I somehow missed this promulgation of progressive objectives. Apparently New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio provided the impetus. It came to my notice in this fanferiffic HuffPo piece on how Hillary is conquering liberals like Khaleesi coming down on Yunkai. Some of the signatories are friends of mine. Some of them I don’t care for. I don’t take exception to anything in it. What surprises me are some of the oversights, about which more in a bit.
The purpose of the document could be to hold Democratic office-seekers to a liberal standard, which I think would be just fine. Or, the purpose could be entirely different: to stage a dialog between Hillary Clinton and the domesticated left that ends in harmony and electoral season unity. With respect to Senator Bernie Sanders, someone described it as “sheep-dogging.” The mechanism in Bernie’s case is similar: stage a debate that can only end in reconciliation, since Bernie is emphatic that he will support the party’s nominee. It’s World Wrestling Federation practices brought to politics.
The problem in these exercises is that at the outset the progressive side rejects its greatest weapon–the threat of abstention, or even worse, opposition. You have exit and voice. With no exit, you don’t have as much voice. I’m not out of the woods here myself. There should be no question that in the national elections, a vote for Hillary is the correct vote. I’ve acknowledged that myself. I would help Bernie or others in the primaries, and HRC in the general, given the opportunity. However, there is another way of gathering voice without the threat of abstention.
Abstention or third-party opposition is a binary choice. You either do it or you don’t. But there are partial alternatives. In short, you can agree that a vote is an inevitable obligation, but you can also be a royal pain in the ass in the meantime. In other words, you can exact costs that might add to Progressive Voice by providing a constant blast of criticism. If a Left doesn’t do that, what is it ever for? What kind of left always reconciles itself to whatever the Democratic powers have decided?
In this light, there are some problems with The Progressive Agenda. For one thing, the endorsements are salted with hacks. Al Sharpton? Oh please. The signers are a tip-off that the standards of the agenda are modest and the associated rhetoric will be gentle. Otherwise we would be seeing something like the back-and-forth between Senator Elizabeth Warren and the Obama Administration. By contrast it is so easy for Mrs. Clinton to make agreeable noises about trade deals, like her husband before her, and like Barack Obama in 2008. Noises that culminated in endless lies, perfidy, and betrayal. Particularly on this issue, how could anyone take these people seriously?
I would not apply a purity test to any endorsements. But the tenor of the exercise should result in limited approval by your average politician. Otherwise it looks kind of squishy.
In the next post I’ll get into the meat and potatoes of the platform.