Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Who Says Progressive Values Defy Definition.? Oh Yeah, that Guy.
For a guy who doesn't hesitate to self-identify as a progressive, a certain outspoken Liberal doesn't seem to have a clue what that means. That much came through when, in a recent post, he wrote:
"I was listening to a cabinet minister on the radio this morning. He was invoking the penultimate progressive political totemic, the vaunted “middle class.” (The ultimate progressive divinity being “progressive values,” which no progressive can define, and which therefore makes it the very problem it seeks to address.)"
Apparently this fellow finds progressivism undefinable which begs the question how he so boastfully wears the progressive mantle. What's clear is that he's made no effort to understand what the term means. Perhaps he's not familiar with "the Google" although, given his political posturing, I suspect he'd ditch the label if he understood its meaning.
Progressivism traces back to the heady days of America's Progressive movement in the early years of the 20th century. Progressive values go back even further, as far back as Abraham Lincoln.
So what are these progressive values that our Liberal friend finds so elusive? They are perhaps best restated in Theodore Roosevelt's "Square Deal" speech of 1910. It's not a difficult read and I'm sure our friend can manage it.
Progressive values are rooted in the notion of advancement of the individual and the public interest over special or private interests. It includes regulation of the struggle of labour and capital and the expulsion of corporate power from the realm of politics. It doesn't shy away from concepts such as income and wealth distribution to reflect the contribution of labour to the creation of that wealth. It's largely the opposite of the neoliberal order that prevails today.
Progressivism ought to be non-partisan, capable of being embraced across the political spectrum. That it has become associated with the left and centre-left is largely due to its rejection by the right, a political choice that is manifest today in America's "bought and paid for" Congress and the suppression, if not outright abandonment of democracy. Left unchecked it results in what has befallen America today - first political capture, then regulatory capture and, now, the capture by special interests of the executive branch.
Progressivism sometimes overlaps with social democracy. Just today Ed Broadbent released a call to renew social democracy which had been largely driven out of his New Democratic Party by first Layton and then Mulcair (both of whom Broadbent supported). That said, I wish Broadbent well in his quest.
Our friend's own Liberal Party jettisoned any progressive pretensions when it marched to the right under Ignatieff. Trudeau teased Canadians with his supposed progressive street cred only to reveal himself a devout neoliberal in his first few months in office.
So our Liberal friend need fear no longer that progressive values are too elusive that they defy definition. They're not elusive, not at all. They are as clear as they are compelling. You just gotta look.