I have always been a leftist. I was born one. I consider my self, without hesitation or equivocation a socialist, as the French put it pur et dur. When I lived in Europe, I worked for socialist parties and policies. When I live in the US, I work for left liberal politicians and policies. My work often throws me into political work against torture. But I must say, with great bitterness and sadness, that after this election cycle I will never again refer to myself as a progressive.
First of all what is a progressive in the US? A loose collection of people and social movements working on isolated issues of social justice--from folks working against US wars of intervention, to race, gender and sexuality equity, to the environment and so on, and so on. That's beautiful and I mean that with all sincerity.
But what does "progressive" mean in the blogisphere? What does it mean practically as in the organized LEFT. Well this is where things get ugly. One thing I've come to realize in the past decade is the US is perhaps the only industrialized nation without an organized left movement. "Progressives" and "Social Movements" can effect individual policy issues but they are not an organized electoral party. And I say this as a person involved who works in a very specialized social movement.
To be an organized left however, one must engage a great deal of crap work, that I feel sadly, that most of the "progressive" who mouth off about their disillusionment with the democratic party are unwilling to do. The dirty work is quite simple, organizing the multitude of red state rubes--poor white men and women--who will continue until the end of time if you simply leave them to their own devices, to vote this country to fascism. That and organizing the millions of checked-out poor people of all hues in this country to become an active part of the left. God bless the poor beleaguered unions and Trumpka. No one else is out their doing the heavy lifting you need to have a viable and organized left. Certainly not "progressives" or whatever the hell this term means. I know I don't have the backbone for that kind of work. Which is why I work my ass off for every candidate with D next to their name because as utterly feckless and pathetic they may be they are what stands between status quo and oblivion.
As for Obama, shit people, I disagree with the administration on their foot-dragging on torture, hell my work has me yelling at the administration most of the week, but fuck if I can think of a better, yes I mean better alternative on the political landscape of this country. Have any of you progressives ever heard of real politik or is maintaining some fantasy of a pure and true candidate to go down in flames fighting the good fight just too hard for you to resist. If only democratic party stood firm and true to its principles. This is a country full of people who have problems with the idea of universal healthcare and I don't give a crap about polls telling us that people really want it. FAR TOO DAMNED MANY THINK ITS SOCIALISM!!! Or think the Mexicans are gonna get in on it. And until "progressives" can work on that problem of hearts and minds, no pure and true democratic politician is going to win in the South or the Midwest. You can't blame unemployment, the dems or centrism for the existence and popularity of Palidino or Angell. (you can blame the media though!) Both lost thankfully, but that anyone, I mean more than a few hundred voted for this sadists indicates that there is a problem that goes way beyond voter disillusionment with centrist policies. Angry white folks are voting out of hate and voting against their own material interests and voting consciously to ruin the country. They're out to trash the place.
But "progressives" sit and boo-hoo about how Obama is as bad as Bush, gnash their teeth and call for a primary so they can get a "real progressive" to run for office on real "progressive" principles and by smashed by president elect Palin. I am a god-damned socialist and I would never expect or propose a socialist candidate for election to anything larger than school board or mayor in this country because I know America is not a left country. I want it to be more than anything. But I know the history of this country. If this country didn't have a sizable black and Latino population, we'd be living in a libertarian nightmare far worst than the one in which you think you are living in. Yes, if it weren't for black and brown folks this country would look a lot like Chile circa 1980's with Milton Friedman as grand inquisitor and zombie Reagan as president for life.
All I can say, is that the only thing that progressive means to me is chronic disillusionment and stasis. If we want a left movement, we have to do the work. And it's ugly work. It's about changing hearts and minds of people whose hearts and minds are full of some toxic stuff. I'll do my best, I hope others will too.