‘Progress,’ neoliberalism style

Rahm Emanuel adds[1] to the pile of evidence of mainstream Democrats’ disparaging view of progressives.[2]

Emanuel sounds reasonable. Of course he does. The trouble is simply that the incremental change that the status quo will allow, that takes decades or centuries to reach culmination[3] if at all, is leaving too many people behind and allowing existential threats to human survival to fester while the Overton Window, the range of acceptable political discourse moves ever farther to the right, while ever more regressive policies are enacted. We’re losing ground while folks like Emanuel are trying to hang on to what they think is the “center.”

The trouble, really, with Bernie Sanders, is not that he’s so far to the left, but that politics has moved so far to the right, enabling Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and now, Donald Trump. And the trouble with social movement theory as we know it[4] (that is, for something short of violent revolution, which generally replaces one set of thugs with another) is not that it’s wrong, but that it is utterly inadequate to the task.

It doesn’t help a worker pay rent to promise after decades or centuries of struggle and incremental change s/he might win more just economic arrangements. It doesn’t help Blacks to point to the accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights movement, when they’re being gunned down by police. It doesn’t help humanity survive that nuclear stockpiles are being modernized, nuclear weapons treaties are being abandoned, and we can’t get the powers that be to respond meaningfully to the climate crisis.

This is the urgency of the moment. And politicians like Emanuel, Obama, and the Clintons, with their refusal to meet that urgency, are part of the problem.

  1. [1]John F. Harris, “Rahm Roars Back,” Politico, February 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/02/28/rahm-emanuel-2020-race-biden-bernie-sanders-warren-election-politics-analysis-118208
  2. [2]Blue Texan [pseud.], “Early Morning Swim: Ed Rendell tells Democratic base to ‘Get Over It’ on Rachel Maddow,” Shadowproof, September 23, 2010, https://shadowproof.com/2010/09/23/early-morning-swim-ed-rendell-tells-democratic-base-to-get-over-it-on-rachel-maddow/; Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Shadowproof, September 27, 2010, https://shadowproof.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/; Michael Falcone, “Opposite Day On The Campaign Trail?” ABC News, September 21, 2010, archived by author; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s view of liberal criticisms,” Salon, September 17, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/09/17/obama_139/; David Neiwert, “President Obama lashes out at his liberal critics: Choice is to ‘get things done’ or feel ‘sanctimonious’,” Crooks and Liars, December 7, 2010, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/president-obama-lashes-out-his-liber; Heather Digby Parton, “‘It’s always the hippies’ fault’: Why the left treats its idealists all wrong,” Salon, February 5, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/02/05/its_always_the_hippies_fault_why_the_left_treats_its_idealists_all_wrong/; Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/liberal_blogger_directly_confr.html; Stephen Stromberg, “Joe Biden scolds progressives — and he’s right,” Washington Post, September 16, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/09/joe_biden_scolds_progressives.html; Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” Hill, August 10, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/113431-white-house-unloads-on-professional-left
  3. [3]Bill Moyer with JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, and Steven Soifer, Doing Democracy (Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada: New Society, 2010).
  4. [4]Bill Moyer with JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, and Steven Soifer, Doing Democracy (Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada: New Society, 2010).

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