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A Message To My Progressive Friends

A Message To My Progressive Friends
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BY DON PORTOLESE

At last the election is upon us.  And, with it, an opportunity to repair our broken government and standing in the world.  For progressives, we are clearly on a course that is neither representative of the values of this country nor a productive way of moving forward.  We have essentially two directions: move forward and embrace the changing world before us, or hark back to a lost time where some illusion of a better (or at least whiter) way of life resides.  Unfortunately, these two very divergent paths seem to be leading to the same thing: extremism, gridlock and dysfunction.

Conservatives’ blind support of Donald Trump is a serious factor in this equation.  It seems that there is no sacred rule or standard the president can break that would make his devout followers break from him.  However, what is far more dangerous to the progressive cause is the blind extremism that is coming from the left as a result.

While it may seem that progressives and conservatives can’t agree on anything, they both agree that we need to shake things up in Washington.  Unfortunately, they also believe the only way to enact such radical change is by pandering to the fringe. Conservatives have sold themselves out to Trumpian populism.  They have put their blind faith in a man who clearly doesn’t have their interests at heart.  Many progressives blame these people for our current state of affairs, but I blame progressives far more.  For, if many hadn’t cynically sat on their hands the last election, there would never have been a President Trump.

I get it.  People were pissed about how Bernie Sanders got shafted by the democratic party.  Had he won the primary, he truly would have had a serious shot at the presidency.  Hillary had credibility issues. She couldn’t deviate from the script long enough to seem human. Nevertheless, she would have made an infinitely better president than Trump.  But let’s not go there.  Let’s not go back to blame people for whom they did or didn’t vote.  Let’s look toward the future and what is in store if people choose to wax cynical this November.

The only major GOP legislative win over this midterm was the tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.  However, by tactically diminishing tax revenue while increasing government spending, republicans have created a perfect storm, so they can go after “entitlement” programs such as Social Security, Medicare, etc. after the midterms.  If we do not get a majority in the House and Senate, we will have this degradation of our social safety net foisted upon us.  And, like those tax cuts, there will be little that democrats can do to stop it. If the GOP maintains their majority, republicans will also summon the numbers to finally decimate the Affordable Care Act, once and for all.

While Trumpublicans play the bait and switch game with alternative facts, they have been fastidiously chipping away at many other pieces of the progressive agenda.  In the last two years, the republican party has stripped away most consumer protections and financial regulations that were designed to prevent another meltdown of our economy.  They have also given corporations carte-blanche to pollute the environment.  And there is plenty more on the chopping block with republicans appointing court justices at an alarming rate: Roe vs. Wade is in serious danger.  So too are gay marriage and LGBTQ rights.  Likewise, the rights of minorities and immigrants are being trampled.  If we don’t vote responsibly, this will get far worse.

Unfortunately, many progressives feel that the only response to Trump’s extremism is to become extremists themselves.  This is dividing our cause and helping conservatives. Some on the left have become ideological purists.  If candidates don’t adhere to the progressive agenda 100 percent, they are written off as corporate or establishment democrats.  It’s great to see a new wave of progressives coming into the ranks of the democratic party.  However, let’s not be naïve here.  Politics is a dirty business.  Rather than hold our politicians to an impossible standard, we need to understand that even the most honorable politician has to swim in the same fetid swamp as the rest.  It’s not all fulfilled campaign promises and good intentions.  There are many pitfalls, especially for inexperienced politicians.  If they want to survive, they will need to play the game.  They will need to make concessions.  They will have to compromise on certain issues in order to achieve wins on others of greater importance.   We certainly need to change our political system.  However, anyone who thinks that we can magically transform it in one election cycle, needs to think again.  More importantly, we need to think about the consequences if we allow our cynicism to get the better of us, yet again.

Progressives need to stop putting their hopes on non-viable candidates and focus on people who can unseat republicans.  I realize that many people in the Libertarian, Green and Workers Parties are candidates with integrity.  They are not part of the political machine and haven’t been bought and paid for like many democrats and republicans.  However, these candidates fail to get the endorsements, donations and political traction they need to be viable in many of these political races. While we may feel inclined to vote for them because our ideology is aligned with theirs, by voting for some of them, we are essentially throwing our vote to the republicans.

We need to develop a more robust political system in the U.S. with political parties that truly represent the people. However, these things take time; alternative parties need to be cultivated and networks need to be established.    We also need to push for campaign finance reform.  However, this election is not the time to do these things.  There is simply too much at stake.

We cannot transform our political system overnight.  We need a strategy.  First, we take back the House and the Senate, then we clean house.  If we have a democrat in office, no matter how corporate or establishment, we at least have a sympathetic ear.  If these politicians won’t tow the progressive line, then we lobby the hell out of them and/or purge them from our government.  Republicans are currently running roughshod over our rights and our values. They have not included democrats in enacting legislation nor have they considered the wishes of progressive voters.  If we do not get a majority in the House and Senate, we will suffer another two years of their reckless policy making.

My fellow progressives, the stakes have never been higher. We need a forceful and united blue wave to sweep this country.  The time to rebuild our political system and country is just around the corner.  Let’s make that turn together.

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