Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, February 5, 2016

Progressive? Liberal?

Apparently the main fireworks last night was whether Clinton was a progressive or a liberal.  While Clinton has often taken moderate positions, the fact is that "moderate" really isn't a thing when it comes to policy.  You either advocate for progressive change, which makes you a liberal.  Or you advocate for the status quo, which makes you conservative.  Or you advocate for retrograde change, which makes you a reactionary.  Or you advocate for profound, immediate and complete change, which makes you a radical.

Jon Chait drew attention to this distinction, without noting that what Sanders is proposing is profoundly radical - or at least he didn't use that word. (It is worth noting that the modern GOP is no longer "conservative" but rather profoundly reactionary.)  Clinton has, of course, been considered fairly liberal for her entire life.  She was more "moderate" during her time in Arkansas and during the '90s, when that was called for.  But she was also a real pathbreaker, if you recall her 60 Minutes interview where she assaulted archaic gender roles and got pilloried for it. Because of the jobs she's held - health care reform, senator, secretary of state - she has constantly had to balance her liberal impulses with practical necessities.  Sanders simply hasn't had to do this.  He has been a gadfly his entire career, hence his independent status in Congress.

The only way to know if Sanders is truly unelectable is to nominate him and watch him lose.  But if we are going to nominate him, we need to understand that he is proposing a theory of American government that is profoundly radical in ways that extend far beyond attacking Wall Street or not.  And I think Sanders would welcome that label; he advocates for revolution.

But voters need to be clear what they are supporting, when they support Sanders. And what they are risking.

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