By Joshua Sager
The growing occupations all across the USA and the results of the recent state elections both point to one common phenomenon: Progressive ideas seem to be gathering momentum independent of the major political parties. As we have not had a progressive political party in the past several decades, many people may need a description of progressive ideals:
Major Progressive Ideals:
- Taxation rates are highly dependent upon wealth; the rich pay a higher percentage of their income while the poor pay less.
- Maintaining a strong social safety net.
- Increased regulations on banking and industry in order to protect the consumer and public good.
- Focusing upon protecting the rights of the minority, whether the minority is a race, religion, or class.
- Decreased aggressive military spending and increased domestic investment.
As you can probably see, the "left wing" Democrats don't currently even vaguely resemble a progressive party; they, as a group, are willing to cut the taxes of the rich while shredding the social safety net of the poor and continuing the Bush era attacks on civil rights.
Keep in mind, I in no way consider the Republicans superior to the Democrats in terms of policy. Voting Democratic is like jumping into a swimming pool without looking to see if there is water while voting Republican is knowingly diving into an empty pool; there is always a chance that the Democrat won't hurt you but for the Republicans it is only a matter of how badly you will get hurt. Over the past several decades, the political discourse has moved from a normal Progressive/Regressive political spectrum into one where we have a center right Democratic Party and a psychotic Republican Party. The current Democratic party holds the views of the past (70s and 80s) Republicans, while the Republicans are so far right as to be illegitimate. The rightward shifting of the major political parties makes the emergence of a progressive movement even more amazing.
Political polls often run into an interesting divide between party affiliation and policy positions. Americans as a people have been shown to support progressive policy over regressive policy 60% to 40%. Unfortunately, the individual policy positions are eclipsed by the heuristics of party affiliation and the marketing incompetence of the Democrats. The marketing and funding of the right wing has resulted in far more right-wing policy than should normally be the case.
Many people identify with the Republican Party but support progressive ideas when asked about policy due to the amazing messaging of the Republican Party. Progressives must default to supporting the Democrats due to the terrible consequences of the Republicans getting into power (8 years of Bush, case in point), thus the Democrats are validated even though they continue to stray ever rightward. The legislature lives in a right leaning bubble (Washington Bubble) and votes in ways that do not truly represent the views of their electorate. I am beginning to hope that the American people are waking up to the political spectrum shift and the pendulum will soon shift.
The Occupy movement is simply the tip of the iceberg in the discontent with the current right wing politics. People are angry that the rich get ever richer and the poor starve; all while the politicians that should be fixing the problems are getting bought by the corporations so that they will perpetuate the problems. Thousands of people are living in camps to protest the current politics. The views that the occupiers have shown are, in the most part, progressive and the occupiers may be motivated enough to make a difference. We have swung so far to the right that all but the extremists are becoming uncomfortable.
I am of the opinion that politics is like many things in nature: There is a balance that sometimes gets disrupted and needs a catastrophe to swing back to neutral. The economic crash and the Republican attacks on the poor created a catastrophe which, fortunately, may have opened the eyes of the public. The recent state elections demonstrated that extreme laws such as those that attack unions, "personhood" amendments, and voter disenfranchisement will no longer be tolerated. The extreme right is very well funded, but they have yet to translate money into votes (not that they wouldn't if they could), thus they may have overreached.
Republicans: You forced the progressives aside and threw yourselves off a cliff. The Democrats are only barely holding on behind you and can still be saved. Now, the people can either throw themselves off the cliff after you or pull the Democrats back from the edge and to the left. You have become the party of the insane, the angry and the ignorant; so extreme that the majority of the country cannot stomach you.
Democrats: You have one chance. Pull yourselves back from the edge, run to the left and help the people. You have a massive groundswell of support and could rout the right wing if you truly became progressives rather than the least of all evils. Progressive policy works to protect the poor/middle class and will improve the lives of the people; improvements that you can take credit for if you need a personal motivation to do the right thing