Michael Wade Profile picture
May 17, 2018 31 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
I want to throw out a couple of thoughts I have about the mis-use of the term 'progressive' as a euphemism for 'liberal'. I've addressed this in public talks before but never put them to written media and would like feedback.
During the run up to the Iraq war and later, during #Occupy, I always considered myself a liberal, since that was the derisive term used by Rush, Hannity and others that I fundamentally disagreed with. It was a label I wore with pride.
I'm not sure exactly when "progressive" entered my lexicon - it was probably during the @BernieSanders campaign, and it seemed like every "liberal" politician was using the word to describe their positions.
The 2017 campaign was a crash course for my own political beliefs, forcing me to figure out where I stood on a host of issues that I hadn't thought about before. I did a lot of research to figure out exactly what the difference between progressive/liberal meant.
My conclusion was that most of the pols calling themselves 'progressive' simply were not.

The difference between the two hinges on economic issues, not social ones.
Liberals and progressives agree 100% on issues of racial and #LGBT civil rights, gender equality, freedom of speech, press, religion, access to contraception -- your Democratic litmus test.
The difference between the two becomes apparent when you start digging into issues that pit business interests against workers. Liberals make themselves known by siding with business, progressives with workers. Beware of lip service from the former.
I've lost the attribution, but progressives are mainly concerned with:

1. The widening inequality gap between rich and poor.
2. Monopolistic corporations and laissez-faire capitalism
3. Conflict between workers and capitalists.
If any polysci/history undergrads want to correct me in this next section, please feel free...

Liberalism, as defined by Locke in the 1700's originally referred to free market, laissez-faire capitalism and limited government.
In the 1930’s, during the Great Depression, we turned to Keynesian economics - stimulus spending and the welfare state. This, cheap petroleum, and yes, WWII, built the middle class and made the US the world's foremost superpower in a few decades.
In the 80's and 90's we saw a return to classic economic liberalism, with the third-way policies of Clinton and Thatcher/Blair. This is what we so derisively call neo-liberalism: austerity, deregulation, privatization and free trade.
It’s important to define these terms in a way that everyone understands, because it think it underlies the main source of conflict between the Democratic party and leftists in America today.
Namely, that the base of the Democratic party are socially liberal, and progressive in the economic definition, but the Democratic establishment, the elites, are classic economic liberals.
The party establishment has taken to calling themselves progressive to denote their social liberal bona fides, and have taken the rhetoric of economic progressivism without fully disowning the neoliberal economic beliefs that truly define who they've been for the past 40 years.
I'd like to point readers to this 'amaeur analysis' of the three party system between leftists, neoconservatives and tribalists, which informs my understanding of American politics as it exists today: crookedtimber.org/2016/02/29/the…
TL;DR: moderate Dems and GOP are more aligned with business interests than they are with voters on left/right social issues,

My take: Tea Party/Trump has destroyed their position on the right, and so moderate R's are retiring or becoming D's as the Overton window shifts.
Up until 2016 at least, the Dem/GOP party elites are basically soft/hard neoliberals, and have co-opted the messaging of their respective sides of the political spectrum.
For the Democrats, that means the Greens, feminists, and so on, and for the Republicans: white Christians, dog-whistle racists and social reactionaries.

I realize I'm generalizing here and no offense is intended to anyone who isn't a a racist or reactionary.
If you're still with me so far and interested in Virginia politics, I'd like to point you to Jeff Thomas's excellent book about the subject. I consider it required reading: amazon.com/Virginia-Polit…
Describing Virginia politics since 2000, Mr. Thomas wrote: “In economic policy, whether an R or a D abutted a name was irrelevant, and there was only one party: the money party.”
The root of our problem is that Democrats and Republicans are essentially the same, differing only on social issues. Obviously, this applies less at the local level than it does at higher levels of electoral politics.
"The ‘Virginia Way’, our system of lax ethics rules which assumes that our representatives are honest and upstanding, is a corrupt system of political influence in which our state government is a wholly-owned subsidiary to corporate interests..."
"..namely Dominion Power and Altria, at the expense of the citizenry. We are one of a handful of states that allow unlimited campaign contributions, which, coupled with a low-paying part-time salary for legislators, practically requires crony capitalism to function effectively."
I could go on about how this relates to our current lack of leadership with the ACP and the #standwithred situation, but I want to talk about how this relates to the 2018 elections. I think everyone knows who I'm working for this cycle -- check my profile bio if not.
And I'm really frustrated with some of my progressive allies in #VA02 who are taking sides with someone who does not represent progressive values like the #fightfor15, union solidarity and #MedicareForAll.
I understand the argument that #VA02 is a leans-R district, but we went from +4 Trump in 2016 to +4 Northam in 2017 with a +10 D average for all the special elections since Trump's election. Progressives don't need to be timid this cycle.
The establishment -- AKA the DCCC -- seems to have a horrible track record lately. Their main criteria for candidate selection seems to be based off of fundraising ability and moderate positioning on the issues.
And based on their activities nationwide, it seems that they would rather lose to a Republican in the general than a Progressive in the primary.
If you're still reading, THANK YOU. I started this tweetstorm after hearing someone say that we had TWO great progressive candidates in #VA02. We don't.
We have a progressive and a centrist. Either one would be better than our current GOP rep, but I think that accountability makes a big difference here.
If the DCCC-backed candidate wins we won't be closer to solving progressive economic issues. We may all be on the same page with @PPAVirginia and #gunreformnow, but there are fundamental differences on healthcare, wages, and military foreign policy that we need to consider.

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