With the midterm elections rapidly approaching, both of the major political parties, as well as those in the "tea parties", claim to represent what Americans really want, need and from which they will benefit. Really?
What does a progressive want? In classical terms a progressive is a person who actively favors or strives for progress toward better conditions, as in society or government, and usually someone who will support, through political change, or even revolution, the conditions of the majority of society. A progressive really doesn't fit the mold of either of the current major parties or of the tea party.
I would submit that most Americans are progressive. We search for better conditions for the majority, while respecting the rights of those in the minority. Through advancement of the majority interests, all classes of persons, whether based on socioeconomic factors or considerations of race and ethnicity, will receive benefit. Assimilation of the minority into the majority, rather than the polarization of minority interests, should be the goal. The level playing field will be advanced, and every American, no matter his or her background, will receive equal treatment under the law. As the President correctly pointed out, there should be no red states and no blue states, just the United States.
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats, and certainly not the "tea baggers" represent the interests of the majority of Americans. All have devolved into "niche" movements, advancing the extremes of the political spectrum.
In their zeal to promote wealth, Republican policies have resulted in the complete decimation of the manufacturing base in this country. The middle class has been wiped out, as good paying jobs are outsourced to slave labor markets worldwide. Even the high tech jobs, once seen as the salvation for economic recovery in a post-modern industrialized society, have left our shores. The result? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Rather than a fair distribution of wealth and the chance to advance, current capitalistic practices favor only the wealthy. Americans are increasingly forced to resort to taking jobs in a service economy, and the same cannot sustain a nation. When two percent of the people control over seventy five percent of the wealth (a conservative estimate for this country), not only are the struggles of the minority exacerbated, but there is no middle class to pull the minority out of economic depravity.
The Republicans, in their zeal to maintain the current economic structure, rather than to promote the advancement of the majority through sound capitalistic principles, rail against the Democrats as being socialistic, fascist, neo-Nazi, and every other negative stereotype available to scare the American people into rejecting needed progress. The neoconservatives, and in that group I believe fall the majority of the tea partiers, have bought into and promoted the idea that unrestrained greed is good for society. These two groups have basically adopted not a conservative, but a reactionary view toward economics , and thrown in a reactionary view toward social progress as well.
The Democrats have fared little better in uniting the nation and striving for the common good. Identifying yourself as progressive doesn't make you progressive when you ignore the common good and focus on your own "niche market". Rather than accommodating the desires of the majority of Americans for a well regulated society (a constitutional goal), and the desire of the majority for a market based economy that rewards innovation, hard work and social consciousness, the extreme left has promoted redistribution of wealth through taxation, without concurrent benefit to the majority of Americans. They have done nothing to bring back the manufacturing base by penalizing corporations which outsource production while benefitting from corporate citizenship in the United States. They have done little to modify the "free trade" agreements which have led to the greatest imbalance of trade benefits in history. The Democrats have failed once again to come up with a sound energy policy which will promote the national interests and lead to new and better jobs in the energy sector. They are as wed to "Big Oil" as the Republicans. The Democrats have squandered their majority in favor of special interests as much as the Republicans have.
Democrats have done well in advancing the social liberties of those in the minority, but have done so at the cost of focusing on common solutions for Americans as a whole. Unfortunately, many of the progressive social welfare changes enacted by the Clinton Administration to return welfare recipients into productive workers have failed, and Democrats have focused much too much on making people "feel good", rather than feeling productive. The trend toward limiting competition in schools and in the workforce have promoted mediocrity. Democrats don't want to make the tough choices that will advance majority interests for fear that those choices will somehow make a small minority feel bad.
The Republican/Democrat debacle of "No child left behind" is a joke, as school districts have focused merely on standardized tests, rather than focusing on basic curricula which give our children a well rounded education, including music, arts, and basic physical education. Our schools promote rote memorization, rather than critical thinking. Neither party has done a thing to take on the entrenched interests of the teachers' unions or the school administrations' desire to promote and graduate, regardless of competency.
Americans are tired of special interests running the country. Whether pharmaceutical interests, health insurance, oil, or Wall Street, Americans are fed up that there is no voice truly representing what is best for America. Everything is polarized, and everyone is too busy shouting at each other to get anything done. No one in the majority party seems to understand what the majority of Americans want, and underestimate the majority's willingness to do what is necessary for the common good. The tea partiers almost got the idea, but have been co-opted by their reactionary agenda.
Just one example of our broken system of political and social discourse gay marriage. I don't think the majority of Americans are anti-gay, nor do I think that they oppose some sort of civil union for same sex couples. Gay Americans demand the same rights to the word marriage" as heterosexual couples. Marriage, however, is a religious institution, and religious denominations have the freedom to bless only those couples that fall into a particular denomination's idea of a proper marriage. Government should have no role whatsoever in deciding who is married. Government should grant equal rights to unions as a civil matter, and let religions debate the term marriage. Most people will classify themselves as "married", but who cares? The polemic driving both sides of today's debate certainly captures the attention of those engaged in debate, but does nothing to advance a majority issue. Why are we fighting about one of the biggest nonissues facing America? The majority of gay Americans are the same as straight Americans. They just want to feel secure in their committed relationships, as well as asking for the basic human rights all Americans deserve in housing, employment and education.
One can pick out any issue facing America today, and see that no one is taking the time to promote the interests of the majority of Americans. In this age of ultra-hyped headlines and lack of open minded serious debate about the weighty issues, the voice of the true majority cannot be heard. When the voices of moderation speak, no one in power stops to listen, as their niche supporters will not guarantee their next election if they try to reach accommodation with the opposition in order to promote the common good. It is time for true progressives in both parties, as well as the tea partiers, to take a good long look at gaining the majority interest of their party. Failing that, a "pox on both your houses". Let a third party, a truly Progressive Party (like Teddy Roosevelt's) become the driving force in American politics. Until we begin once again to identify and safeguard that which in the interests of the majority of Americans, we will continue to devolve as a society. Greed, corruption, polarization of the classes and pacification of the masses by "bandaid" approaches to solving our social, political, and economic woes will continue to guide us to our ultimate destruction as the greatest democracy to have ever appeared on earth.