Some random reflections…
First, it was nice to meet many of you for the first time. Your determination to try to make a progressive difference so soon after last week’s regressive election is heartening. I hope I get to know all of you better.
I admire your zeal to do something at the grassroots level, but even grassroots need rain from above to thrive. In other words, without an overarching progressive movement, and progressive personalities to lead that movement – men and women with national and international recognition and stature – grassroots efforts will struggle to sink roots and grow. Conversely, a national movement without a complementary grassroots effort is equally doomed. Jill Stein’s candidacy was an example of that.
I’m not sure all progressives realize what they’re up against. Regressives have been playing a long game, reaching back 60 years or more. Today’s tea party has connections all the way back to the John Birch Society of the 1950s. The Koch brothers’ daddy was a big player in that anti-communist paranoia. Regressives are well-organized, well-funded, and with Trump’s win last week, behemoth. Progressives are none of those things. In fact, we are splintered and quarrelsome. If we are going to successfully wage a battle of ideas with a powerful opponent, we cannot play by the same rules that just handed us our progressive arses on a silver platter. We’re going to have to become guerilla fighters, sniping and skirmishing, hitting them when and where they are most vulnerable.
And the regressives are indeed vulnerable, have no doubts about that. They are a devilish cocktail of pride, fear, ignorance, racism, paternalism, and a weird sort of patriotism that is steeped in the mythologies of the evangelical church’s apocalyptic expectations and American exceptionalism. Regressives have a long list of grievances, many quite legitimate. We progressives dismiss their concerns and culture at our own peril. Learn all you can about your regressive neighbors. Even if you’re not religious, investigate the teachings and spawn of Rousas John Rushdoony (his dominion theology permeates the rise of regressives in America). Recognize and appreciate where the strength of their convictions come from, a self-righteous belief that their movement is sustained by divine providence. God is on their side…
Except that She’s not (or They’re not) and we have to be loud and proud about creating cognitive dissonance in regressives every chance we get. Fortunately, advocates for regression are usually irredeemable wackadoodles. Regressive ideas are illogical and unscientific and completely at odds with their own religious confessions. Regressive actions are often reckless and dangerous and the “collateral damage” (I hate that sanitized term for human carnage and suffering!) is piling up in the decades since Tricky Dick Nixon and Saint Ronald Reagan roamed the White House. This isn’t a matter of going “low” or “high” – it’s a matter of dismantling their weak arguments even as we pitch the strong merits of our own. We cannot expect to make inroads against regressives unless we work constantly to frack their bedrock of supreme confidence (however ill-informed) in their God-ordained rightness.
At the same time, we have to offer attractive, progressive alternatives. Let’s face it, we progressives have gotten much too comfortable. We’re seen as looking out more for our political self-interests than with helping those who need us the most. For example, we’re mostly white and relatively affluent. We like to get together and drink beer and wine in places that desperately poor people right here in Hot Springs cannot possibly afford. We have got to start reflecting the diversity of the people we’re trying to reach with our progressive message. The Webb Center was suggested as a venue for our next meeting. The idea appeared to go nowhere… People, it shouldn’t be that hard. Those great swaths of America who abandoned progress in the last election are surely going to reject Trump and his regressives as soon as it becomes apparent that his outlandish promises were never anything but empty rhetoric to beguile a gullible and desperate people. Who will they then turn to when all they have left is a cheap red hat that says “Make America Great Again”?
All this talk about progressive neighborhoods like Quapaw/Prospect and Whittington/Park is great. I commend your achievements and your spirit. The only problem is that most residents of Garland County (and the rest of the USA) don’t live in “neighborhoods”. Which goes back to my first point – we have to articulate a consistent, national narrative about where we progressives want to go. This has to be bigger than a neighborhood, or trying to elect a progressive mayor. If we don’t define ourselves (and the regressives we oppose) and our better vision for the future, regressives are going to do it for us. Here, in no particular order, are some things I think progressives should stand for, and against:
- Workers, including the right to unionize, and against obscene executive salaries
- Living wages for full-time jobs
- Access to universal healthcare, including elimination of Medicaid and Medicare, including care for the elderly and dying
- Access to college education and skills training
- Equal access to pre-college education, including pre-K childcare and a national curriculum and nutrition program unaffected by local socio-economic variances
- Protection of Social Security, including lowering the age of eligibility, to allow more young people to move up into jobs that pay living wages
- Equal rights and protection from discrimination for
- Women, including full control over reproductive rights
- Racial and ethnic minorities
- Religious minorities, particularly Muslims
- LGBTQ persons
- Immigrants and refugees
- Decriminalization of
- Drugs and addiction
- Medicinal marijuana cultivation and use
- Recreational marijuana cultivation and use
- Increased regulation of Wall Street and banking, including reparations and criminalization for fraudulent activities
- Protection of the environment
- Incentives to encourage solar and wind power, and to discourage gas, coal, oil, and nuclear
- Incentives to encourage technological and social innovation
- Graduated consumption tax (caviar gets taxed at a higher rate than carrots)
- Public works projects to rebuild and expand our infrastructure, including a de-emphasis on military expenditures
- A refusal to trade with or otherwise support nations who do not aspire to ideals that are compatible with our own
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- Israel, until it grants equal rights to indigenous Palestinians (occupied and exiled)
- Taxation of religious institutions and “ministries” that engage in political activities
- Limits on campaign spending, including full disclosure of where money/influence is coming from
- Increased participation in the United Nations, including more funding for international peacekeeping operations
- Less militarization of local police departments, and more funding for diversity and de-escalation training and more hiring for old-fashioned neighborhood “walk the beat” patrols
- Absolute separation of church and state
- Forgiveness of college debt
- Elimination of gerrymandering districts to continuously favor one party or another
- Criminalization of
- Paycheck lending
- Full-spectrum pollution, from large-scale corporate poisoning to individual littering
- War profiteering
- Theft of pensions, banking fraud, etc.
…feel free to expand this list. I’m sure the opportunities for progress are unlimited, as are the opportunities for regressives to roll back all of our hard-fought achievements.
This is the end of my ramble. For now. My sincere hope is that you’ll read it not as prattling preachery, but as an invitation to a conversation about where we go from here. Clearly the tactics and well-established plans of the past are no longer working. The political party which fielded upstart Bernie Sanders and establishment end-gamer Hillary Clinton is, when viewed from a perspective of national representation (including state legislators and governors), at a historically low point. Someone recently suggested that the Democratic Party is at its lowest point since the days of Reconstruction. If you really believe that we must resist regression and strive for progress, we have to figure out a different path. It’s not going to be easy and it may become dangerous (Trump’s antics over the last two weeks beg defiance of Godwin’s Law).
But I’m willing to continue the conversation. Are you?
– Jacques d’Nalgar, November 19, 2016 CE
“Liberty Leading the People” (La Liberté guidant le peuple) is a painting by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Leading_the_People