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.


Anonymous said...

wk = collaborator

John B. said...

It's getting so that I can't tell the leftards from the S-Ps.

Great observation: "due to its rejection by the right".

Or at least by those who self-identify that way.

So let's allow progressivism continue to be defined by Rush, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter and the others "bought and paid for" who have an audience and the personal security and prosperity that derives from sucking up to those with economic power. My definition evolves to some extent from listening to what they say on the subject with an understanding of what they are.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Mound of Sound said...

All that work Anon, all that pathetic vitriol, and for nothing. I had to invoke the "sty pig" rule again so, once again, your anony-ass is toast.

The Mound of Sound said...

I haven't heard anything remotely progressive from the voices you cite, John. They're populist, to be sure, but that's far removed from progressive.

John B. said...

That's right, Mound. I believe that if we don't understand what motivates these shills, we can be fooled into taking them seriously.

Purple library guy said...

As a side note, it seems like a lot of people who stopped paying attention to the NDP after Broadbent stepped down assume that it shifted to the right under Jack Layton, presumably because when they started paying attention to it under Jack Layton, there it was rightward of where it had been under Broadbent.
I do not believe this to be the case at all. To the contrary, the party drifted rightwards under the leaderships of McLaughlin and McDonough, although I've never been clear if it was because they were furthe to the right themselves or because they were weak leaders who didn't really set a direction and so what took over was a certain institutional drift, in which an increasingly professionalized NDP was "managed" according to the Blairite conventional wisdom of the time.

Jack Layton actually stopped this rightward drift for a time and pulled the party somewhat back to the left (although certainly not as much as some of his supporters, myself included, might have preferred) and considerably greenwards. He had a knack for promoting fairly significant government intervention in commonsensical terms that made them seem non-dangerous, but essentially the Layton vision came down to green Keynesianism: The government as employer of last resort, spending money directly or semi-directly to create a new green infrastructure (including new green social housing) and increase energy efficiency. Watered down versions of this vision are now almost conventional wisdom, but Layton was the first to popularize this approach in Canada, at a time when the idea of government doing useful things was essentially off the table, and he seemed to want to do it for real, as opposed to most politicians who enjoy the platitudes and the ability to claim this is what they're doing any time the pork is being dished out for a new transit line. He also advocated some sort of green industrial policy, something that has been pretty much completely abandoned by every political party since.

Mulcair did move to the right again, and would probably have gone further if it hadn't been pretty clear that the public mood had shifted since the glory days of public acceptance of neoliberalism.

(Broadbent himself, although I think he's basically a good guy, was not exactly on the left of the NDP back in the day, and was involved in the expulsion of the Waffle. But he's still probably to the left of much of the party now, just because there's been so much drift in the Overton Window; Pierre Trudeau's policies in the seventies were far to the left of what most New Democrats would dare talk about in public today)

Purple library guy said...

Indeed, it was in part a mass reaction to the rightward drift of the NDP, most visible in the New Politics Initiative, that brought Layton to the leadership. Many were, in the medium term, disappointed in what they got . . . but more on the basis that he didn't do enough than from any idea that he was even further right than the NDP had already become by the time he arrived.
Of course now he's a saint, so lots of people have forgotten they ever had the tiniest problem with him. But while it's good to avoid too much hagiography of "le bon Jack", I think claiming he actually pushed the party to the right is a false revisionism.