Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Standing up for Progressivism

Tammy Baldwin, a Rep from Wisconsin, had some choice words for Progressivism at the Nation Institute's Annual Dinner. As the article points out in the beginning, a pervasive mentality has been to go more neutral and try and keep your opponents from labeling you a liberal. Apparently, "liberal" is a bad thing while "conservative" is good nowadays. But Baldwin steps up to the plate and knocks this one out of the park, raising the hopes of people like me that the days of the punching-bag progressive are coming to an end.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Dems were the party of progressive thought, moderation, debate, and compromise. The GOP would listen and would engage in helpful discussion on topics, and a resolution would be reached. Such camaraderie among lawmakers has since disappeared. The GOP has learned to strong-arm Liberals while the conservative media has been attacking those progressives who stand up to the will of the conservative party. This constant deluge of criticism has crippled the Democratic Party, which has the annoying weakness of wanting people to like them to the point of selling themselves out for a "thank you."

Today's democratic party has very little willingness to stand on its principles, and seldom do. They negotiate on their bills to the point where they become irrelevant, and then get attacked for producing bills that make no difference. Today's democratic party simply gives in to the demands of the Right because it's the only way they think they can survive the onslaught of endless criticism from places like Fox News. They have to debate with a group of people who refuse to accept their opinion and who is not interested in compromise. The Dems have given up trying to debate in many cases, and just give in.

But with Baldwin's statements, it's clear that at least some of the fire is being rekindled in the Progressive movement. Far from dead, it seems, the progressives are moving against the cons again. The most recent tax cut extension debate in Washington is a great case in point. The Dems have very nicely backed the Cons into a corner where they have to either go back on their promise to never raise taxes, or they have to admit that they are puppets for the rich. It's great.

And Baldwin's sentiments are great because they show that progressivism is not anti-American; in fact it's decidedly pro-American. It is a philosophy that champions the middle class and small business, instills a sense of duty and service in the wealthy, and promotes the idea that we must work together for common prosperity or we will fall apart. Progressivism is not Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Anarchy, or a government takeover. It does not fly in the face of American values. The smear campaign against Progressivism has been widespread and successful in recent years, but it doesn't change the fact that Progressivism stands on better principles than Regressivism or even Free Market Capitalism.

The one thing that Progressivism does not do is usher in pure Free Market (not that we have it now, any way). Instead, it creates a system where common-sense regulations are kept in place, the consumer is protected, the poor are given the ability to become parts of the economic system, the rich maintain their wealth and class, the middle class is vibrant, and competition between companies is done in a style that is more indicative of a cage match than a war.

Baldwin and her comments strike to the heart of Progressivism and revatilize this dying philosophy. It is not discounted yet, but could be if we don't demand its preservation. Like any theory, it does not answer all questions and has its own problems. But that is why balance is so important. Conservatism has ballooned out of control, lost its moorings and its direction, and become a weapon of the rich against the rest of us. Either conservatives must come back from the brink they are flirting with, or progressivism must become strong enough to pull them back.

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