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Progressivism the Journey – How I approach Progressivism

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I return every so often to the topic of Progressivism, in particular how to define it, and its many factions and how to make pursuit of Progressive policies successful.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the pursuit is the disunity among the factions. The core principles of Progressivism should be a powerful uniting force but instead, what is left unsaid is a more powerful divisive force than the core principles. Rather than reaching for and taking actions furthering the core principles, a fair percentage of Progressives spend most of their time fighting each other. Somehow, that must change.

With the assistance of Wikipedia and other sources of research, in previous articles I have been able to define the core principles of Progressivism as follows:

- Belief in a Living Wage. This concept goes far beyond what now is called a 'minimum' wage. A Living Wage means that every adult who works a full time job should be paid enough to afford decent housing, food, utilities, transportation and all the other necessities of life. It does not take a long glance at the minimum wage to determine that this does not come close to satisfying the requirements of a Living Wage.

- Universal Health Care. Simply stated, everyone who is a citizen of the United States should have, as a privilege of citizenship, full access to quality health care.

- Election Reform. Ideas like instant runoff voting and complete access by third parties to elections and debates.

- Safety Net. Layoffs, downsizing, outsourcing and to a small extent, firings for cause are a part of life throughout most of the world. People who have these things happen to them should have a government safety net to prevent them and their families from going into bankruptcy or ending up homeless until another job can be found.

- Top Quality Public Education. No parent should feel that they need to bypass their local public school and send their child/children to a private school to get the best education.

- Equal rights and Opportunity and freedom from Discrimination to all regardless of Age, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Religion, Race or Country of Origin.

- Environmental Responsibility. As Theodore Roosevelt said, "To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed."

- Pursuit of Peaceful and Friendly Foreign Policies. Wikipedia shortened this to saying that the US should want for every other country the same Progressive policies we have for ourselves. I would add to that as John Kerry said, "The United States should never go to war because we Want to go to war, but because we Have to go to war."

Most Progressives would agree that the above are the Core values of Progressivism. That is where the agreement ends. The core values do not describe positions on things like abortion and gun control, nor do the core values say definitively whether the values can exist within a capitalist system or by definition have to exist without. I have talked with Progressives who discount whether issues like abortion or gun control matter. I can assure everyone that there are a great many people who think that they do matter and in a fair amount of cases vote solely depending upon a candidates position on one or both.

There is also a primary schism between those Progressives who feel they can work within the Democratic Party to achieve the Core principles, and those that feel the Democratic Party does not and can not further Progressive goals.

Those of us in the first category believe that the Democrats have been pushing about as far as possible toward Progressivism given the political realities of our time. For instance, the south, Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia in particular seems generally against just about every single part of the core values. Opposition to their adoption would also be broad in states like Nebraska, the Dakotas, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, just to name a few.

Even outside of the above mentioned sixteen states, the majority of the public have never been introduced to the core values (with the possible exception of Universal Health Care), let alone have they been convinced of why they are the best courses of action. In this climate, those of us who believe in working within the Democratic Party towards Progressive goals feel that the best that can be achieved is baby steps, a small victory here, and a small victory there.

The groups in the second category are of the general opinion that the Democratic Party is disinterested in the pursuit of the Core Values at best and is the same as the Republican Party at worst.

The problem with group #2 is, how does one force ideas on a country when 85% of the country has never heard of them and upon first hearing of them, 40%-45% would almost certainly strongly disagree with them? As I said in a forum response previously on www.OpedNews.com :

We are putting at least three levels of carts before the proverbial horse. We need a progressive organization to step up to the plate to organize an effort to solidify and sell progressive ideas to the people of this country. I've been saying that for the past several months. The steps are these.

1. Form the group (or convince an existing group to take up the cause)
2. Debate and ultimately vote on and Agree on the core values and ideas
3. Develop the plan to sell the core values and ideals to the whole country
4. Bring in the people who have the best skills to speak and write about the core values and ideals. (Can be done concurrently with step 3)
5. Execute the plan to sell the core values and ideals. (This will take a minimum of 12-60 months.)
6. Only when steps 1-5 are complete, put the groups full weight behind efforts to support and run candidates who campaign on the core values and ideals, preferably for the Democratic nomination for various offices.

The above represents a 6-12 year concerted effort (at a minimum).

The effort should not be conducted from within a political party. A separate organization with legal standing, such as a PAC should be formed. This would allow people from all parties and groups to participate and it would also allow the PAC to recognize any pundits or politicians who are acting to further any of the core values regardless of party.

The liberation from party constraints would also serve to limit at least one type of the typical bickering within the Progressive ranks. If the core values are the only points on which we agree, then let us focus our work at first solely on sharply defining them, having experts do all of the lengthy proofs and selling them to the public.

Progressives have to find a way to come together to sell Progressivism. Complaining about the Democratic Party, arguing about who is and who isn't a Progressive or who is and isn't "Progressive Enough" and other negative pursuits are not going to get the job done. I would like to know who is for this idea. Please email me and let me know. I would also like to know who would like to be leaders in this effort and who might have some experience in fund-raising.
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A political blogger for the International Business Times, Steve Leser is a hot national political pundit. He has appeared on MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Russia Today's (RT) Crosstalk with (more...)
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