No Progressivism, No Progress
I turned 54 a week ago Thursday. It wasn't a big milestone to me, just another birthday. However, it did remind me that for my entire adult political life, all I've known are non-progressive presidents and governors. The frustrating thing is that this is not likely to change at the state or national level at any time in the next decade, especially with the right wing's ability to wage class warfare and transfer wealth to the elite, and then get away with blaming the victims. Shooting the wounded indeed.
Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama are not progressives; neither are Gray Davis and Jerry Brown. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party has leaders, but no strategy for effective communications or messaging that could gain traction in today's corporate, post-Citizens United media. There is no coordinated effort to identify and nurture a marketable progressive leadership in this country at a time when progressive alternatives and effective messaging of progressive solutions is needed as a matter of national survival. Unlike our conservative friends, who are comforted by seeing their dogma dispensed as conventional wisdom from the corporate media and a good chunk of the federal and state governments around the country, we progressives have never had a period in the last thirty years where a true progressive was actually given the chance to implement progressive fixes to the problems facing this country, problems caused by those same conservatives and the same elite who have and continue to plunder this country.
At a time when this miserable president abandons a demand-side recovery strategy based on saving the middle class so he can get reelected (to do what, I have no idea), there was no progressive outrage and sustained narrative in response to the news that Corporate America is not only enjoying record profits, and not only using loopholes to avoid paying any federal income taxes on those record profits, they are in fact getting refunds from the federal treasury. Yet our president talks about cutting spending instead of fairness and job creation, at a time when the country wants Corporate America to bring jobs home to Main Street. Is it really that hard for a progressive message to be built around that, and the public support that unions really have? Yet would this White House ever do that?
Here in California, Governor Jerry Brown gave it the college try and worked to get GOP support to simply let the public vote to extend current tax rates for five years as part of a balanced effort to solve our structural deficit in this state. The GOP instead wanted to weaken environmental regulations, labor laws, and reduce government pensions as a condition for letting the public vote, even after the Democrats went first and cut deeply into the state's safety net to hurt real people to the tune of nearly $12 billion in annual spending. Even after Brown broke off negotiations, there are GOP senators who would rather balance the budget with all cuts, rather than allow any public vote or ever consider a tax increase. Those same GOP senators want to avoid tax increases so much that they're willing to seriously hurt their own constituents and schoolchildren with an all-cuts solution. (Of course those same senators send their children to private school.)
Keep in mind we're not even talking about making the wealthy pay more, we're simply talking about extending the current tax structure as part of the solution until major reforms can be implemented. The most galling thing behind Brown's efforts and overall timidity is that the public actually supports making the wealthy pay more as part of the solution, yet Brown and the Democratic leadership aren't even putting that on the table.
Brown's remaining choices seem to be between cutting the remaining $13 billion and savaging education and the vulnerable, putting the tax extension on the ballot anyway without GOP support, or stepping outside the box and pay attention to the electorate, and suggest the upper income tax increase as a matter of fairness at a time when children and the most vulnerable are being harmed to please the GOP ghouls. Optimally, I wish Brown had the balls to implement the all-cuts option by going into every GOP district and closing state services and schools in those districts, so these GOP representatives can show their constituents the consequences of paying more attention to the extremists than their own Main Street voters. But Brown doesn't have the guts for that.
Again, this is the sad and maddening reality that progressives have faced over the last several decades. This nation started going into decline when Ronald Reagan was sworn into office, and California started its long decline when Proposition 13 was passed. Since then, both the country and California have been headed downhill, and yet there have been no progressive leaders able or given the opportunity within the Democratic Party to mount a continuous challenge to the class warfare waged by conservatives and corporations upon Main Street. There is little difference between the two parties now, and this country will not turn itself around until a progressive movement steps out from inside the Democratic Party and can sell itself and its solutions in an effective and convincing manner.
Until that happens, the elites will continue to avoid accountability for their deeds and avoid paying their fair share, and the rest of us will be the victims of this country's slide into a two-tiered wasteland.