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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Liberal or Progressive?



Does the Democratic Party have an idealistic core including some “progressive” elements? It may be that many Democrats, especially at the grassroots, are idealistic. But that is not the spirit of the party at higher levels. The movers and shakers, like most experienced political types, are power hungry. The organization feeds on the spirit of past movements that have hardened into demanding constituencies.

In the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt, organized labor was a movement. This was a time of general poverty when industrial workers organized themselves into unions, conducted strikes, and won wage increases and benefits that built the American middle class. What made labor a movement in those days was its core of idealists who, while advancing selfish interests, also connected with the larger community. In its 1947 strike against General Motors, the United Auto Workers argued that the company could afford both increased wages and price stability for consumers.

Today, most unions have been in place for years. Labor has shifted its attention from grassroots organizing to winning concessions from government through its friends in the Democratic Party to whom it contributes money and supplies campaign volunteers. Even if the unions continue to provide a much-needed service to members, their idealistic luster has dimmed compared with the old days.

A reason is that, after many years of successful bargaining, labor unions have given their members substantially higher wages and benefits than what nonunion workers enjoy. In a given strike, the demand for still higher wages or for preservation of existing compensation do not seem justified to non-union workers who also work hard but do not receive such a return. The union model of an idealistic or "progressive" movement breaks down as the wage disparity between union and nonunion workers increases. Union members seem more like members of a privileged group than persons fighting for the betterment of society as a whole.

There is an additional problem in labor’s fastest-growing sector: public-employee unions. Here union members are employed by government bodies whose managers are elected officials. To the extent that labor is involved in election campaigns that have put them in office, the elected officials face a conflict of interest. They have a responsibility to the public to bargain with the union to minimize costs while they also have a debt to the union that helped get them elected. Some politicians respond by "giving away the store."

(from the Latin liberalis, "of freedom")[1] is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights.[2] Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but most liberals support such fundamental ideas as constitutions, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights, capitalism, free trade, and the freedom of religion.[3][4][5][6][7] These ideas are widely accepted, even by political groups that do not openly profess a liberal ideological orientation. Liberalism encompasses several intellectual trends and traditions, but the dominant variants are classical liberalism, which became popular in the eighteenth century, and social liberalism, which became popular in the twentieth century.

The Liberal International, a global federation of liberal political parties and institutions, was founded in 1947. It represents one attempt in a long tradition of liberals trying to establish cross-cultural and transnational connections through global organizations.

Liberalism worldwide

Liberalism is frequently cited as the dominant ideology of modern times.[94][95] Politically, liberals have organized extensively throughout the world. Liberal parties, think tanks, and other institutions are common in many nations, although they advocate for different causes based on their ideological orientation. Liberal parties can be center-left, centrist, or center-right depending on their location.

They can further be divided based on their adherence to social liberalism or classical liberalism, although all liberal parties and individuals share basic similarities, including the support for civil rights and democratic institutions. On a global level, liberals are united in the Liberal International, which contains over 100 influential liberal parties and organizations from across the ideological spectrum.

Some parties in the LI are among the most famous in the world, such as the Liberal Party of Canada, while others are among the smallest, such as the Liberal Party of Gibraltar. Regionally, liberals are organized through various institutions depending on the prevailing geopolitical context. In the European Parliament, for example, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is the predominant group that represents the interest of European liberals.

Full body photograph of a middle-aged man wearing a black suit and a blue tie speaking in front of a teleprompter. A sign spelling "Change we need" is seen in the podium at which the man is speaking.

Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States and the leader of the Democratic Party. He arrived in office facing a major economic crisis to which he and his party responded by passing the Recovery Act as a source of fiscal stimulus.

The deal Obama struck with GOP leaders last week will cost our moribund economy around 400,000 jobs. It was a tragic compromise with an unyielding ideological opposition, yet Obama hailed it as “historic,” prompting the Wall Street Journal's plutocratic editorial board to crow that the president has now “agreed to a pair of tax cut and spending deals that repudiate his core economic philosophy and his agenda of the last two years.” They painted it as proof that “Republicans in Washington have reversed the nation's fiscal debate.”

Then came the news today that Obama will introduce a long-term deficit reduction plan, which might include “reforming” (read: cutting) Medicare and Medicaid.

is a political attitude favoring or advocating changes or reform through governmental action. Progressivism is often viewed in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.

The Progressive Movement began in cities with settlement workers and reformers who were interested in helping those facing harsh conditions at home and at work. The reformers spoke out about the need for laws regulating tenement housing and child labor. They also called for better working conditions for women.

In the United States, the term progressivism emerged in the late 19th century into the 20th century in reference to a more general response to the vast changes brought by industrialization: an alternative to both the traditional conservative response to social and economic issues and to the various more radical streams of socialism and anarchism which opposed them. Political parties, such as the Progressive Party, organized at the start of the 20th century, and progressivism made great strides under American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Baines Johnson.[1]


"How far will elected Democrats -- from the White House on down -- go in capitulating to the insatiable corporate dominators if their progressive base continues to signal that they politically have nowhere to go? These voters seem to have few visible breaking points on the dark horizon of over-reaching corporatism."


KUCINICH CALLS FOR OBAMA IMPEACHMENT. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said President Obama should be impeached for ordering air strikes against Libya without congressional approval. Politico reported (3/19) that Kucinich called for impeachment in a conference call with other Democrats concerned about the Libyan action, but “got no support from anyone else on the call,” said another Democrat.

Kucinich is correct, of course, that committing combat troops overseas without congressional approval is unconstitutional, but TalkingPointsMemo.com noted that presidents have initiated many military conflicts without congressional approval since World War II, including President Clinton’s air assault on the Milosevic regime in Serbia in 1999, President Bush’s intervention in Somalia in 1992 and President Reagan’s own attack on Qaddafi in 1986. The 1973 War Powers Act — passed in reaction to the Vietnam War and mostly ignored by presidents since then — requires the president to inform Congress that he is committing US forces abroad within 48 hours and to request approval within 60 days. Politico.com noted that Kucinich also wanted to bring articles of impeachment against then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over Iraq, but he was blocked by Democratic leaders.

Matt Yglesias wrote at ThinkProgress.org (3/20) that “while the trend toward undeclared military incursions is often described as a kind of presidential “power grab,” it’s much more accurately described as a congressional abdication of responsibility.” Congress still holds the purse strings and can restrain presidential authority, but in practice it tends not to because it’s easier to let the president make the move and take responsibility for it. “Handling Libya this way means that those members of Congress who want to go on cable and complain about the president’s conduct are free to do so, but those who don’t want to talk about Libya can say nothing or stay vague. Nobody’s forced to take a vote that may look bad in retrospect, and nobody in Congress needs to take responsibility for the success or failure of the mission. If things work out well in Libya, John McCain will say he presciently urged the White House to act. If things work out poorly in Libya, McCain will say he consistently criticized the White House’s fecklessness.”

Jon Stewart of Comedy Central had one of the best lines after noting that politicians have recently been saying that America is broke: “You can’t simultaneously fire teachers and Tomahawk missiles.” (The first day carried a price tag of well over $100 million in missiles alone, NationalJournal.com reported 3/21.)

Meanwhile, the air strikes are popular. CNN/Opinion Research poll (3/21) shows that 70% of Americans support the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya. But only 27% of Republicans approved of how Obama is handling Libya despite the fact that they are more likely than Dems and independents to support the military strikes.

Center for American Progress

About the Center for American Progress

The Center for American Progress is dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action.

Center for American Progress LogoBuilding on the achievements of progressive pioneers such as Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, our work addresses 21st-century challenges such as energy, national security, economic growth and opportunity, immigration, education, and health care.

We develop new policy ideas, critique the policy that stems from conservative values, and challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter and shape the national debate.

Founded in 2003 to provide long-term leadership and support to the progressive movement, CAP is headed by John D. Podesta and based in Washington, D.C. CAP opened a Los Angeles office in 2007.

What we believe

As progressives, we believe America is a land of boundless opportunity, where people can better themselves, their children, their families, and their communities through education, hard work, and the freedom to climb the ladder of economic mobility.

We believe an open and effective government can champion the common good over narrow self-interest, harness the strength of our diversity, and secure the rights and safety of its people. And we believe our nation must always be a beacon of hope and strength to the rest of the world.

Progressives are idealistic enough to believe change is possible and practical enough to make it happen.

How we work

Through dialogue with leaders, thinkers, and citizens, we explore the vital issues facing America and the world. We develop a point of view and take a stand. We then build on that and develop bold new ideas.

We shape the national debate. We share our point of view with everyone who can put our ideas into practice and effect positive change. That means online, on campus, in the media, on the shop floor, in faith communities, and in the boardroom. Our progressive partners—including the CAP Action Fund—take our ideas to Congress and statehouses.


Progressive Democrats of America was founded in 2004 to transform the Democratic Party and our country. We seek to build a party and government controlled by citizens, not corporate elites-with policies that serve the broad public interest, not just private interests. As a grassroots PAC operating inside the Democratic Party, and outside in movements for peace and justice, PDA played a key role in the stunning electoral victories of November 2006 and 2008. Our inside/outside strategy is guided by the belief that a lasting majority will require a revitalized Democratic Party built on firm progressive principles.

For over two decades, the party declined as its leadership listened more to the voices of corporations than those of Americans. PDA strives to rebuild the Democratic Party from the bottom up-from every congressional district to statewide party structures to the corridors of power in Washington, where we work arm in arm with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In just five years, PDA and its allies have shaken up the political status quo-on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Medicare for all, voter rights, accountability, and economic and environmental justice.

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