Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Closer Look at the Progressive Promise

It is hard to find anyone who can speak with clarity and authority about what self-styled Progressives stand for. An excellent example of this can be found in a mission statement published in the online version of "The Progressive" magazine:
“The mission of The Progressive is to be a journalistic voice for peace and social justice at home and abroad. The magazine, its affiliates, and its staff steadfastly oppose militarism, the concentration of power in corporate hands, the disenfranchisement of the citizenry, poverty, and prejudice in all its guises. We champion peace, social and economic justice, civil rights, civil liberties, human rights, a preserved environment, and a reinvigorated democracy.”
The purr words and catch phrases in this statement might have very specific and concrete meanings to Progressives but they are baffling to those who don't know their secret language. Is there anyone who publically opposes what The Progressive says it is for? Executing convicted murderers is, to me, an example of social justice. Paying people what they are worth is to me an example of economic justice. I am against poverty as well. But I think the best way to fight it is to grow the economy faster than the workforce. And what can The Progressive possibly mean by "a reinvigorated democracy"? Progressive rhetoric in this regard is labile. Its terms and slogans can mean anything you want them to mean.

Recently, the Congressional Progressive Caucus within the Democrat party took its best shot at producing an agenda and set of goals that would in large measure satisfy those who identify themselves as Progressives while at the same time offering the promise of appealing to centrist or mildly left-of-center voters who don't think of themselves as Progressives.

The position statement is entitled "The Progressive Promise: Fairness for All". That sounds nice. For many of us, life at times seems unfair. Children sent to bed before they are inclined to do so are one of many aggrieved parties. People who aren't paid as much as they would like to be paid may be displeased as well. Being passed over for promotion is a particulary irksome form of unfairness when you believe you were the best candidate. Life is filled, bulging to the seams, with perceived unfairness. The promise of fairness for all is the next best thing to a promise of happiness for all and, perhaps, just as empty. Let's take a closer look at how Progressives are going to insure fairness for us all.


The Congressional Progressive Caucus offers the Progressive Promise for all. We believe in government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our fairness plan is rooted in our core principles. It also embodies national priorities that are consistent with the values, needs, and hopes of all our people, not just the powerful and the privileged. We pledge our unwavering commitment to these legislative priorities and we will not rest until they become law. (Is there any American who is not a Muslim opposed to government of, by and for the people? )


To uphold the right to universal access to affordable, high quality healthcare for all. (There is no such right under the Constitution and it is unclear about how you can provide to everyone an unlimited amount of a scarce resource. Nevertheless, there are working models of universal mediocre healthcare. Canada and Great Britain are superb examples.)

To preserve guaranteed Social Security benefits for all Americans, protect private pensions, and require corporate accountability. (No one is attempting to deny elderly Americans Social Security benefits. You need not protect that which is not threatened. Private pensions are currently protected by a government pension insurance fund. Corporate accountability for what?)
To invest in America and create new jobs in the U.S. by building more affordable housing, re-building America’s schools and physical infrastructure, cleaning up our environment, and improving homeland security. (Public works projects don't create new private sector jobs producing new goods and services. Public housing projects are more of a problem than a solution and how would homeland security be improved?)

To export more American products and not more American jobs and demand fair trade. (We will export more American products if they are cheaper and better than those of foreign competitors. How can government accomplish that? Fair trade is a code word for imposing unaffordable burdens on poor countries that would like to trade more freely with us. Naughty, naughty.)

To reaffirm freedom of association and enforce the right to organize. (We already have the constitutional right to freedom of association and there is no credible threat to that right except, perhaps, for the Boy Scouts of America. Enforce the "right" to organize what?)

To ensure working families can live above the poverty line and with dignity by raising and indexing the minimum wage. (Economic studies show that working class families do not support themselves with minimum wage jobs although a lot of unskilled kids earn spending money by taking them).


To sunset expiring provisions of the Patriot Act and bring remaining provisions into line with the U. S. Constitution. (No provision of the current version of the Patriot Act has been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal court. The final authority on constitutionality is the Supreme Court; not the Democrat party.)

To protect the personal privacy of all Americans from unbridled police powers and unchecked government intrusion. (What unbridled police powers? What unchecked government intrusion?)

To extend the Voting Rights Act and reform our electoral processes. (Why does the Voting Rights Act need to be extended and what is wrong with our electoral processes?)

To fight corporate consolidation of the media and ensure opportunity for all voices to be heard. (71 cable TV channels, satellite radio and 14 million BLOGS don't allow all voices to be heard? Time to ask Al Gore to demonstrate the Internet.)

To ensure enforcement of all legal rights in the workplace. (Is there a failure to enforce legal rights in the workplace? That's news to me.)

To eliminate all forms of discrimination based upon color, race, religion, gender, creed, disability, or sexual orientation. (You mean I don't get to pick my friends and date who I want? Or is there some form of systematic discrimination in law or business practice that has thus far gone unnoticed by the ACLU?)


To honor and help our overburdened international public servants – both military and civilian. (Progressives are not known for honoring the military and I not sure what an "international public servant is". Please explain.)

To bring U. S. troops home from Iraq as soon as possible. (As soon as possible is when Iraqi security forces can put down the current insurgency without our help. That is already our policy. Another word for it is "winning".)

To re-build U.S. alliances around the world, restore international respect for American power and influence, and reaffirm our nation’s constructive engagement in the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. (Condolezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton are more than capable of doing that. )

To enhance international cooperation to reduce the threats posed by nuclear proliferation and weapons of mass destruction. (I thought we were already doing that.)

To increase efforts to combat hunger and the scourge of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other infectious diseases. (The Bush administration is already doing that in spite of environmentalist opposition.)

To encourage debt relief for poor countries and support efforts to reach the UN’s Millennium Goals for Developing Countries. (Too late, the Bush Administration is already doing that. However, we determine our goals; not the U.N.)

Fairness for all then entails protecting that which is not threatened, doing what is already being done, forbidding that which is already forbidden, squandering money on public works projects in the futile hope that they will contribute to economic growth while raising the minimum wage and figuring out how to achieve the impossible: providing everyone with more medical services than are available or affordable.

The document is long on solving problems that exist only in the fevered imaginations of the left and profoundly short of concrete proposals aimed at solving real problems. It is in the final analysis, vacuous and little more than a concatenation of high-minded slogans that on closer examination prove to be meaningless. While it may make Progressives wiggly and excited it has little appeal to the average American. Better luck next time.


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