As a Democrat, I get a lot of emails asking for donations from a variety of organizations. These solicitations usually identify Donald Trump as the main focus of their intended attacks for the midterm elections in November, which is fine. I agree that Trump must be challenged and ultimately deposed and disempowered. But present Democrats seem to identify themselves in one of three philosophical camps: liberals, centrists, and progressives, with the latter so rabid in their beliefs that they often don’t even consider themselves Dems. In fact, I believe this helped elect Trump, as many of those progressives chose to either not vote for a Presidential candidate, vote for a third party, or write in Bernie Sanders. With Dems out-registering Republicans nationwide, and with Trump taking 30 states, there had to be some such dynamic contributing to the outcome. Most progressives were angry that Sanders was not nominated over Hillary Clinton, and so, in effect, sat out the election. This was a golden opportunity for Trump and the Russians to steal the 2016 election, and install a Republican congress as well.
Progressives don’t talk about this much. Instead, some boast how they’re not really Democrats any more, that they have, in effect, another party, a third party. In effect, that attitude will insure a Republican victories in many elections to come.
Exactly what defines a progressive is difficult to tell. But here are a few antecedents, as far as I can tell.
- Single payer health insurance. This is health insurance run and financed solely by the federal government. Everyone is covered, and is modeled after European countries that have income tax rates of at least 60 percent. Progressives don’t talk much about how they would finance such a system, which, they know, would be the kiss of death after Republicans, and particularly Trump, would vilify it with accusations of socialism. The ACA is working but it does need revision and refining to keep costs down and stable. That will only happen if the Dems retake one or both of the Houses of Congress in November, 2018.
- Sanctuary cities. Undocumented immigrants would be protected from arrest and prosecution. Legal marijuana laws on a state-by-state basis would be protected from federal Justice Department prosecution. Trump and Sessions have threatened to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities.
- Support for politicians like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris for President, and Gavin Newsom for Governor of California.
- Free college education, financed by…who knows what.
- To protect Dreamers, Dems need to compromise. With most progressives it’s either their way or no way. They’re not much into bipartisanship. It’s a lost art in Congress, and certainly The Bully in Chief Trump wants nothing to do with it. Only unified Dems working with reasonable Repubs (are there any left?), getting 60 votes in the Senate can put enough pressure on Trump to make it happen. Longshot: I know.
- Huffington Post blogger David Sirota defines the difference in terms of “core economic issues, “ he wrote in 2011. “It seems to me that traditional ‘liberals’ in our current parlance are those who focus on using taxpayer money to help better society. A ‘progressive’ are those who focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules.”
- Sirota goes on to explain, “Most progressives are also liberals, and liberal goals in better funding America’s social safety net are noble and critical. It’s the other direction that’s the problem. Many of today’s liberals are not fully comfortable with progressivism as defined in these terms. Many of today’s Democratic politicians, for instance, are simply not comfortable taking a more confrontational posture towards large economic institutions (many of whom fund their campaigns) – institutions that regularly take a confrontational posture towards America’s middle-class.”
So it comes down to more a matter of degree than actual substance. But that degree is often substantial enough to divide the two camps into irreconcilable differences. And that divide, if played out at the polls, could scuttle any viable attempt of Democrats to regain control from either house of Congress this November.
Given the urgency the Trump administration, along with Republican enablers, present, it’s imperative Dems put aside their differences and vote as a bloc against Republican and Trumpist intransigence and, yes, tyranny.
I’m always interested in your considered point of view. There is so much to sort through these days.
Stephen Altschuler says
Thanks, Elisa. It’s true. There is a lot to sift through. You have to be choosy. I’m glad you chose some of my opinions. I just hope they add something to the fight ahead. Hope you and your family are healthy and happy. I’ve had a rough couple years, but this tough old bird is still at it!