Posts Tagged: progressives

Feb 19


Key members of the new Democratic House have made a grave miscalculation. They have forgotten to be politicians. They have fatally embraced the term “socialism”.

A very right-wing Libertarian guy I knew, thinking he was engaging in clever rhetorical tactics, once asked me what proportion of progressive-Democrat policies are Communist. “Are their policies ten percent Communist? Fifteen per cent? Forty?”

I told him that I didn’t view simple non-radical methods for helping the working poor–like food stamps and Medicaid and inner city housing subsidies–to be Communism at all. Decency is not “communism”, it’s simply responsible behavior. And how is environmental protection legislation communist? As to that, he said that environmental regulations “choke” the free market. I replied that we’ve had substantial environmental regulations since the 1970s, and they did nothing to restrain markets at all. Industry has been quite profitable. And new industries and jobs prompted by the regulations have flourished too.

There is such a thing as intelligent, restrained socialism, as in certain European countries which implement universal free health care but remain careful not to put too much burden on the state. And they’re careful to allow capitalistic elements to succeed–within clear-cut rules of fairness.

But American culture was shaped, generation after generation, with propaganda emphasizing the failures of communism and socialism (the former is  strictly Marxist, the latter more flexible). The propaganda was not wrong, at least with respect to the USSR, to Mao’s regime, to Pol Pot, to the dark side of Castro. And now we have Maduro in Venezuela, a fresh example of the misuse, the abuse, of socialism. The words communism and socialism are hopelessly entangled with the legacies of brutal dictators.

Bernie Sanders’ idea was to  blot out the negative associations by attaching Democratic to Socialism. It worked for some people. But for too many Americans, the term is still a reeking albatross around the neck of his progressivism. to those folks, it looks funny and smells bad. That’s not fair–but that is the political reality.

FDR, you notice, was too smart to use the term socialism with respect to his ideas, though he did institute some mildly “socialistic” safety nets. The New Deal was smarter, and was also more accurate. “Deal” implies a business relationship. Rather than a charitable giveaway, it’s was a new deal; a new business relationship with the working person.

That’s the way Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and friends should go. First, don’t even think of it as socialism. What they’re advocating isn’t pure socialism anyway. Second, Simply Never Call It Socialism. Because the word socialism equates with Dangerous Radicalism, in the minds of many Americans. Trump and the GOP know that and they’re going to use it.

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is to some degree taking that cautious path with her New Green Deal label. But it’s not far enough. Drop the term socialism entirely! Don’t even say it’s  Democratic Socialism–don’t refer to socialism at all, and instead define it as it really is: A healthy set of strong regulations, a fairer tax plan (significantly taxing the very wealthy), a few safety nets like Medicare For All, and stronger ecological regulations. If you need a handy label, call it the Newer Deal, or perhaps Regulated Capitalism. Because that’s what it is! What Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and colleagues want is in fact capitalism–it’s just capitalism grown in a well-tended garden. It’s like a conscientiously cultivated, carefully pruned garden, where beautiful blossoms flourish in variety and abundance. Just because you’re pruning and weeding doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent, verdant garden. And just because you’re regulating capitalism–more strictly than we are now–doesn’t mean it’s not going to be thriving capitalism. The free market will thrive with strong regulations–despite glib claims to the contrary, regulations have never harmed the marketplace. Some degree of greed will be curtailed, but the country will be more economically healthy, since the middle class will have more money to spend.

Remember the politics of terminology–because Trump is remembering it.  So don’t call it socialism and you won’t raise the hackles of the average voter…

Nov 17

Only One Thing Can Save This Country from Fascism

Actually there’s only one thing that will save this country. Because the problem isn’t just Trump; it isn’t just his cabinet bent on ruining schools and the environment. It’s also the right-wing stranglehold in the Supreme Court; it’s voter suppression; it’s the vacuous who buy into fraudulent news sources, and the yawners who sneer at the value of voting; and of course it’s the Republican party…It comes down to laws; to congress, and courts.

And the one thing that will save us, ultimately, is fundamentally altering the makeup of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives; which means *getting out the vote*, getting more people than ever before to vote for progressives in the mid term elections and in 2020. Large numbers of people who basically feel as we do just don’t vote. That has to change.

There has to be so many new and determined voters the Republicans and the alt-right can’t stop them with gerrymandering and suppressing voters and fake-news. It has to be overwhelming. And it could be done–if we made finding new progressive voters our primary mission. Which means convincing caring, decent people that voting *does* matter; it means spending more to educate people on the issues so we fuel their determination for action at the ballot box. Only a major change in voting patterns will save this country.

Jun 17

Do Conservatives Fear Complexity?

One of the problems with Democrats and progressives standing up to conservatives (and “conservatives” as in Trump, who actually believes in nothing but Trump), is that progressive people recognize truth in *complexity*. The other side usually rejects complexity as if it were a kind of amoral smokescreen. It’s much easier to say, “a fifteen dollar national minimum wage is a giveaway to people who don’t want to work harder for more money” than to explain that 1) it’s not that much money, it’s an expensive society to live in 2) the money stimulates the economy overall because the average person will have more money to spend, and they’ll spend it 3) the evidence is that low-wage laborers work as hard as anyone else does, often harder. There are also four and five and six in the ever-more-complex but convincing list of considerations.

Same goes for food stamps/SNAP programs, and other safety nets–most people who get them *are* working already, and under tough circumstances, but it’s easier to say they’re loafers. It’s simply easier to say that single-payer healthcare, medicaid, and so on, are “only needed by people who haven’t worked hard enough” than it is to explain that medical problems can come out of nowhere and be overwhelming even for hard working, wage-earning people, and many working people have become homeless because of medical bills, and it actually helps the economy when we don’t have to rescue them with emergency rooms and special housing and we’ve allowed medical costs to get out of control in this country…and more.

It’s easier to say, “the free market will eventually end pollution” than to explain how the history of regulations and how they are not harmful to the marketplace.

It’s not that Republicans are (ironically) intellectually lazy, in particular, it’s just that they feel safer with simpler explanations, with echoing some parental homily, than with the uneven, challenging ground of complexity…Simplification offers simple emotional satisfaction.