Archive for the ‘Progressivism’ Category

The End of “an End of an Era”

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on September 3rd, 2009

As I watched Ted Kennedy’s funeral and listened to the coverage of his life and death last week, I heard the phrase “the end of an era” so many times, it convinced me that people should stop using the term “the end of an era.” What does an “era” mean? According to the Oxford English dictionary, an “era” is defined as “a system of chronology reckoning from a noteworthy event.” Perhaps the commentators mean their observation to refer to the era beginning with the birth of Joseph Kennedy Sr.’s children. True, a genertion of Kennedy brothers had passed away now, ending the era of that generation of the Kennedy brothers. True, many of us (including myself, born the year that Ted Kennedy entered the Senate) cannot remember a time when Ted Kennedy was not in the Senate. True, thousands of liberals in America can no longer count on Senator Ted Kennedy to always speak for us in the Senate, and never apologize for being liberal. But what is the point of calling this an “era?’ What more do we learn from this phraseology?

Perhaps those who called Ted Kennedy’s death “the end of an era” intend announce the end of liberalism in America that was most prevalent in the 1960s but lingered until Ted Kennedy’s death. If thatmpphpH7AOUT[1]t is the case, then I must, most emphatically, object, not only to the phrasing but to the sentiment behind the phrase. There remains a strong progressive tradition in the Democratic party, shared by many members of he general public who dop not affiliate themselves with that party. The progressive tradition was most recently re-affirmed by the election of President Obama (with Ted Kennedy’s crucial support) and his numerous Demcratic colleagues in Congress. It is reaffirmed in the polls that show that despite months of the healthcare industry spending over a million dollars a day to fight health care reform, the American public still strongly supports it, and still demands a change to our health care system. So, let’s put an end to this talk about “the end of an era” and concentrate on what we need now. There’s never an end of the era of need for the poor and middle class folks in this country who demand health care reform.

Can the Democrats be Liberated “from the cult of neoliberalism”?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on August 4th, 2009

Check out Michael Lind’s piece in Salon.com. If I understand him correctly, this is what he means by neoliberalism, a political perspective opposed to progressivism: “New Dealers and Keynesians are wrong to think that industrial capitalism is permanently and inherently prone to self-destruction, if left to itself. Except in hundred year disasters, the market economy is basically a sound and self-correcting. Government can, however, help the market indirectly, by providing these three public goods [environment, healthcare, and education], which, thanks to ‘market failures, the private sector will not provide.” Cick here to read the full piece.

The Ghost of FDR

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on February 19th, 2009

This week, President Obama signed a stimulus bill that is designed to end our country’s downward economic slide.  Given the dire circumstances we are in, you might expect that the Repub905b3673-b527-f2b2-d2c261171c4d48c01.jpglicans in Congress would be open to the plan suggested by a new president whose victory last fall was based in large part on his economic vision.  Yet the Republicans remain steadfastly opposed to the plan.  To hear the congressional Republicans talk, you’d think the election was still going on.  This is especially true of the Republican standard bearer, John McCain, who continues to advocate the same free market tax cutting policies of the former Republican president, despite the fact that the American people overwhelmingly rejected those ideas last November.  Moreover, current polls show that the American people favor the stimulus bill, and congressional Republicans lag far behind the Democrats in their approval ratings.  Why are the Republicans being so obstructionist? Rush Limbaugh over-simplified the reason when he said he hopes that Obama will fail (even though if Obama fails, thousands more Americans will suffer).  The real reason is that the Republicans really hope that Obama will fail, because they are haunted by the ghost of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Congressional Republicans know enough about history to understand what happened the last time a charismatic, articulate president, who was able to instill hope and confidence in the people, took over from a Republican president whose free market ideology had contributed to economic devastation in our country.  Roosevelt’s New Deal policies rejected that free market ideology, expanded the government safety net, and contributed to the country’s economic recovery.  More importantly, the American people gave FDR credit for saving the country from the Depression.  They re-elected him by a landslide in 1936, and re-elected him again two more times.  The success of FDR and the perceived success of his New Deal led millions of Americans to become lifelong Democrats, and contributed to the Democratic dominance of Congress for over 40 years.  Given President Obama’s charisma, political savvy and popularity with people below the age of 30, if he is perceived to succeed in reviving our economy, we could be facing another generation of Democratic rule.

In the past thirty years, the Republicans have sought to dismantle the successes of the New Deal, and the Democrimages24.jpgats have mostly gone along with them.  Unfortunately, they were largely successful at cutting back on government regulation of the financial industry and effectively ending welfare (with the help of President Bill Clinton).  Fortunately, President George W. Bush did not succeed at gutting our social security system, the steadfast iconic New Deal success.  However, the Democrats’ cooperation with the de-regulation of big business, the restrictions on organized labor and welfare “reform” made it possible for Bush to argue in 2004 that the Democratic Party was no longer the party of Roosevelt.

I am hopeful that the Democrats are returning to their legacy as the party of FDR under the leadership of President Obama.  Above all, that legacy was based on the idea that government can work, and that ir can help working people.  The Republicans are haunted by the ghost of FDR.  Let’s hope that the Democrats are, too.

Where Does the Buck Stop?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on December 2nd, 2008

Yesterday, in introducing a group of Washington insiders as his national security team, President-elect Obama paraphrased President Truman’s candid exclamation, “the buck stops here.”  That’s good news, but unfortunately it doesn’t ease the pain in a progressive’s heart concerning the absence No sale1of progressive members in President-elect Obama’s cabinet and White House staff. If President-elect Obama intends to limit himself to the advice of these usual suspects he is destined to disappoint just that group of progressives who early in his attempt to win the Democratic nomination for president were the most active supporters in his primary battles. Is it obvious that only Washington insiders have qualify for key positions in the President-elect’s cabinet and White House? If so, Mr. Obama’s campaign promises were empty. More importantly, Mr. Obama should be wary of being able to withstand a hawkish cabinet and White House staff in bringing the Iraq War to a quick and decisive end.  He should recall J.F.K.’s attempt to work with hostile military commanders who made it virtually impossible for Kennedy to extricate American forces from Vietnam. One simply cannot expect to implement progressive visions–if the President-elect is a progressive–surrounded by advisers who are not progressives. This is a “team of rivals” in a markedly limited playing field.  When both Democrats and Republicans applaud the President-elect’s choice of advisers, progressives have reason to worry.  If this worry does not dissipate, Mr. Obama may very well find progressives abandoning ship in 2010. And the President’s attempt to woo them back into the fold might very well be greeted with the reply “No Sale.”

Obama: The Centrist in Progressive Clothing?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on December 1st, 2008

While any sensible progressive (no, not “liberal,” progressive) should support Presidential-elect Obama’s initial decisions and appointments even when they are or seem to be incompatible with Obama’s promises in his campaign, especiatmpphpjtu06q1.jpglly promises about the war in Iraq, Mr. Obama needs to be concerned about marginalizing the progressive Left. Mr. Obama’s decision, if executed, to retain Secretary of Defense Gates sends the wrong message to the kind of consensus-builder the President-elect intends to be. A promise of consensus is the sine qua non of Mr. Obama’s political theory, but it must be consensus that doesn’t obliterate core values. So far, it is isn’t all clear that the President-elect is sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the progressive Left. He should be warned that ignores this dedicated group of Obama supporters at his own peril.  Consider the following report in the New York Times:

In deciding to ask Mr. Gates to stay, Mr. Obama put aside concerns that he would send a jarring signal after a political campaign in which he made opposition to the war his signature issue in the early days. Some Democrats who have advised his campaign quietly complained that he was undercutting his own message and risked alienating war critics who formed his initial base of support, especially after tapping his primary rival, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, for secretary of state.

But advisers argued that Mr. Gates was a practical public servant who was also interested in drawing down troops in Iraq when conditions allow.

‘From our point of view, it looks pretty damn good because of continuity and stability,” said an Obama adviser, who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential deliberations. “And I don’t think there are any ideological problems.’

One, of course, can appreciate the value of stability in ending the war in Iraq. However, the President-elect needs to pursue stability and consensus while at the same time reassuring the tmpphp0mm4yb1.jpgprogressive Left of his intention to honor his promise and the compelling moral imperative to end the United States’ involvement in Iraq’s civil strife. While it may be true that the progressive Left has nowhere to go but the Democratic Party, Mr. Obama needs to retain (or increase) his majority in Congress. Ignoring the progressive Left might encourage many who now support Obama to stay home in 2010. Is it really true that Mr. Obama could not find more progressive perspectives to fill key cabinet selections or at least advisory positions in the White House? What about enlisting Ralph Nader and Howard Zinn in some capacity, private or public, to advice him on critical issues in both domestic and international relations.  Mr. Obama’s clarion call for change can’t be change merely between the Democrats and the Republics. Real change means including responsible progressive who have arrayed an arsenal of criticism of both major political parties. He needn’t adopt a progressive perspective in every case, but shouldn’t he be at least listening progressive voices? Mr. Obama must, at all costs, avoid the notion that he is an entrenched centrist in progressive clothing.