Sunday, April 01, 2007

"Progressive" Part I

I'd like to write today about the very definition of the words, "Liberal" "Progressive" and "Left." There are lots of people who would describe themselves as one or more of these. Obviously, people can define themselves however they want; I think a better definition of Liberal or Progressive might help us to tell our story more clearly.

In this Post, I would like to define what I mean by "Left" or "Progressive." In Part II, I will, in light of that definition, offer some policy proposals.

The left in the United States has deep roots; I will define Progressives as:

"Those who stand with the weak in our society, and defend them from the strong."

There has been a streak of leftism thus defined, throughout American history. Abolitionists stood with fellow Americans who were held as slaves in the southern United States, and against their power-sickened masters who presumed the right to enslave their fellow Americans on the basis of their separate ancestries.

The Temperance movement stood with women who were impoverished by the inability of alcoholic men to earn steady, reliable wages to feed their families. I think it's fair to say that having a heavy drinker in the family has always been harder on women, especially in terms of domestic violence, than it has been on men.

The Progressives and the Labor movement stood with child workers and immigrants toiling in the early factories of the Industrial Revolution, and against the "Malefactors of Great Wealth," Railroad Barons and Industrialists, who heartlessly exploited them.

The New-Dealers stood with millions of frightened Americans who were "one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished..." and against the do-nothing Republicans who wanted to "Let the Market" provide for these citizens (sound familiar?).

What do we stand for? Or, much better put: Who do we stand With?

Who I stand with:

The millions of my fellow citizens who, to be blunt, live in neighborhoods where the possibility of being murdered is an ever-present, commonly-experienced reality.

The millions of my fellow citizens who are one paycheck away from homelessness, one illness away from bankruptcy.

The millions of my fellow citizens who are enslaved and exploited by pay-day lenders, rent-to-own joints, and more.

The many, many millions of my fellow Americans who have worked harder and more productively, and made their companies' stockholders and executives richer and richer over the last 30 years, and have received, not a "thank you" and a raise, but cut benefits, stagnant wages, retaliation for trying to unionize their workplaces, and more.

Eugene Debs once said: "Years ago I recognised my kinship with living things, and made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that where there is a lower class, I am in it; where there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

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