What Progressives Do

Some of the conditions and the solutions we are dealing with now have been dealt with before and we can learn from them. Third parties have made significant changes in our history. See Third Parties Have Long History of Shaping, Reshaping American Politics.

NPA founder Anthony Noel wrote this two part article for MyFDL in June 2011 and it is just as relevant today.  Part One is on what Progressives Do. The case of the NDP Party in Canada is particularly interesting. (By the way, the Unified Platform he refers to has since been completed and can be found here.)

Part Two is equally important and concerns what progressives don't do. Aside from the "No third party candidate can win!" democrats also use these excuses extensively.

  • Lesser of Two Evils (LOTE): At least we are not republicans.
  • Half a Loaf of Bread: Getting something is better than getting nothing. This hides the fact that what the democrats frequently get is nothing disguised as a real improvement.
  • Republicans are Worse: Just look at their rhetoric and ignore our actual results.
  • False helplessness before minority republicans: Contrast with Bush Jr. who despite a democratic majority in both houses still did whatever the hell he wanted to.
  • Progress not perfection: This is said to hide the lack of progress.
  • This is the most important election ever! or This election is just too important!
  • Elect democrats and then hold their feet to the fire.

Finally, Anthony Noel offers some 2015 insights.

What Progressives Do (part one of two)

Take a look at this. Though it’s nearly 100 years old, it could have been written yesterday:

The conscience of the people, in a time of grave national problems, has called into being a new party, born of the nation’s sense of justice. We of the Progressive party here dedicate ourselves to the fulfillment of the duty laid upon us by our fathers to maintain the government of the people, by the people and for the people whose foundations they laid.

We hold with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln that the people are the masters of their Constitution, to fulfill its purposes and to safeguard it from those who, by perversion of its intent, would convert it into an instrument of injustice. In accordance with the needs of each generation the people must use their sovereign powers to establish and maintain equal opportunity and industrial justice, to secure which this Government was founded and without which no republic can endure.

This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Its resources, its business, its institutions and its laws should be utilized, maintained or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest.

It is time to set the public welfare in the first place.

That’s the introduction to the Progressive Party Platform of 1912.

The Progressive Era was – by far – the most productive in our nation’s history in defining, advancing and securing the Social Contract. Seige is now being laid to that precious contract by corporatists disguised as candidates, looters held out as leaders – and an opportunist named Obama.

The Progressive Era flourished from the 1890s to 1920s. Then as now, true Progressives questioned and ultimately chastened the major parties which were complicit in the oppression of American families and workers. The same two parties which are complicit in that very oppresion today. Quoting again from the 1912 document:


Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people.

From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare, they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.

To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.
The deliberate betrayal of its trust by the Republican party, the fatal incapacity of the Democratic party to deal with the new issues of the new time, have compelled the people to forge a new instrument of government through which to give effect to their will in laws and institutions.

Unhampered by tradition, uncorrupted by power, undismayed by the magnitude of the task, the new party offers itself as the instrument of the people to sweep away old abuses, to build a new and nobler commonwealth.

Liberals are fleeing from the “L word ” – who can blame them, based on their unconscionable abandonment of common people – and are doing their best to purloin the “progressive” label as their own.

We must stop them.

We’ll do it by creating a new voice for Progressivism (with a capital “P,” as distinct from the small “p” purloiners of the Progressive tradition).

As Progressives did then, so must we unite Americans who embrace non-intervention, industrial justice, environmental protection, equal access to education, and care of our youth, our aged and our downtrodden. As they did, we too can coalesce into a force which does not tolerate the lies told by both parties as they strive to protect the wealth of elites, and their own standing as the well-paid protectors of the elitist class.

In tomorrow’s second part of this diary, we’ll show the lengths to which “small p” progressives go in attempting to quash mounting public dissent – and disdain – for the Donkey and Elephant show which has enriched a tiny percentage of the populace at the expense of the rest of us.

In the meantime, I invite you to read the 1912 Progressive Party platform in its entirety. Alongside the platforms of other organizations engaged in the fight for justice for all Americans, it is one of the central resources through which the NPA’s Unified Progressive Platform of 2012 is being drafted. Look for the initial draft of this document – and please, provide your feedback on it – in mid-July at NewProgs.org.

Thank you.

Anthony Noel
NPA Facilitator

What Progressives Don’t (part two of two)

In yesterday’s first part of this diary, we talked about the 1912 Progressive Party Platform. About how starkly its wording applies to the conditions under which we now live, 100 years later. About what real Progressives believe in and fight for. In short, what Progressives do.

And we promised, here in part two, an object lesson in the lengths to which false progressives and other protectors of the “profits before people” status quo will go in quashing dissent. In other words: what true Progressives don’t.

The lesson comes by way of the blog at the website of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

On June 14, one Mike Hersh – who is identified variously at the PDA site as the group’s “Maryland State Coordinator,” as “PDA Staff,” and as “PDA National Staff” – put up a post called “The High Cost of Voting for Spoilers.” (Hersh is also – although “hopes to be” seems more accurate, based on his own web site – a political campaign consultant.)

The PDA’s blog appears to have begun in January; I could find no archives dating further back. In those six months, no post has come close to Hersh’s in terms of reader comment. Despite being open for comment literally for months – they are still open, in fact – few have received more than eight replies.

By contrast, “The High Cost of Voting for Spoilers” got 89 comments in just one week, and would have had more – but Hersh shut it down Tuesday night.

That’s right. This “progressive” shut down the Progressive Democrats of America’s most-discussed blog post of the year. In mid-debate.

So, what happened?

After throwing everything in the cupboards – and then the kitchen sink – at the six commenters who took issue with his post (five, including the author, supported it) Hersh knew the jig was up – that’s what happened.

Too many commenters – too many for Hersh’s liking, at least – refused to accept his “facts,” let alone the smarmy, know-it-all, accusatory style so symptomatic of so many who purloin the term “progressive” for their narrow interests. You know their rigmarole:

- Gore lost because of Nader voters.

- Democrats are the better choice and anyone who doesn’t see that is willfully blind – but saying this is not the same as promoting lesser-evilism.

- The (insert name of neolib org here) supports and encourages open debate and discussion. (Unless, of course, we shut it down.)

So, after providing numbered answers to “three questions” Hersh thought crucial, and which he excoriated his critics for “refusing to address” (though we had, repeatedly, with the sum of our comments); after it was clear that any point which discredited his thesis would be met with obfuscation at best; and about 36,000 words into the Hersh Vortex of Circular Logic, I got a notion (and yes, I’m kind of embarrassed it took me so long).

I posted the following:

OK, Mike, let’s try this. A simple yes or no answer will suffice. No qualifications or explanations. After you answer, I’ll ask you another question. Fair enough?

Do you consider a vote for Canada’s NDP “voting for a spoiler”?

Just a reminder: yes or no.

Thanks in advance for your reply.

His response:


I already answered that, [no, he hadn’t] but here it goes again. No, voting for NDP was not “voting for a spoiler.” Under the very different Canadian system, and considering they were already an established, effective party with seats in parliament, and representing more than 1% or 2% of the electorate: No.

(Good thing I asked for no qualifications or explanations, huh?)

Hersh continued:


At this point, let’s all admit some of us are not talking about the same things. A few people on this thread are unwilling to agree with the basic premise. As long as those people refuse to accept the terms, this is a waste of time.

[Translation: So many people are telling me my basic premise is flawed that I don’t have time to keep responding!]

At this point, I am closing this thread and inviting people to learn more about PDA, comment on the other blog posts, and get on with their lives.

Clearly, about midway through typing in his 50-word answer to my yes-or-no question, it dawned on the poor guy what my next question would be:

“So, Mike, if a vote for the NDP in 2011 was not ‘voting for a spoiler,’ because ‘they were already an established, effective party with seats in parliament,’ a vote for the NDP at its founding 50 years ago, when it had no seats, would, by your definition, have constituted ‘voting for a spoiler.’

“My question, then, is exactly how new political movements and parties can come into existence without being what you degrade as ‘spoilers’? If you got your wish and no one supported new parties, how would anything ever change?

Hersh knew the legs supporting his premise had been cut out from under it, and didn’t want to admit it. So he picked them up and ran away.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is not what Progressives do. On the contrary, it’s how major-party operatives, and those who seek to be, have co-opted, fear mongered, and quashed populist movements – like the Progressive Movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – out of existence.

We must take back the Progressive mantle from these “Falsies” – false lefties, false liberals and false (a.k.a. small “p”) progressives.

Me must again imbue activism with the meaning, and with the peaceful militancy, which made that first Progressive Era the most beneficial period in our nation’s history – by far – for working Americans.

That era, not coincidentally, also united the largest percentage ever of people of all political stripes in pursuing and advancing the common good. It brought together Americans who embrace non-intervention, industrial justice, environmental protection, equal access to education, and care of our youth, our aged and our downtrodden.

True Progressives must reclaim this proud heritage. The first step in doing so is exposing “small p” progressives and other duopolists for the enablers they are, and the hateful things they do. Things true Progressives don’t.

By the way: Last Monday – one day before he shut down dissent at the PDA blog – Mike Hersh began shilling posting right here, at MyFDL.

Anthony Noel
NPA Facilitator

2015 Insights

NPA has been about promoting truly Progressive ideals and policy since its founding and the ratification of the platform you read at http://www.newprogs.org/platform. We believe a key part of promoting Progressivism is assigning it the respect it deserves. In writing, this means using a capital P. There are many arguments in favor of doing so, but here are our main two:

(1) Progressivism is a fully fleshed-out political ideology, just as are Democracy, Socialism, Communism, etc. By capitalizing the word in all its uses, we help make that clear, and give Progressivism the cachet it deserves.
(2) Democrats use a small p when they talk about it, as if it were a seasoning in the hands of a chef. "Take one part party loyalty, add a dash of progressivism, stir well, place in a well-greased palm, and - viola! - Elizabeth Warren!"
Being a longtime editor and marketing professional I am perhaps more word-focused than most. But until the left in general gets as good at word-smithing and at using words strategically as the right has been for years and years now, the right will continue to succeed in making Americans actually believe this is a Christian nation, that workers are one step above serfs, and that corporate welfare doesn't exist. Through all my years of working with various people and groups on the left, and after being criticized by some for being too direct or too insistent about what we want, I have learned that those who complain loudest about "impertinent language" or "divisive statements" are the same ones who perpetuate compromise with and coddling of those who richly deserve to be our sworn enemies: Those who use God and Country and Guns and Big Money to counter science, social change, peace and income equality.
We're not progressive - we're Progressives. That is a very, very important distinction, and the sooner we adopt it - and call our the Democratic Party and other progressive poseurs - the sooner a true, fundamental change in the political conversation will occur.
1-Bernie Sanders is no Eugene Debs (about what works for Progressives by Howard Hawkins of New York)
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