This blog and webpage are not simply a forum for discussing the bigger issues of progressive politics in the USA, and its prospects, but also to test some ideas for our forthcoming book, co-authored with Prof. Arthur Lerman of Mercy College, the opening draft excerpt of which, follows:
THE PROGRESSIVE MAJORITY AND THE FALLING OF THE FAR RIGHT IN NEW AMERICA
A new age of Progressive politics is upon us, one that has already begun in fits in starts and differently in different regions of the US. We will argue in these pages that events from the early 1990s to early in the 2nd decade of the 21st century have brought forces into play that will broaden and strengthen, probably through the middle of this century. Reforms in education, defense spending, healthcare, housing, energy and climate change [ETC:]will spring from soil now being prepared purposively both at the grassroots level and leaders mostly, but not exclusively, of the Democratic party. We will formally call this slow but profound tectonic shift in American politics New Progressivism, but use this interchangeably with simple “progressivism,” in the interests of word economy. Doing this will also link the 21st century brand of progressivism to earlier movements in the early 1900s, the 1930s, and the 1960’s.
It was tempting to begin this book with a phrase distinctly out of fashion:* “A specter is haunting America, the specter of progressivism, a normal state of viewing solutions to problems as distinctly people oriented as opposed to government as an alliance between corporations and agencies. And new media no longer compelled to listen and report equally on crazy attitudes and statements about Big government, sacred defense budgets (read Right Republicanism), and the sort of reforms espoused by the Clintons and Obama, plus many newer ones. * [unfashionable because identified with the opening of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848), a non-starter in 21st century American Political discourse.]
Persuasive and prescient books have been published with titles like The Emerging Republican Majority (Phillips, 1969) and Judis and Texiera’s The Emerging Democratic Majority (2002) that have projected seemingly similar shifts in the body politic from the late 1960s to the early 1990’s and from the early 1990s almost to the present. Phillips (in what he must now regard as a former life!) saw clearly what few other did at the beginning of the first Nixon term, and Judis & Teixeira made a case, less bold but still essentially credible, for what might be called “ ‘Government is the Problem’, Reagan-Bush fatigue” and that Clinton was the harbinger of a new period of moderate, mostly Democratic government reform.
This latter view seems to have been weakened by the congressional election of 1994 and its Republican “Contract with America”, little of which saw the light of legislative day, but which informed and some might say, inflamed Republican political attitudes, during the years of the presidency of Bush 2, and perhaps even more hotly during the Obama years. To stretch the metaphor, the Tea party wing of the Republican party came to a full boil by the Congressional elections of 2010, and the heat was felt by the party’s formerly moderate conservative Mitt Romney in the presidential race of 2012. Public political discourse began to take on a “which planet are you on?” quality rarely seen in American politics, except during periods of extreme polarization.
This book will for the most part eschew the heavy emphasis on data interpretation of the first two “Emerging..” books, and rather propose and argue the unfolding of a progressive turn in U.S. life. It will begin with an a overarching chapter on changes in the politics of US regions, and stress that reforms will occur (in the old fashioned sense, not as in “education reform” or “welfare reform”) first at the grassroots level, then at the federal executive level, and finally spread through the national Congress and then to the state legislatures and governorships.
It may be argued in 2013 that this is a “nursery tale”, a Pollyanna-ish pipe dream of what used to be called liberals would like to see. We ask only that the reader keep an open mind and hear us out in our chapters on Women, Education, the Environment, the Job market and government economic policy, Race and religion, and Young voters[ reframe because repetitive of earlier passage. We expect that most of the democgraphic trends will lead to greater and greater advantages for progressive change by a national government much more interconnected with civil society and grassroots reformers. But part of the nearer term progressive success will come from the discrediting of truly extreme and unrealistic arguments and advertising, of the far right of the Republican. Party, particularly those which drove the moderate republicans into near extinction.
We may seem to face long odds and charges of being counterintuitive in an age in witch government has successfully been painted as excessive and profligate. But will maintain that the Right Republicans have sown the seeds of there own potential destruction. And, the two parties have proved adaptive and resilient over many decades, so we do not anticipate that Republicanism will implode—it will remain strong, but in more limited geographic areas and forced to change some of its precepts.