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Time to Get Progressive

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The two party system ain’t what it used to be, but with something so old, there’s no reason why it should be. The Democratic party was founded in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson as a caucus to fight for the Bill of Rights. The Republican party was founded in 1854 to oppose the spread of slavery to the new western states, so each party had a noble purpose as its initial reason for being, but that was then, and then was a long time ago.

If technology had advanced at the same pace at which our political culture has developed, making buggy whips would still be a going business. There have, of course, been many attempts to form new political parties over the past two centuries. There were the Whigs, the Know Nothings, the Populists, the Socialists, the Farmer-Labor(ers), the Dixiecrats, the Greens and other movements known mostly to political scientists and historians. But for the last 155 years, the Democrats versus the Republicans has been the only meaningful game in town.

These days, however, things look like they could be changing. Steroidal Republicans have proposed a purity test: vote the way they say is proper on eight out of ten issues or they’ll confiscate your American flag lapel pin and banish you to the outer darkness. The tension created by a handful of conservative Democratic senators and a minority of Blue Dog Democrats in the House of Representatives on the issue of health care reform could be the first crack in what will widen into a party schism.

I’ve always considered myself to be an independent voter at heart. I voted for Senator Charles Percy, Republican; I voted for Jon Anderson, Republican turned independent, for president; I’ve voted for various Republicans to hold local offices, but that was before the GOP took a hard right on every social issue I can think of, and before the GOP became a wholly-owned subsidiary of big business. At that point, I registered as a Democrat, so I could vote in primary elections. My favored candidates for president usually were eliminated before the Illinois primary rolled around, and I was stuck with second-best choices who frequently got clobbered by Republicans. I thought Bill Clinton could have been a great president, if he hadn’t had a junior high school student’s lack of impulse control. I had high hopes for Barack Obama, but I liked him much better as a candidate than I do as president. At least so far.

Having exhausted my patience with both major parties, I’m looking for something new. So I’m happy that our party politics seem to be evolving. Some people insist that the big tent model is the only way for a political party to thrive. Maybe in the past that was so; these days, I don’t think so. I never would have voted for Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln or any other ConservaDem to be my senator. It’s likely most Democrats who fervently want either a single payer system or a public option feel the same way. So if Lieberman, Nelson, et al continue to thwart the wishes of the majority of Democrats on other important issues, something will have to give. To be fair, this is the same sentiment hard-right Republicans feel from their point of view. The presence of fifth columnists is not to be abided. In a sclerotic body like the U.S. Senate, one contrary jerk can become a wrecking crew.

Rather than expel the Democratic Party’s right wingers, as the Republicans would do with their apostates, I’d like to see the forward-looking majority of Democrats leave them behind and become the Progressive Party. (If somebody already has that name, maybe an acceptable purchase price could be offered.) That way there could be a fresh start; all the old baggage could be left to history. The new party would be free from blame if Joe or Ben continued trying to gum things up.

Some might argue that those left behind might simply switch to the GOP, increasing its numbers and power. Maybe, if the purist Republicans could stomach accepting them. An infusion of former Democrats might be just the thing to cause a schism on the right. Or, those whom a new Progressive Party eschewed might try to form a new centrist party; an AC/DC bunch which could swing either way, depending on the issue. Fine by me, let the progressives have the courage of their convictions, the right-wingers certainly do. Each side can clearly articulate its positions, refuse to compromise them into mush, and we’ll all find out what kind of country we really have.

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About Joseph Flynn

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    What would you progress to, Joe?

    Some basic questions for any political movement to answer, in the order of their importance:

    1. How is your country supposed to get out of the debt it owes overseas?
    2. How is your country supposed to get out of the debt it owes overseas?
    3. How is your country supposed to get out of the debt it owes overseas?
    4. How is your country supposed to stabilize its currency?
    5. What values should your country adhere to as a nation?

    Notice please, what comes first on this list.

  • Joseph Flynn

    Universal health care would be a start.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    No, universal health care would not be a start. The real start begins with taking away the insurance industry’s exemption from anti-trust laws. The second would be to charge Insurance company executives with in voluntary manslaughter for every subscriber who was denied reasonable health care coverage because it would tap into insurance company special interest bank accounts. And the third step would be to charge every member of Congress who received that money in campaign contributions with accessory to involuntary manslaughter charges. After that, we can wish for universal health care and, perhaps, world peace.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    1. How is your country supposed to get out of the debt it owes overseas?
    By letting China take over our manufacturing base.

    2. How is your country supposed to get out of the debt it owes overseas?
    By letting Mexico take California back for a price.

    3. How is your country supposed to get out of the debt it owes overseas?
    By asking France for a refund from the Louisiana Purchase and return to them the states which have been the largest thorn in this Union’s side.

    4. How is your country supposed to stabilize its currency?
    It won’t. The dollar will be history by 2020.

    5. What values should your country adhere to as a nation?
    We’ll never find common values. It’s too late. And we only have ourselves to blame.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    How is your country supposed to get out of the debt it owes overseas?

    Does it even need to? I read the prognostications from such as Dave about the debt now being so great that even if we paid it back at x dollars per day at y rate of interest it would still take 1,252,318 years to pay it off… and I think, “Well, then?”

    It took my country sixty years to pay back the debt it owed the US following World War II. And we’re absolutely fine. Some of us even live in real houses as opposed to straw huts.

    The fact is that overseas debt doesn’t affect the average Joe much, on an everyday basis.

    Not to mention that most creditor nations are, I’m sure, quite happy to keep raking in the interest.

  • Baronius

    When you’re counting to 60, any one man can become a wrecking crew, whether he’s got an R, D, I, or P after his name.

    So ask yourself, how would 1 (or 10) Progressive senators behave? Would they have any more power than the most progressive Democratic senators do? They’d have to be part of a coalition, presumably with the Democrats. They’d have fewer chairmanships than they do now, if any. They’d have the same power to negotiate as, say, the Blue Dogs or the Congressional Black Caucus do in the House.

    That would be their position once they got in the Senate (or once the current senators broke from the Democratic Party to form a Progressive Party). But how would they fare in elections? They’d have the advantage of being able to articulate a clear message. They’d have the huge disadvantage of splitting the leftward vote, as well as the burden of proving that their supporters weren’t throwing their votes away.

    I’ve wiled away many hours on third-party scenarios, and it always comes back to this: they could work if they already existed, but it’s next to impossible to create them.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    The thing with creating successful third parties is that they end up being second parties.

    That’s how the Republicans got started, after all.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Bring back the Whigs.

  • Arch Conservative

    A real start would be ending the fed.

    A real start would be a party that doesn’t waste billions of dollars on pet projects that help no one.

    I used to be a Republican but since the GOP is just as intent as the People’s PArty to grow the fed govt into some freedom eating leviathan I will no longer be voting GOP. I plan to vote for Ron Paul next election wether he runs or not but I don’t expect to him to win because I know that most Americans are either too stupid and/or apathetic to do anything to stimulate real and significant change for the better. They’d rather bitch for ten minutes about hoe bad things are and then go watch TV so they can be programmed anew.

  • Joseph Flynn

    From everything I’ve read, there were 50-54 Democratic votes in the Senate for the public option. My point is that this group of people will not indefinitely tolerate having their will foiled by a handful of ConservaDems. Something will have to change.

    Voters from right to left are dissatisfied with the two party status quo. Sure, things could get worse, but they just might get better, too, if a new dynamic is put in place.

    I’m anything but an arch-conservative, but I can sympathize with AC when it comes to casting a vote. In the last gubernatorial election in Illinois, the two establishment candidates were Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democratic hack, and possibly a federal inmate next year, and Judy Barr Topinka, a Republican hack.

    I wrote it Kinky Friedman, who was born in Chicago, figuring if Texas didn’t want him, we could take him.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    I’m voting in the MAssachusetts Senate elections in a few weeks. We have Martha Coakley in one corner, and some GOP hack in the other. Neither candidate deserves to win but Coakley’s ascension to the Kennedy seat is a fait accompli. As for me, I’m writing in my choice – Alan Dershowitz.

  • Zedd

    The cure is not a new party but more vocal Progressives.

    Progressive candidates who become President cant move legislation because of the stodgy lot that clog up the process on Capital Hill because of their allegiances to the old gate keepers (unions, and other lobbies).

    It will take forward thinkers like yourself to continue to be vocal and create lobbies.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    #2 with the massive additions to the budget which it would entail seems like a bizarre answer to the questions posed in #1.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Bring back the Whigs.

    Silas, the Whigs sucked. They would not be an improvement. Hell, the Democrats basically ARE the Whigs.

    Dave

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    DD at comment #5.

    The problem is that the dollar itself may lose all of its value. As it is, the dollar is worth one one hundredth of what it was 100 years ago. At absolute values, the interest rate would have to be pretty draconian to keep someone interested in raking in the interest – if the payment were in dollars.

  • pablo

    Silas Kain post 11:

    Would that be the same Alan Dershowitz that advocates torturing human beings as a political and military tool?

  • Ruvy

    It’s the same Alan Dershowitz who advocates an Arab terror state in Judea and Samaria, Pablo. I don’t give a rat’s ass about his other opinions.

    Look at it this way: if it’s his client who is threatened with having his scrotum moistened and connected to a car battery to extract information, it’s unconstitutional because it’s torture; if it’s somebody else’s client….

  • Arch Conservative

    “Progressive”

    Now there’s a polite, politically correct euphemism for the ever encroaching dictatorial welfare state and the erosion of personal freedom, autonomy, and responsibility.

    A merry generic state approved holiday celebration to you Zedd.

    Oh and Silas the other people are right Dershowitz is a world class douche.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Yep, the same Alan Dershowitz. I figure if the people of Massachusetts don’t give a damn about this Senate election, then why should I? We’ll be lucky if 25% of voters turn out for the election so Coakley is in barring a cataclysm. I might as well cast a ballot for a world class douche other than the one who will be elected and one can’t get any “douchier” than Dershowitz.

  • Joseph Flynn

    Dave, even the Senate’s sham health plan is CBO scored to save money. So does the House plan I’d much prefer.

    You might also remember I’m the guy who advocates letting our wealthy allies pay for their own defense costs. There’d be quite a savings there.

    I’d rather see our tax money go to providing tangible benefits here at home than have it defray the defense costs of the EU, Japan and S. Korea.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Right on, Joseph. The infrastructure in this country is deteriorating faster than a levee in New Orleans. We’re investing all over the globe and forgetting our own. And when we do pay attention to infrastructure we have a propensity to screw things up in a big way thanks to government corruption and union strong arming. In the Northeast unions rule. The City of Boston doesn’t make a move without the imprimatur of union management which serves no one except politicians and union leadership. Case in point is the Big Big in Boston. The costs of this project to the taxpayer are staggering and government is not entirely to blame. The workmanship is shoddy, the safety of tunnels questionable and any prosecutions have been all for show and lack real substance.

    Unions were once a necessary evil to circumvent injustices in the labor force. That being said, the greed and corruption of union leaders have reduced unions to a legal version of organized crime. Case in point is Rhode Island – 25 years ago the employees of the court system were unionized by Laborers International which was managed and operated by people with proven ties to organized crime. Imagine that, court employees unionized by a union with links to organized crime.

    The bottom line is that if we’re going to get back to a “working” nation we need to take a serious look at unions and understand their evolution has been a major factor in shipping manufacturing jobs overseas. People got too greedy and the ones who suffered were rank and file members who had no clue what was coming. Collective bargaining has its place at the table, corruption does not.

  • Zedd

    Arch,

    I celebrate Christmas. If you celebrate anything at this time of the year, I hope you do it with merriment.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Joseph, the CBO report I read said that the house bill would leave us with a 1 trillion dollar deficit over 10 years, which is supposed to be offset by proposed cost saving measures which have never really been defined or analyzed. The Senate bill, on the other hand, does lower the deficit by a scant $132 billion over 10 years and does it by a variety of tax increases which working people can hardly afford during a recession.

    I agree we should reduce our overseas commitments, but their existence does not excuse the profligate cost of this health care bill which no one wants.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Let me update that. Turns out the CBO made a mistake in their estmate which they have now corrected. The Senate plan will actually cost $170 billion, not lower the deficit at all.

    See: Washington Examiner Article.

    Dave

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Gee, what a surprise. The final vote in both houses is slated for the beginning of February, 2010. The Obama Administration is planning a big signing ceremony several days later. There’s still time, folks. There must be a way to take health care reform off the table for the session. The only health care legislation I want to see passed next year is the repeal of the anti-trust exemption insurance companies enjoy. It’s time for them to be part of the capitalist system.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Damned straight, Silas. A little good old fashioned trust busting would do more good here than all the goofy ideas in these bills. But real results are certainly not the goal here.

    As for the February date for the final vote, seems like that coincides with the first of the 2010 primaries.

    Dave

  • Baronius

    Party hacks have nothing to fear from unfocused anger and silly write-ins. What do they fear? Organized opposition with fundraising lists, volunteers, a viable candidate, and the media’s ear.