Updated: Jan 6
Some have asked, how I could consider myself a Progressive and still be so tough on Bernie and Elizabeth? Answer: We share a common belief that our political system is broken, and we need systemic change to fix it. Bernie, Elizabeth and I all agree on that, and I imagine you do to. As a matter of fact, so does the overwhelming majority of Americans today – 90 percent to be exact.
When the Progressive Movement first formed in the 1890's, led by Nebraska’s own, William Jennings Bryan, it was in response to massive political corruption, a huge disparity in wealth, a large influx of immigration and dramatic occupational shifts. The re-creation of the Progressive Movement in recent years is aptly named for obvious reason. And, I believe the remarkable outcomes of the first movement need to be reinvented to fit today’s challenges.
But Bernie and Elizabeth have not made themselves in the image of true Progressives. They are in fact neo-Marxists out to topple the system, not reform it. We have had a century or more of good examples of their approach in practice. (1) Promise everything to everyone to gain popular support. (2) Shout-down and intimidate rational counter arguments. (3) Gain power by any means necessary. (4) Forcibly control institutions and institute mass murder to reinforce that control. (5) Rule through corruption and destroy productivity. (6) Eventually, the system fails under the weight of reality. And, if you think I’m overstating any of this, read a fucking history book.
The actual Progressive Movement led along simple, clear and very human lines of understanding. Dishonesty is wrong. Fairness is right, and people deserve an equal say in their government. Socialism has never ever ruled under those basic tenets.
Things were actually a lot worse at the turn of the 20th century than they are now, and the Progressive accomplishments were historically astounding. Landmark pieces of legislation like the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914 and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 were passed, and more importantly the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Amendments – all aimed at ending corruption – became law. That’s pretty important when you understand that it will take a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision.
If we want the Progressive Movement of today to be as successful as the one that came before us, we must learn from history. We need to be truthful, fair and reasonable. We are populists who understand our problems transcend party. In the last century, two of the three Progressive Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft, were Republicans, and there was a working majority of true Progressives in both Parties in the halls of Congress.
One of the important allies of the Progressive Movement that helped lead the way to reform was a zealous and honest press. Truth, accuracy and integrity were their primary weapons. People like Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens, and writers like Upton Sinclair exposed the truth, changed minds and built trust with the public. Today, guys like Glenn Greenwald, a brilliant liberal reporter who is equally willing to expose wrongdoing on either side of the aisle, is a good example, but there are not nearly enough reporters like him.
Just as it was 100 years ago, our main objective is to end the unfair influence of the rich and powerful, and to eliminate corruption in government. There is a way forward, and it starts from understanding our past.