Posts Tagged ‘Progressives’

The election was a protest, not a mandate

November 6, 2014

Voters across the nation gave the Republican Party numerous and unexpected victories for state and national office, while approving liberal and progressive ballot referendums.  If the election was a mandate, what exactly was it a mandate for?

For an answer, I strongly recommend Lambert Strether’s comprehensive, analysis of the election on the Naked Capitalism web site, and, if you have time, the articles to which he links.

1619934320_Democrat_Donkey_DonkeyHotey_CC_Flickr_answer_3_xlargeAlaskans voted in favor of raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and regulating mining companies.  Arkansans, Arizonans, Nebraskans and South Dakotans also voted in favor of raising the minimum wage.  Denton, Texas, voted to ban fracking.  Yet all these places voted Republican in the midterm election.

I don’t think it is because voters in these states misunderstand their true interests.  Most people have a clear and accurate idea of what they want and need.  And I don’t think it is a result of failure of communication of Democratic leaders.  It is because a majority of the population lost ground economically during the past six years.

You don’t have to be an expert on national politics to know whether you are better off or not.  As John Dewey said, you do not have to have knowledge of shoe-making to know whether your shoes fit or not.

Exit polls showed that 53% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party, while 56% have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party.  So for voters, it wasn’t even a vote against the perceived lesser evil.  It was a vote against the incumbent evil.

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A Senate nominee I wish I could vote for

April 12, 2014

 Shenna Bellows, the Democratic nominee for Senator from Maine, is outstanding on the most important issues of our time.  She wants to break up the big banks, bring the National Security Agency under control and end the so-called war on drugs, which has resulted in so many poor young black men going to prison for actions that are tolerated among the elite.

SBellowsphotoI thank my friend Bill Elwell, for calling her interview with Salon, the first of the links below, to my attention.  Based on that, I think she would be at least as good a Senator as Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whom I admire.  Bellows hesitates to support gun control legislation, but as far as I’m concerned, that is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Having another dissenting voice in the Senate would be important, even though an overwhelming majority (in the Senate, I mean) is against her.   She has the power to raise important questions and to raise public awareness.

It is interesting how things change.  Eighty years ago, Maine and Vermont were the most conservative states in the union.  They were the only two states that opposed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s re-election in 1936.  But now Vermont is represented by Bernie Sanders, an independent who is the Senate’s only avowed socialist, and there is a good chance that Maine will be represented by Bellows.

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Who represents the interests of wage-earners?

March 26, 2014

After the election of President Obama, a tiny economic elite is still in charge.

http://www.salon.com/2014/03/16/there_is_no_meritocracy_its_just_the_1_percent_and_the_game_is_rigged/

Wall Street’s influence on the Democratic Party goes back a long way.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/21/the-missing-link-to-the-democratic-partys-pivot-to-wall-street/print

And nowadays the so-called progressives represent the views and interests of college-educated professionals rather than those of wage-earners.

http://www.salon.com/2014/03/20/college_educated_professionals_could_doom_progressive_politics/

The rise of Theodore Roosevelt

October 28, 2011

I’m interested in the Progressive Era of a century ago because in many ways its issues were the same as those of today—immigration, globalization, foreign military intervention and corrupt relationships between government and monopolistic business.

Theodore Roosevelt, a many-sided, larger-than-life figure, was the leading personality of that era.  I recently finished reading The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris, which deals with TR’s pre-presidential career.  It is as readable as a good novel, and won the Pulitzer Price for 1979.  Morris later wrote Theodore Rex, about TR’s presidency, and Colonel Roosevelt, about his post-presidential career.

Roosevelt would not be considered a progressive today.  He was an imperialist and a warmonger, although, unlike most of today’s warmongers, he was eager to take part in the fighting himself.  He believed in British and American world supremacy, based on the superior qualities of the Anglo-Saxon “race”.

His pre-presidential progressivism consisted mainly in fighting for honest government, and in being willing to speak frankly of “the criminal rich class.”  In that era, mere honesty was important and rare, just as it is today.  It was necessary to break up the corrupt relationship between corporations and government before anything else constructive could be accomplished.

Most Americans know the story of how TR built himself up a weak, asthmatic young boy into a successful college boxer, cowpuncher, big game hunter and volunteer cavalry officer who led the Rough Riders in their famous charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.

The fact that he was a serious intellectual is not so well known.  He held his own with people like Henry Adams.  All his idle moments were devoted to serious reading.  Once he went on vacation for a month and, to pass the time, wrote a biography of Oliver Cromwell.  He wrote 14 books in all.  At least two of his work, The Naval War of 1812 and The Winning of the West, are read by serious historians today.

That’s not all.  He was a rancher who rode with cowboys in roundups.  He was a deputy sheriff who tracked down desperadoes and brought them to justice.  He made contributions to the science of ornithology and the art of taxidermy.  He was one of the founders of the U.S. conservation movement.  He had as wide a range of interests and as powerful an intellect as anyone who ever occupied the White House, with the exception of Thomas Jefferson.

Theodore Roosevelt – he hated to be called “Teddy” – does not fit into today’s liberal vs. conservative, Team Blue vs. Team Red categories.  It is good to be reminded that today’s political divisions are not eternal, and that the political divisions of the past cut across different lines.  It is also good to be reminded of what a real leader is like.

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A very bad wizard

November 16, 2010

In L. Frank Baum’s story, the Wizard of Oz promises Dorothy and her friends, the scarecrow, the tin woodman and the cowardly lion that if they succeed in their quest, he will grant the scarecrow’s wish for a brain, the tin woodman’s wish for a heart, the cowardly lion’s wish for a lion’s courage and Dorothy’s wish for a way back to Kansas.

When they succeed, however, the Wizard is unable to grant their wishes. Instead he gives them other things he says are just as good. The scarecrow gets a college diploma, the tin woodman a flowery valentine card and the cowardly lion a military medal.  Only Dorothy can’t be helped because the way back to Kansas is something real.

President Obama promised his followers that, if they succeeded in putting him in office, he would make an all-out effort to achieve certain goals – a public option for health care as an alternative to private health insurance, a “cramdown” allowing federal bankruptcy judges to reset mortgages, the preservation of Social Security.  But when they achieved their quest, they were given other things that President Obama says are just as good – the Affordable Care Act, the Home Affordable Modification Program, the Deficit Reduction Commission.

In the story, the scarecrow manifested brains, the tin woodman heart and the lion courage in their actions, not as a gift from a wizard.  And Dorothy was able to browbeat the wizard into taking her along in his balloon ride back to our world.

The lesson is that we the people should not depend on the gift of a charismatic political figure.  If we want a full employment economy, if we want to curb the power of Wall Street over the government, if we want affordable health insurance, if we want to stop the erosion of labor rights and the social safety net, we need to create a political force that has to be reckoned with no matter who is in office, as the abolitionists, the suffragettes, the labor movement and the civil rights movement did in earlier eras.

Because President Obama may well be a very good man, but he certainly is a very bad Wizard.