I’m often perplexed by some of the things my sister says. She is a Glenn Beck true believer… As wrong as the right wing gets. And yesterday she linked to an article from Blaze as support for her argument. She believes that it is the progressives that are behind the financial crisis. She believes that the progressives represent an existential threat to the United States. And she believes that Obama is a socialist and a progressive. I know she is not alone in these beliefs. There are millions of them out there.
It struck me that this nonsense is not being sufficiently diffused or rebutted by the purveyors of truth. It seems as though the word “progressive” is among many people seen as a synonym of Nazi, analogous to baby killing miscreant, and akin to sworn enemies of all that our country stands for. It seems that in the absence of our own definition, our opposition is being successful at defining us as something negative. “Progressive” is not a dirty word, and we cannot let them make it so.
So I began thinking of some things that progressives believe, in an attempt to try to define what the movement represents. To define what the progressive movement really is, rather than what Glenn Beck says we are. I know that trying to find common ground among the progressive community is somewhat akin to herding cats. Having the capacity for critical thinking is something which is unique to the left. We do not speak as a unified voice as does the right. We do not all fall lockstep in line with the latest lefty talking points. We think for ourselves, and have widely differing views about where we are, and what to do about it. That makes it somewhat difficult to point to things which unify all of us. I did however come up with some statements which I believe do represent some general beliefs among the progressive community. I’m going to list these statements, and I’m hoping to get some ideas on things I might be missing, and also on those things about which some might find me mistaken.
1. Progressives are anti-war. Progressives would like those responsible for starting wars under false pretenses held accountable for their crimes. Progressives would love to see all US troops immediately brought home from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lybia. Progressives generally believe violence only begets more violence, and believe the US should not be involved in intractable wars all over the globe.
2. Progressives want to stop wasteful government spending. In this regard most progressives would agree that the place to start would be shutting down the US war machine. No-bid and cost-plus contracts for Halliburton (KBR) and Blackwater (Z) are incredibly wasteful and should be discontinued. In addition to the immense waste of resources on needless war, progressives also are decidedly against waste at home. Progressives want to see all manner of fraud and theft of government money prosecuted, regardless of party affiliation. Cronyism is something which should not be tolerated at all, whether on a local, state or national level. Wrong is wrong. Theft and fraud should never be tolerated.
3. Whistleblowers should be protected. Exposing government corruption is embarassing, but very rarely is it detrimental to national security. When found, it should be exposed so those responsible cannot escape justice for their crimes. Those who speak out and expose government wrongdoing should be heralded, not persecuted.
4. Civil liberties should be protected. While the 4th ammendment and Habeas Corpus were basically rescinded during the Bush administration, they have not been reinstated under Obama. Obama has also not closed Guantanamo Bay. Progressives would like all civil liberties restored and for the constitution to apply to everyone, including the president.
5. Progressives want environmental protections. Recent GOP offensives against the EPA and USDA highlight the fact that if left to their own devices, corporations will destroy our environment in the quest for ever-higher corporate profits. Progressives do not want their tap water to be flammable. They do not want acid rain, radioactive vegetables, nor heavy metals in their seafood. Progressives do not believe corporations (whose only fiduciary responibility is profit maximization) are responsible stewards of our environment, and believe they must be responsibly regulated. Progressives know that responsibly regulating industry will not put industry completely out of business like many business interests generally claim. We do not need to destroy our environment to have a healthy economy.
6. Progressives believe that we should tax enough to pay for what we spend. Progressives find it laughable the suggestion that raising the tax rate a few percent on the richest few percent of people in the country somehow makes them socialist. Nobody ever says Richard Nixon was a socialist, though the highest tax bracket during his administration paid 90% to income tax. To raise the tax rate to cover our spending is responsible, and those best able to afford it are those in the higher incomes. They believe the best way to lower taxes responsibly is cutting the really immensely huge government waste in fraud and military spending, rather than cutting important programs like public schools, police and fire departments, government regulators, and things like Planned Parenthood and NPR.
7. Progressives want to see government fraud and theft prosecuted. This extends from Wall Street bankers to local school boards. Progressives know that the repeal of Glass-Steagall act and irresponsible speculation in complex derivatives had much more to do with the financial crisis than poor people not paying their mortgages, and to blame the poor for the crimes of those on Wall Street is misguided. There are people to blame. Crimes have been committed. As long as these crimes go unpunished, the crimes will only continue to increase in audacity and hubris.
8. Progressives want government transparancy. This is because it makes it much easier to detect fraud and theft when it occurs. It always seems as though interests opposed to this are the ones with the most to gain from the fraud and theft.
9. Progressives do not live in fear. They do not fear muslims, gays or blacks, hispanics, or jews. They do not believe that 80% of US muslims are terrorists, or that gays have some sort of radical agenda to take over the world. They find fearmongering regarding these groups to be distasteful, bigoted and ignorant.
10. Progressives are not the enemy. Progressives are not well-funded, as there is not nearly as much money in opposition to fraud, hipocracy, cronyism, and environmental destruction as there is in support of those things. Generally most money for progressive causes comes from grass-roots donations in small amounts, and are generally easily outspent by the opposition. Progressives are not behind the financial crisis. Lloyd Blankfein, Ben Bernanke, and Tim Geithner are not progressives, nor are any of the president’s economic advisors, and chances are they’re not likely to be asking Thom Hartmann, David Swanson or Mark Crispin Miller for advice on how to best serve the American people. Progressives do not represent an existential threat to the United States. In fact, they’re really our only hope.