Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Is Canadian Progressivism a Farce?
The topic came up recently in a discussion I had with a prolific and thoroughly progressive blogger who will go unnamed. He lamented that he had become fed up with Canadian prog bloggers who seemed not terribly interested in progressivism at all and, by contrast, far less interesting than their truly progressive American counterparts.
I think his criticism is fair and accurate. Many of us, I suspect, consider ourselves progressive by virtue of an affiliation with a particular party that once, in times now past, had been more or less actually progressive. For them, progressivism was a default setting, anything to the left of the Conservatives. If you were a follower of one of the other parties you were, by definition, a progressive. Yet surely one doesn't follow from the other.
American progressivism operates outside of the country's governing parties. That's because the Democrats are only slightly less distant from progressivism than the Republicans who, at times, act as though they would like to see progressives tried and burned at a stake.
What would a progressive Canadian political party look like today? Among other things it would be championing causes like dismantling corporatism, scrapping the petro-state we have so foolishly become, and busting up the corporate media cartel to restore press freedom in Canada. All three of these things are like malignant tumors metastasizing in Canada's body politic, eating away at our once cherished democracy. A progressive party would be promising to redress inequality and not just inequality of income and wealth but, more importantly, inequality of opportunity - the real scourge that threatens the future for our kids and grandkids. That means restoring and bolstering health care and public education, the very cornerstones to rebuilding a vibrant, robust middle class. A progressive would be committed to restoring collective bargaining rights to our economy. A progressive would release the ties that bind us to America's dead-end militarism.
I'm beginning to think I sound like David Lewis or Ed Broadbent yet I've always considered myself centre-left on social issues and decidedly centrist on everything else. I don't think I've changed. To confirm that I have gone back to read Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, two Republicans and a Democrat, all of them exceptional American presidents who served at critical moments in their country's history. Were they a gang of closet Socialists? I think not yet we would have to move our non-Conservative parties of today well to the left to bring them into line with Abe and Teddy and Franklin.
As a progressive it seems obvious that we need a reformation in Canadian politics. We need to even the keel. That can't be achieved by Tony Blaired New Democrats transforming into Latter Day Liberals or by Liberals continuing to morph into Conservative-Lite. That only keeps Canada listing to the right and there's no good for our young and future generations that can possibly come from this.