Surveying the realm of current events it's hard not to be depressed about the narrow minded Punch & Judy politics in charge of our national commons: the fiscal cliff cowardice, the debt ceiling, entitlement cuts, banksters gone wild, climate change denial, an unemployment epidemic ignored, and on and on. Time and again it seems we're caught in an intractable loop of single minded Republican greed & cruelty on the one hand, and timid, palliative Democratic compromise on the other.
There is a fatalism prevalent in the many of the comments and diaries I see on Kos and other blogs. Something needs to shift. As Progressives we can't have the same responses over and over and expect a different result going forward.
One thing the Republicans have had going for them is the appearance of coming from a place of core values. All their policy positions emanate from a few core principals: low taxation, especially on the wealthy; low or no government services other than Defense; low or no regulation of business. Many think these to be backward and regressive principals, but one has to concede that they've been nothing if not consistent for 100 years on these principals.
The Democrats used to have an opposing set of core values that were most clearly articulated in the New Deal: progressive taxation; a level of government services that provided a government managed base income for retirees, and a base level of government managed health care for retirees; regulation of business to render markets fair and open.
More and more over the last 30 years the Democrats have lost sight of those core values to the point where we now have a Democratic president who is explicitly willing to erode Social Security and Medicare, eroding civil liberties, and declining to re-regulate the banking sector in the wake of the most widespread systemic business fraud in 80 years.
Has he tried to hold the line on the more egregious Republican proposals? Yes. But is that enough? No.
New Years is a time when people step back and squint to see the meaning of the bigger picture. And time and again the "Democratic" compromises just aren't of a scope to begin to grapple with the major national issues, and this is because as a party, it has abandoned the core principals that had galvanized it in earlier times. Who can be inspired by this politics? It has become "Republican Lite". It has eschewed any genuine populism. As a matter of fact its friend the mainstream media has worked overtime to tamp down any nascent populism in our politics, except in the case of the Tea Party. One has to look past the normal news outlets to find the voices of true populism and progressive values.
So the work for Progressives is to reverse the sense of helplessness and re-articulate the values that will generate the support to create mandates for change. This will empower us to not just beat back some of the worst Republican proposals one by one, but to actually enact progressive policy solutions that break new ground. And here I have to quote my guru Bernie Sanders:
Not only must we resist cuts in Social Security, we must lift the cap on taxing higher incomes so that Social Security will be strong for the next 75 years.Now for the "tough love" part. These values are not inherently modern Democratic Party values. They are not inherently our President's values. When you look past the lofty speeches and rhetoric to the decisions and compromises, it cannot be denied. These are Progressive values that, from all evidence, are independent of the alleged value system shared by the national Democrats and the President. Recently, the most evident value of the Democrats is to put aside principles in favor of pragmatic compromise. The President has positioned himself as "post-partisan" and dwelling above the fray of the catfighting dems and repubs.
Not only must we oppose cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, we must see health care as a right of all and continue the fight for a Medicare for All Single Payer health care system.
Not only must we oppose placing the burden of deficit reduction on the backs of working families, we must demand a progressive tax system in which the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.
Not only must we oppose those who deny the reality of global warming, we must demand the transformation of our energy system away from fossil fuels into energy efficiency and such sustainable energies as wind, solar, geothermal and bio-mass.
Not only must we oppose cuts in unemployment compensation, we must fight for a jobs program that creates the many millions of jobs our country desperately needs.
Not only must we vigorously oppose the war against women, we must fight to end all forms of discrimination and prejudice in this country.
So my New Year's resolution is to judge all Democratic positions put forth by the President and all national Democrats through the lens of these Progressive values, and to call them out early and often when they fall short and only react to the Republican onslaught piecemeal. We need to be bolder, we need to go further, and we need to be explicit that this will ultimately be accomplished either with the help of the Democrats or without them. Happy New Year!