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It's Time for Some Boldness

Timothy Egan wrote a provocative opinion piece in the New York Times today. He tried to say what the ideal Democratic candidate for 2020 should look like. He pointed out that “Your candidate would need to be ethically clean — no Wall Street speeches, no foundations that serve as backdoor ways to do well while doing good, no sexual misconduct.” These are minimum requirements and have nothing to do with the candidate’s positions on issues, but they are necessary. In a society that searches under every pebble of a person’s life for evidence of flaws that can, by the time they are hung out to dry on the clothesline of social media, become full blown scandals, in order for a candidate to get across a message on political issues, he or she must first have a squeaky clean background.

Egan goes on to list several Democrats who are up and coming and not afraid to put forward big ideas: Gillibrand, Harris, Booker, although he finally ends up with Joe Biden, in fact titling his article, “To Beat Trump, Build a Better Biden.” I recently wrote a similar column, saying that the new wave of Democratic politicians, such those mentioned by Egan as well as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have all espoused proposals that challenge the existing state of our political sector, which is that it is being dominated by a minority of wealthy and corporate elites.

Progressive Americans are getting tired of watching income inequality widen in the U.S, of seeing congress paralyzed when it comes to gun control, of experiencing a disastrously flawed healthcare system, while our politicians seesaw between sending it back to complete privatization and promoting poorly designed fixes that don’t alter its basic structure. We have endured wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere with no idea what our military’s aim is or our country’s stake in such wars. Our current president and his appointees have gone so far as to set the country back decades on issues such as climate change and civil rights. 

Our next president—and all the new senators and representatives elected in 2018—cannot simply undo the errors of the Trump era and put us back on the path we were following before his election, because that path doesn’t cure any of our basic ills. Instead, the new, progressive programs which have been favored by the new wave of politicians mentioned by both me and Egan—Medicare for all, free public university tuition, guaranteed jobs with livable minimum wage, strict oversight of law enforcement, fossil fuel independence and strict regulation of the banking industry—must become mainstream, acceptable ideas, which cause any Democratic politician who fails to endorse them or urges that we “go slowly” in implementing them, to risk labeling him or herself as reactionary.

It’s the ideas and policies, not the people that matter. Of course, our human way of seeing things means that we are going to accept ideas if they are put forth by attractive, likeable, charismatic and persuasive people who we feel we can trust, so certainly the spokespeople for these ideas and the politicians who make them part of their platform matter. But the ideas themselves need to be the bedrock on which we build a progressive political movement. 

And we need thinkers. It’s easy to label all the ideas mentioned above as unrealistic and too costly to implement. That’s just not true. A real progressive needs to state the obvious fact that devoting more than 50% of our discretionary budget to military and defense spending makes a lot of things unaffordable and is a way of thinking that needs to be reversed. Enough of genuflecting in the direction of the military without questioning the wisdom of its demands and its actions. Someone has to also say that it makes no sense to say that we can’t afford Medicare for all when the system we now have costs more per person than any other country’s healthcare system, including all of those that have mostly government provided healthcare. If a family pays a little more in taxes but a lot less in health insurance premiums, they have a net gain with regard to their yearly income (as Bernie Sanders has continually pointed out to a mostly deaf audience). Numerous think tanks have pointed out that guaranteed jobs with a livable minimum wage would remove the expenses for public housing, food stamps, and other welfare payments for everyone except the disabled—and those proposing such a thing have suggested picking some regions and trying it out as an experiment to see if this is true. Those in this country without college degrees make significantly less money than those with degrees and are more prone to be out of work during periods of economic stagnation. They become recipients of our tax-based programs, not contributors to them. Free public college can produce a more viable workforce, trained in skills that are more likely to be usable in the coming years.

What we need for the future is fewer cautious politicians who are tied to their campaign donors’ needs and who think that proposing anything bold is more dangerous than carping at their opponents and acting as if they are progressives while they do nothing. As voters we need to avoid being so sidetracked by a focus upon identity-based grievances and accusations that we never address the basic changes that need to occur in our country. The United States really does need to change and to do so we need to resolve to adopt some new ways of doing things. We need people who will sponsor such bold programs and we need a constituency that talks intelligently about them and demands them.


Reader Comments (4)

Progressive Americans do need thinkers. That's an understatement. With more than half the world either actively seeking or fervently praying for the downfall of the US (including many internal antagonists) it's fairly obvious that our unmatched military strength is the only way to secure our ongoing liberty. Without that enormous dedication of military expenditure, we'd be quickly marginalized and ultimately defeated both militarily and ideologically. Then you can certainly forget all of the bold, socially progressive, justice-seeking ideals and programs (which really just amount to demotivating people to fend for themselves) and settle for genuine, third-world producing socialism, where I'm now going to have to out-compete you for toilet paper, road-kill and black market medicine. It's truly a genius plan: Let's throw down our weapons and give everybody free stuff so that then we can all feel morally superior because we've done "the right thing."

"Medicare for all, free public university tuition, guaranteed jobs with livable minimum wage, strict oversight of law enforcement, fossil fuel independence and strict regulation of the banking industry—must become mainstream, acceptable ideas...." I must have missed these wondrous ideas somewhere between Dr. Seuss and Dick and Jane. These are the wishes a precocious five year-old makes when he blows out his birthday candles. I'd love to have all of these things too but I'd like a purple unicorn added to the list as well. There's a finite amount of money that can be "redistributed" so the only solution is to what....tax the one-percent at 100% so as to fund the left's ego-driven fantasies? Health insurance is a product-not a human right, free tuition is the surest way to dramatically increase the drop-out rate and increase economic abuses, jobs are earned- not given, there is already strict oversight of law enforcement (and they do a fantastic job), there is already a lesser reliance on fossil fuels and though there will always be "killers" in the financial world, so we must find better ways to hold their illegal actions accountable.

Why don't we simply advocate for reparations for all past, current and future victims of injustice? Let's just give everybody one uniform, epic hand-out and see if that does the trick. Of course, we know it won't change much. Next year, a significant portion of the people will be in "unjust" or "unequal" circumstances again for a variety of reasons. And many will expect the same magnanimous hand-out and thus will begin the cycle of insipid reliance on government welfare as opposed to individual self-determination. Is there anyone charismatic enough on the progressive left to pull off that swindle on the American people in 2020?

April 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

It's truly a genius plan: Let's throw down our weapons and give everybody free stuff so that then we can all feel morally superior because we've done "the right thing." (Reader Comments 1)

(Reader Comments)
Condescension, sarcasm, and disrespect are not the way to bring opposing sides together in this dangerously divided world. I don't care which side you are on: keep a civil tongue in your head. If we must play the blame game, let's blame science and technology. Without them the planet would still be green and unpolluted, the human race would not be competing for rapidly diminishing, often depleted resources. Earth would be Eden before the fall.

Science and technology got us into this mess: let them get us out. Pollution on a monumental scale, overpopulation and the "carbon footprint" of billions of human beings: these are two of the worst offenders.

Don't get me wrong. I am a fan of science and technology. Most problems began as progress. Advances in medicine prolong life and contribute to overpopulation. The printing press revolutionized the availability of knowledge, and the computer has changed the deep structure of our brains, especially our children's brains. Most alarming is the rapid escalation of violence due to technological advances in the art of war. Who needs diplomacy with all the new high-tech weaponry?

We look to science for answers.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLucy Wilson

Sarcasm is a valid form of critique. A difference of opinion doesn’t necessarily put people on opposing sides. I know that Casey genuinely believes his ideas will help people just as I believe the same about mine. If we cannot honestly and freely criticize ideas for fear of hurting the feelings of the idea-bringer, then we lose the ability to accurately express our thoughts. We should be far less concerned with the tone of what is expressed and much more so with the merit of the concept being presented. Also, it’s ironic that technological advances in killing humans are completely intertwined with the technologies used for saving humans. War advances the speed and complexity of technology like no other impetus in existence.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler


ELECTIONS do not result in representation.
The reason we are unhappy with representational democracy is not because representation does not work, but rather that elections do not provide representation.

A RULER invokes THEIR decision, not YOURS!!!

A representative invokes YOUR decision, not theirs.

It is vitally important to understand this difference, between a ruler and a representative, because it is the difference between self governance and being ruled.

If elections provided representation, we'd be working on solving or managing the problems we face as communities, nations and species, instead of arguing about porn stars and nazis.

April 29, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter45 Mike Anderson

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