I am not a “progressive” (air quotes). The word “progressive” (air quotes again) in the political sense came back into common political parlance with the neo-Dixiecrat faction of the Democratic Party that called themselves “New Democrats” (yep, air quotes). They were ashamed of the word “liberal”, and too cowardly to fight back against Republicans’ derision of it. So much so that they began describing themselves as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”—their definition of “progressive” (once more, air quotes), the irony created by the fact that the other main slogan of their candidate—Slick Willy—was “It’s the economy, stupid”, being totally lost on them. And this bend did not just affect us in the Great Satan, because Slick Willy and the Goldwater Girl and their acolytes, minions, and worshippers carried the gospel of greed with missionary zeal to all parts of the planet, beginning with the then future PM of UK known at the time as Bambi. Mimicking his mentor-in-chief, Bambi adopted the moniker New Labour for his corrupt faction of the formerly working-class party.
The first use of the word “progressive” in common political parlance came during the period called in Europe the “Belle Epoque” and the “Progressive Era” in America, a time of unbridled exploitative capitalism and global imperialism. The dominant school of economic theory at the time was what John Kenneth Galbraith called “horse-and-sparrow” economics; feed the horse enough oats and it will eventually shit out enough onto the road for the sparrows to eat. You know, kind of like what we have now. The overall apex of that period, at least in the USA, was the Woodrow Wilson adminstration which segregated the federal civil service and all military forces, promised peace but took us into the Great Waste, and launched free speech crackdowns that would have embarrassed J. Edgar Hoover and a Red Scare that dwarfed that of McCarthy a few decades later. Until the Clintons, Wilson’s adminstration was the most anti-black, anti-labor, and anti-poor in American history, yet it is still referred to as “progressive” (with very contemptuous air quotes).
The other Hoover, Herbert, dominated the national economic policy of the United States from 1921, when Warren G. Harding took office, through the Calvin Coolidge administration, under both of whom he was Secretary of Commerce, and then, of course, as POTUS. Not many are well aware, but when Hoover, a mining capitalist who had recently served as Director of Food Administration under Wilson, was appointed to the Commerce Department, he only accepted with the proviso that he have absolute power to set economic policy for the federal government over very other department, bureau, and committee. So, the deregulation, detaxation, wealth inequality, and economic speculation which brought about the Great Depression, at least as far as the USA in concerned, that is all on Hoover, and the shantytowns of poor and unemployed were very correctly dubbed “Hoovervilles”.
That is the utopia to which President Cheeto, aka Easy D, wants to drag America back to by undoing what very, very little economic regulation his immediate predecessor got around to reconstructing. Actually, not quite that far, just back to where the Clintons and their cohorts dragged us in the 1990s. You know, those “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” types who used dog-whistle racism a la Barry Goldwater and Lee Atwater to sell their snake oil to young urban (nearly all) white professionals, the yuppies who replaced the yippies, Baby Boomers who disembowelled their own revolution for a pair of running shoes. The same who discarded the designation “liberal” in favor of “progressive” for reasons both superficial and ideological.
You know, when I was growing up back in the 1970s, there was a name for folks in the South who were “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”; we called them “Republicans”. Essentially, that is what the great majority of Democrats became and still are today, the “Republican-lite” Party, coopting and usurping most of the talking points of their opponents, driving them ever-further to the right into certifiable Crazyville, dragging the entire body politic toward, through, and past the center, making America the miserable neoliberal shithole it has become.
That is where establishment Democrats (as well as New Labour) and their followers, including the Congressional Black Caucus, are now and seem stubbornly intent on remaining even as their apparatus decays around them like a rotting corpse. It is not the strongest nor the smartest nor greediest who survive, but those who are most adaptable. The deeply entrenched apparatachiks of the Democratic Party are so blinded by their own bullshit that they will die rather than adapt, and die they will, figuratively speaking, because the Millennials who outnumber the Baby Boomers even when they were at their peak will not accept the same patronizing, condescending, sloganeering, identity-politicking superficial bullshit which their predecessors of the ‘60s and ‘70s swallowed wholesale. They want real change. And they are rising, or rather have risen, along with the baton-carrying GenXers who are their immediate predecessors and the remaining aging Boomers who have remained true to themselves and to the cause.
Even better news is the fact that the Movement this time is worldwide, often focusing on local or regional issues but occasionally coming together in a global action. For example, the Women’s March on 21 January which took place on literally every continent and nearly every country on Earth, millions upon millions coming out to say “No More!”. The virtually world-wide growing protests against mistreatment and abuse of refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers demonstrates clearly that an injury to one of us is an injury to all, and that we are all each other’s brothers, sisters, and cousins. The rising tide of right-wing populism, the birth of authoritarian and neo-fascist regimes, the rebirth of Yanqui imperialism in Latin America are not signals or out defeat but signs of our success. Because the people have stopped being afraid of their governments and the governments, and the elite whom those governments serve, are becoming afraid of us. The snowflakes are becoming an avalanche.
Thig ar latha; our day will come. Alba gu brath. Peace out.
(P.S.: I meant to include in the podcast mention of the Progressive Party of Robert La Follette under which he ran for POTUS in 1948, and applaud it and their ideological descendant, Progressive.org, as being actual progressives unlike the faux progressives of the DP. Kudos to them.)