Am I Progressive Enough?

Posted on April 10, 2011 by

Sometimes I think I should be more outraged. 

The budget deal – which averted a government shutdown and included severe cuts to the poor and other vital spending programs – is being soundly criticized by progressive commentators. 

And – as you’d expect – President Obama is being blasted for allowing republicans to define the terms of the debate and then compromising on the specifics. 

But while I agree with that analysis, my attention and interest drift away from the consequences of the cuts toward the overall public reaction to the deal. 

How it makes the president look. 

In that sense I’m a much more pragmatic democrat than a principled progressive. 

Which – you could argue – is exactly what’s wrong with democrats (and me). 

On foreign policy, I sometimes stray pretty far from progressive orthodoxy. 

I concede a lot of ground to the notion that it’s proper for the U.S. to exercise military power to influence and shape the world.  That doesn’t mean I supported Bush policies, but I’ve given the current administration wide latitude to define American “interests.” 

This leaves me open to criticism that by accepting the premise of U.S. power, I’m not just enabling global exploitation. 

But I’m failing to see the obvious:  that our nation’s economic disparity and injustice is rooted in American foreign policy as an agent of evil multinational corporations and financial institutions. 

The same businesses which bust American unions and avoid paying taxes. 

So why can’t I see the connection and face the facts? 

The place where I line up squarely with the left (no surprise) is on union rights and income distribution. 

Here I’ll entertain all sorts of radical ideas. 

Did I hear someone say General Strike

So are my political values inconsistent or even paradoxical?

I’ll admit that my positions do shift around depending on who’s president. 

And, as a loyal partisan, I expect to become even more “flexible” as the 2012 election approaches.

Comments (8)


  1. Carlos says:

    looks like you gotton on a horse you can’t get off. Most of the problems we have in labor are because we make these fosilized relation with certain principls and will not change. Their is no simple answers to the problems we have put our selves in.
    I do know however we will have to make our minds up in 2yrs. In the mean time continue to Buy American and create more jobs.

  2. Alan K. says:

    These are the times in which we live–where we no longer can be neatly defined by single issues. The complexity of modern life continually presents these seeming contradictions. In the face of ideological incongruity, a true compass can be found in FIRST ‘reasoning’ from the heart. What benefits people, animals and the environment–planet Earth–is as good a touch stone as I know. Everything else sooner or later leaves one without underpinning and, as such, subject to all kinds of mischief–internal and external.

    “There is no moral precept that does not have something inconvenient about it.”

    –Denis Diderot (1789-1857)

  3. Eric Brooks says:

    The labels (progressive/liberal) don’t mean a whole lot beyond indicating where one sits in the spectrum of cultural attitudes and identities that define US political discourse. The more interesting question is how each of us responds to the challenges placed before our society — most importantly the social responsibility to meet the basic needs of the vast majority of people in the United States and globally. What defines “US national interest” arises from the basic definition of whose needs must be fulfilled, and whether we think nationally or globally.

  4. Frank Stricker says:

    Is there any question about this: “And – as you’d expect – President Obama is being blasted for allowing republicans to define the terms of the debate and then compromising on the specifics?” No. And you are way too pragmatic. Obama has been a big disappointment. Main issue now on domestic front is refusal to get out in front on jobs. He has been a flop. Just has his fingers crossed, hoping. But even if things go on improving slowly there will be 10-12 million officially unemployed. Can you get a message to your buddy in the White House and our two senators? Such high joblessness is immoral. And letting the righ define the issue as deficits rather than real job creation–well, call it what you want. It is bad.

  5. Mike Sanchez says:

    If there are any humans left on planet earth that feel any solidarity for other humans? please let me know. I don’t think I’ve yet to encounter such species. Stop blaming Obama!!!! he is just a black man trying to fit in this cruel world. Who ever will take on “the office” in 2012 will be left to try and take care of the mess left before his predecessor. This will go on and on and on . . . until!!! . . . i wonder if i will still be alive to see a real society free of ignorance and technology. i miss the nomads. <———-?????

  6. Greg says:

    I really don’t see how Obama can be seen as a disappointment when he has actually achieved far more in the way of positives for us already than even Clinton did. And I loved Clinton. His only real problem is he doesn’t toot his own horn. He doesn’t cross his fingers and hope. He strategizes well. He’s a chess player. How can anybody complain about his compromising when the name of the game of negotiation is just that. I do think the one thing that blinds us all on both sides, especially those of us who are extreme on both sides, is the fact that what we are passionate about is not important to those on the other side. So it makes it hard to see what we got when we have given up something. That suggests the loss of empathy. And unfortunately, I do believe that is where the country lives.

  7. Salvador Sanchez says:

    Lou, you’re a Reagan democrat whose vote is still up for grabs-unlike the hard core left whose vote is taken for granted.

  8. Jann Whetstone says:

    Hi Lou and All-
    I too struggle with having to make those tough and right decisions. Alan K said you consider the vast majority-children, women, seniors, disabled, students, workers, animals, the environment.

    Many a good democrat/progressive has also had to make these tough decisions. Letting Republicans/Conservatives keep their tax cuts, because the alternative would be forcing millions of Americans that are on Unemployment to the poor house, exhausting the wlefare system, destroying families, etc.

    We sometimes have to make these extremely hard decisions in life. I recently took a Collective bargaining class, we did mock bargaining, I was very emotional at the end of the settlement…there were NO take backs, however, I sold out my future membership with a two tier pension and other benefits. I was crying over “people” I didn’t even represent.

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