influential pundits, whose reactions range from disillusionment to accusations of betrayal. “We tried to warn Obama, but he wouldn’t listen,” Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, wrote on the magazine’s website the day after the Republicans won a key Senate seat in Massachusetts. “Obama could have spoken the truth, told what he saw happening in Washington rather than trying to be a clever inside manipulator—a game that he was destined to lose.”

At the conclusion of Joe Bageant’s year-end rant, published in the January issue of Socialist Review, the author of the profound Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War responds to a liberal blogger who wonders aloud what a President John McCain would have done about the failing economy. “The same thing, brother. The same thing,” he writes. “Only with a different cover story. Both parties exist at the pleasure of the same crime syndicates.”

It would be unfair to suggest that Lerner’s and Bageant’s rage is anything but righteous. Critics, including me, have plenty of reasons for anxiety. Obama publicly decried the use of torture by the U.S. military and its affiliates, but failed to investigate the Bush administration for human rights abuses. The economic bailout stopped the banks from bleeding out, but lacked oversight and still wants for vision. And committing more troops to Afghanistan, while it is wholly consistent with Obama’s rhetoric on the campaign trail, is a continuation of the Cheney doctrine, both practically and rhetorically.

faultroy_2
3/10/2010 2:49:07 PM

It used to be that when someone called another "Progressive," it actually meant the person was interested in looking at the big picture and what is in the best interest of the country. Today, the word progressive is just another word for"left wing democrat." Traditionally progressives were the ethical soul of American Politics. While somewhat airy and ethereal, their values and goals were both righteous and pure. Today progressives believe in ideas that actually undermine traditional American Life. They are out of the mainstream of your average American. There are vey few real progressives in the USA. Real Progressives recognize that all people have individual rights to live in a manner conducive to their values and morals--that's not today's progressive. They recognize that individual communities should decide what is best for their own lifestyles--that's not today's progressive.


faultroy_2
3/10/2010 2:48:21 PM

It used to be that when someone called another "Progressive," it actually meant the person was interested in looking at the big picture and what is in the best interest of the country. Today, the word progressive is just another word for"left wing democrat." Traditionally progressives were the ethical soul of American Politics. While somewhat airy and ethereal, their values and goals were both righteous and pure. Today progressives believe in ideas that actually undermine traditional American Life. They are out of the mainstream of your average American. There are vey few real progressives in the USA. Real Progressives recognize that all people have individual rights to live in a manner conducive to their values and morals--that's not today's progressive. They recognize that individual communities should decide what is best for their own lifestyles--that's not today's progressive.


PE_5
3/10/2010 11:32:06 AM

Some of us were disillusioned before the election, as Obama promised to supplant the Iraq War with the Afghan War, and to cover half the millions of uncovered with a sort of health care cloak. He's done better than his word. We now have 4 wars going, bombing in Pakistan and Yemen (with or without permission). Some Brits had the courage to call these actions war crimes, which they are, backed by 'both' Parties. And the public option was quietly strangled as the Prez looked the other way. Progressives are reduced to saying the health bill's better than nothing, and we can fix it later. (As Medicare was fixed later? Oops.) But we have one case of swift, unrelenting action from the Obama camp: the big banks were bailed out with cool efficiency and no niggling demands that they change their behaviors. Goldman Sachs, Obama's #1 supporter, smiles. When Paul Krugman (a mere Nobelist) repeatedly laments neglect of suffering citizens in the rush to aid the Too Big to Survive, and we're told, year after year, to 'push' elected officials funded by those they rush to help, it's time to reread Howard Zinn, see how the Party with 2 heads is rooted in one bankrupt ideology, and recall with Frederick Douglass that power is never granted, but is taken. Grassroots? La Via Campesina, the CIW, Acorn, little groups organize and act. Go thou and do likewise; wait not for Parties, put not your trust in Princes.







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