I am a Progressive
I am a progressive; I make no apologies for that. But, what is meant by progressive? Before the 2016 presidential campaign, the term spoke to the politics of Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal platform. Today it conjures memories of a divisive Democratic primary. My political beliefs, though, are independent of that race. In 2013, ThinkProgress along with the American Values Project worked to create a document called Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions. It’s an excellent summary of progressivism in modern politics from well before the 2016 election. This document identifies four core values of progressivism: Freedom, Opportunity, Responsibility, and Cooperation. Of course, any one-word definition of a value is going to be vague. It then makes sense to understand exactly what is meant, so that values and ideals can be put into policies and platforms.
Freedom is a concept embraced by all Americans. The freedom from undue government influence in our personal lives is enshrined in the bill of rights. Your right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of religion are all freedoms from the government. This is a bare minimum and we as a country should not accept the bare minimum. We also need the freedom to live a fulfilling and secure life, with basic needs met. Access to healthcare and economic security are critical issues in our society. They are a roadblock standing in the way of large portion of our society, preventing them from attaining the American ideal of true freedom.
The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida (DPCF) in its platform calls for “… universal, single-payer health care or comprehensive Medicare-for-All.” In contrast, despite the heading titled “Securing Universal Health Care”, the Democratic Platform falls short of advocating for universal health care. The DNC’s platform states: “Americans should be able to access public coverage through a public option.” Access to health care is not the same as health care. The DNC’s platform does advocate for a $15 minimum wage, but this was added through negotiation with the party’s more progressive members. However, this change to the party’s platform does not alleviate the need for vocal progressives, it exemplifies it.
Supporting the value of freedom is Opportunity. To the progressive, freedom is meaningless if that freedom is not available to all members of society. Progressives seek to stop discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression, religious faith or lack thereof, or disability. Economic security, self-determination, education, and affordable housing should be basic rights for all people, not privileges of the rich, or dominant majorities.
The DNC should be applauded for including the issue of felon disenfranchisement in its platform. There is, however, no mention of other issues that prevent felons from the opportunity to properly reintegrate into society. There exist in our society real and substantial barriers preventing felons from accessing education, housing, and employment. The DPCF platform explicitly supports the automatic restoration of civil rights for former felons (except gun ownership), and also supports non-discrimination policies in employment, education, and housing for felons who have completed their sentence. This policy would ensure opportunity exists for those trying to rejoin civil society.
Responsibility is another core tenant of progressivism. Responsibility requires all of us to commit to improve our lives through education and honest effort. At the same time, we as individuals and as a society have a responsibility to one another. This commitment to the common good is seen through ideas of progressive taxation, where those who have more contribute more to society. This commitment to responsibility extends beyond fiscal responsibility. Progressives stand for ecological and social responsibility as well. Conserving our environment and sustainably using our natural resources is a key part of ensuring the common societal good.
One of our core responsibilities is to our future generations through the environment. The Democratic platform only mention of hydraulic fracturing “should not take place where states and local communities oppose it.” Progressives take a stronger stance against this extraction method that has been linked to ground water contamination, increased seismic activity, and significant volumes of additional methane being released into the atmosphere. The state and national platforms of the DPCF supports a complete prohibition on fracking and other extreme methods of extracting natural resources.
Rounding out these four ideals is Cooperation. The basic structures of our society require that we work together; national and global politics is no different. At home and abroad, we must position ourselves empathetically towards each other. Going after our own individual wants and needs, in either selective or oblivious blindness towards the needs of others leads to a fracturing of society. Pursing diligently the needs of whole and of the systemically disenfranchised is the way to both better outcomes and to a more just society.
This last value is why I’m proud to be a member of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Brevard. Caucuses exist to work with the party at large to advance issues relevant to its members. I don’t want a centrist Democratic Party and I don’t want a party that is reactionary. The progressive movement offers a set of positive policies that promote a fair and equitable society. Joining a caucus may not be something that you want to do. But I encourage you to give the progressive caucus a shot. I feel like the ideals of progressivism are pervasive in our DEC. If you agree with us, great. If you disagree, I’d encourage you to open a dialog with us, because we care about what you think. Progressive Thinking summarizes itself well: “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.”