Want to know what I’m getting frustrated with? You’re still reading, so I will assume “yes.” I am frustrated with people I agree with politically, but who castigate everyone who doesn’t align in lock step with a) Who they hate, b) What they hate, and c) How they hate them.
Some back story-
I am a Progressive (with a capital P). I cannot think of one issue in which I don’t have a progressive perspective. Rattle ’em off – Civil and human rights, environmental stewardship, economic inequity, marginalized collective bargaining, poverty, health care costs, gun safety, college debt, foreign policy jingoism, social programs. All are on my agenda and I might be a whisker left of the New Deal.
In fact, people on the right call me a socialist. They see no difference between me and Karl Marx (I do a pretty good Groucho). I have explained until I am “blue” in the face that our representative democracy is preserved when we don’t conflate capitalism with our system of government. And when policy is designed to keep the pipeline to fulfillment moving, from the lowest on the socio-economic spectrum to the top.
Enough back story. Here’s the front story-
Progressives don’t seem to like me. Several have branded me a “centrist” and consider centrism no less dangerous than the propaganda of Alex Jones. Well, to be fair, maybe slightly less harmful than a far-right, low-information, vain, provocateur, but in their fight to establish (or re-establish) programs for progress, they post anti-centrism rhetoric. It appears to be as often as they post anti-Dark Side rhetoric. And a centrist label has been given to me fairly often.
So, where does the centrist tag come from?
I had to do a little research into my own writing to find an answer. It is true that I have written, blogged, and posted about finding ways to bring opposing sides together in a search for some common ground. It is true that I have preached civility and have even forgiven some politicians with spotty records in view of compromises they thought they had to make.
Human beings are flawed, and even the noblest, brightest, and most moral among us are sometimes misguided. And we, ourselves, are often misguided in our own judgments. In my view, ideology fails when it presupposes its own perfection. For better and more sustainable ideas to move forward, the broad umbrella of ideology has to expand and contract with the realities of existence.
The Age of Enlightenment from which progressivism as a movement was born did not include an understanding of superconductors or microwaves. Assault weaponry was as far-fetched as human flight. The Bernoulli Principle would not translate into aerodynamics for another century. The point being that our consciousness changes with our discoveries and the effects of discovery and invention cannot be perfectly predictable. And so our system of ideas and ideals which form the basis of our political theories (and policies) has to adapt.
Oh, yeah, the “centrist”thing…
Perhaps that identification comes from the fact that I worked on the Biden campaign in 2007. I then supported Obama for the next 8 years, and have defended his character on several occasions since. Although, it must be pointed out, I was also quite vocal with criticisms of his administration during and after on many policy issues.
Perhaps, because I became friendly with Joe Biden on a small, but (for me) significant level after he singled out my mother at events (in 2007-2008) and, in fact, made a phone call to her during a visit recently in 2019. In posts on social media I have defended his character and intelligence.
Never mind that I was (as far as I know) the first candidate for Congress to declare support for Bernie Sanders in 2015. I did so when common sense strategy dictates to stay away from hanging a state campaign onto a national one, especially that early. Sanders was the iconoclast progressive who I believed could shake the dangerous social malaise of the new, right-wing status quo.
I have not personally endorsed any presidential candidate this cycle. Not Joe, not Bernie, not Warren (even though our house has been home to a Warren staffer). My wife and I have listened to Mayor Pete, gone to Delaney events, and dug deeper into Tom Steyer. We offered to open our home to Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris.
But, I have blasted the trend within the Democratic Party to eviscerate our own candidates when they don’t perfectly align with our chosen “horse.” I have pleaded within our ranks to stop turning a Presidential Primary into a horse race. And that trend is particularly at home within the Progressive movement.
Several articles have appeared recently that lay out the case that centrism is the central cause of our failures. My guess as to why I have been branded by some as a non-progressive is because my view appears to appease centrism.
My caution, and my conclusion, is this: Do not confuse centrism with centrists. One is a philosophical paradigm, the other is the person making that choice. My views are not from centrism, but I’ve been around long enough to know that for progress to be made, centrists are not my enemy. They will be persuaded far more easily toward progressive ideas than, say, Alex Jones.
We should focus on making our case, and not on castigating those who don’t perfectly align.
Damn! That will surely get me called a centrist again!