What Is the Progressive Disconnect?

Image for post
Image for post

If the Biden-Harris ticket doesn’t stand for anything, then how do progressives know they disagree with its policies?

Right out of the gate I need to state that I want to write this piece from a heart-centric place. That’s what keeps getting lost in many of our political discussions — love, kindness, empathy. I cop to this and want to work on not being so knee-jerk in my reactions to things I don’t understand. Kindly note, however, that I am not going to stray from my intellect and common sense.

So, back to my question at the top. That’s what keeps coming up for me as I go deep into where progressives speak their minds about the upcoming presidential election. The pain and anger is palpable. The finger pointing is too frequent on both sides. And I still don’t pretend to understand this particular divide, but I really want to.

The progressive social media threads I’ve read and the media I’ve consumed have some common themes the past few weeks: progressives are ticked off that some of us (I guess I’m a liberal in progressive speak) enjoyed the Democratic National Convention; that Kamala Harris stands for nothing and her pick is a screw-you to the left (as per Krystal Ball, The Hill); that progressives are not being courted by the DNC (Democratic Socialist podcaster Ryan Knight with over 372,000 Twitter followers is heavy on this); and that corporations are running our country.

Let’s get the last one out of the way first. We know corporations are running our country and we don’t like it. But we’re realists. That’s the current system. It can’t be changed until we get some power in government. We feel the best approach, especially in this dire time, is to play by the rules as they currently exist. Would we prefer a structure that doesn’t allow Michael Bloomberg to tilt things in our favor? Yes, we would. But we’ll be rendered powerless if we keep holding ourselves to a moral high ground that only one side is willing to abide by.

I’d like to hear which part of that progressives don’t agree with. Is there another realistic solution I’m missing? I’m really asking.

Now to the Dem convention.

Why is it infuriating to progressives that liberals were galvanized by the convention? Why does me needing some well-produced heartwarming stories in this devastating year, and the knowledge that the man running for President has humane qualities, equate with me not being concerned with policies? Why are they mutually exclusive? I can hold two thoughts at once.

Joe Biden has been in public service for decades and was a very recent Vice President. I know what he stands for and I’ve familiarized myself with some of his more updated ideas given where the country is now. There are 46 ideas outlined on JoeBiden.com and I’ve heard some of his speeches. Same goes for Harris.

Mocking a Biden Tweet saying “You won’t have to worry about my tweets when I’m president” as if it’s the only thing he’s saying, or claiming the Dems’ only strategy is ‘Trump is bad’ might make for fun snark in the moment for Krystal Ball’s viewers, but it’s helping widen a sad, significant divide in this country’s left. Her consistent downplaying of Russian involvement in our elections confuses me, as I have no doubt she’s read the Mueller Report and all the subsequent articles about Trump’s slimy associates.

But back to policy. The platform is only a starting point. It helps me understand their ideal vision, what they’re shooting for. Their personalities, open and eager, inspire me to be my best self in doing my part to unify. In a situation unique to 2020, that means not just embracing our fellow Democrats but welcoming Republicans and former Republicans who see the emergency before us. My God, they are uniting on their own and pouring money into ads to help unseat our would-be authoritarian President.

This doesn’t mean I agree with them on policy across the board. It doesn’t mean I want them to pull the country right for the long haul. I fully expect to disagree with Steve Schmidt and David Frum again and to be on the opposite side in future elections. But right now lots of us recognize this as dire. Too little has been made of how impressive it is that we’re unlikely bedfellows coming together to help restore the integrity of our democracy.

So I pose to progressives, as the situation currently stands, what are the realistic steps to getting your vision realized? I’m really asking, emphasis on realistic.

Let’s use healthcare as an example. It is my belief that the only shot of getting Donald Trump, impeached and dangerous, out of the White House to therefore clear the way for progress in this area is to elect Biden-Harris. This is based on facts. The President and Republicans who support him have no health plan. They’ve shown us that the last three-plus years. Biden-Harris will address healthcare as a priority, starting with strengthening the Affordable Care Act.

So which one gets you to your understandably beloved Medicare for All quicker? What, you say the two people at the top of the current ticket will not work for that? True. But here’s my ideal vision of the next decade or so:

~ 2020 — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win.

~ 2024 — Biden, knowing he’s a bridge to the future, stays one term and selflessly hands off; Harris steps in.

~ All the while, the squad and others in Congress build a progressive case at the legislative level and it amasses popularity, especially with young voters who are more inclined to take on racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental issues and more. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez eventually becomes President.

~ With that in mind, the Republicans and former Republicans who helped get Trump out of office in 2020 rebuild their party from the bottom up and it once again becomes focused on fiscal conservatism. We disagree on how much to allot to various aspects of the budget, but we agree, among other vital things, that family separation at our border is egregious.

~ Disenfranchised Trump voters flock to his new network, but their size and influence dissipates with time; white supremacy once more becomes shameful.

Realistic? Who knows?

Now it’s your turn. Tell me your proposed path. What is the long-term progressive strategy or route to getting what you want? Mine is above. How does yours go?

Here’s what I see as a possibility based on the current climate. Progressives decide not to join forces for this one urgent election and either don’t vote or go third party. Trump wins another term. We’re vulnerable to more health threats and climate threats. Virtually no one who had at least some coverage from the ACA has it anymore and there’s no plan in sight to change that. The rich keep getting richer. Corporations get more powerful. Law enforcement gets more aggressive and militaristic. We are a decimated country, run into the ground.

How does that further the progressive agenda? I’m really asking.

That said, I found myself nodding along with much of author and columnist Anand Giridharadas’ Aug. 23 newsletter:

“Joe Biden was not my ideal nominee. But he is the nominee now, and the only thing standing between us and a descent into dimwit autocracy. And as I watched his party convention last week, I felt admiration for the human being he is, and even a sense, to use a Biden word, of ‘possibilities’ … With America living through multiple, intersecting crises, with revolutionary anger on the streets, with a serious questioning of capitalism under way, what path is there but to hope that Biden can be persuaded that his personal decency must now be marshaled for the sake of structural decency?

“And I will say, as an erstwhile skeptic of a Biden presidency, that I believe Biden could, if he chooses, pull it off, because of his great superpower. He has a talent for making the political personal … A tragic version of a Biden presidency would be an era of good feelings with no reform to show for itself — a situation that would leave America once again ripe for fascism, this time perhaps even with a leader who can read. But I want to believe in the opposite possibility: that Biden’s political skills can be deployed to smuggle in far-reaching change under the guise of folksiness, Ray-Bans, and dad quotes.”

Yes to all of that.

We haven’t sold out. We’re simply more grounded than before in the basic tenets of democracy, rule of law, and patriotism by virtue of an excruciating Trump presidency that has showed us what the alternative looks like.

I hope we at least agree on that.

Columnist, Blogger, Author, Coach in the Greater NYC area. Six-word bio: Zen chick with a Jersey edge. Favorite topics: gender, politics, race, meaning of life.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store