Reclaiming Progressiveness: Time for a new third way to emerge from the wreckage of the Trump/identity era.

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A Third Way doesn’t have to be about moderation. It could be a call to moderation but it is from the vantage point of where we sit today, a call for something different than what the two major political parties are offering. It should be something empowering and positive.

Politics is broken and those who play politics full time have created a culture that has sharply divided the country, leaving its citizens vulnerable. The American public is the true victim during the Trump era.  

In response to President Trump’s demagoguery, mainstream Democrats have focused more on identity and victimization than anything else. Anything related to Trump is identified as bad for America (this isn’t always true, though Trump is a thuggish-sounding buffoon who has no intellectual  or historical perspective when discussing his actual accomplishments) by today’s Democrats, while identity, not ideology or competence are seen as the drivers of an electoral coalition. Democrats have hijacked the term progressive, turning it from a set of liberal principles advocating good government for the greater benefit of society to neatly packed talking points around identity and opposition to the GOP. 

Racism is increasing not only because of the Republicans rhetoric, as evidenced by the campaign Ron DeSantis ran here in Florida, but because many mainstream Democrats see everything in racial terms – and have applied stereotypes to almost every policy talking point, be it in domestic or foreign affairs.

What we need is a progressive movement that empowers those less fortunate of all races and religions. We need a movement that doesn’t just say they value each American the same, but one that actually does. This means enforced divisions based on multicultural rhetoric need to be minimized though all cultures must be respected and brought into the American mainstream. This is a delicate task, one that demands thoughtfulness more than emotion and constant cries of racism from one side and “America first” from the other. 

The establishment of the party has proven here in Florida, corruption doesn’t matter to them if it is inconvenient to discuss for them. The level of corruption in Democratic-dominated urban center Broward County has been tolerated and even defended for years by Democrats in this state, creating a further culture that has become indistinguishable from Republicans at the state level.

The GOP has dominated state politics for 20 years and has gone from originally more experimental and thoughtful policy ideas (ones I disagreed with but were grounded in a degree of problem-solving) to a structure based on cronyism, corruption and a bit of herdish gangster mentality. The Democrats response to this has been to try and emulate the GOP’s success in a localized way rather than to really distinguish themselves. The Democrats also suffer from an ineffectual class of elites that have profited personally of the party’s misery and constant loses.

In any other business, accountability would demand a changing of the guard and a different approach, but Florida’s Democrats are all about lauding “how close they came,” and how “Republicans rig elections,” in order to continue the system of cronyism they have develop internally, largely using organizations outside the party itself to continue making money.  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but Democrats in Florida have yet to show the ability to adapt to current reality. 

Coming out of the Trump era, like the Gilded Age and Watergate, ethical reform and good government measures should be the focus of the governing class.  Given the abdication of good government reforms and elevated discussion by many establishment Democrats, the time has come to create a different path. Those opposing Trump and the white identity politics peddled by Trumpists need to refocus on traditional liberal principles – Keynesian economics, the social safety net and rooting out crony capitalism. 

Neoliberalism, the actual ideology practiced today by the Democratic Party puts individualism above collectivism as a principle. The Democrats adherence to identity politics has prevented many in the party from speaking with an authoritative voice on policies that would benefit all communities – or at least articulating policies in a manner that are completely inclusive.  The reality is this drift has made the establishment Democrats MORE LIKE Republicans than the media or many political analysts have noticed. They’ve taken the collective good of society and put it on the back-burner while individualism and exceptionalism are stressed – much like the Republicans do, just in another way with another perspective. 

Meanwhile, the new version of conservatism is a based on fueling racial animus, promoting American “exceptionalism” while retreating from global leadership and promoting cults of personality.  

Reform is an important component of any independent movement. Democrats don’t want to talk about a truly open primary system, preferring to view political parties as private clubs or corruption when it relates to their officials. This gives us state legislators essentially chosen in safe seats by a minority of the electorate that in many cases are unresponsive to their constituents. The excuse as we see in the handling of Broward County has been one of tolerance because the Republicans represent a greater evil than graft. 

While in some cases graft is preferable to Republican victories, that does not make it right or defenses of it justified. It does not justify the Democrats willingness to rip any Republican with scandal yet attack those like myself who happened to point out the public record about the party’s nominee for Governor. The Democrats unwillingness to advocate for real political reform that empowers people over elected officials or a political party (including its affiliated entities) helps lead us to where we are today. 

In many cases it’s tough to determine the differences between left and right these days – both seem distrustful of law enforcement, international institutions while conspiracy theories about various things flow from both sides with regularity. Instead they more and more represent two competing “teams” in a sporting event with similar tactics and values, but differing on what personalities they favor. 

In the coming weeks and months we’ll be sharing some ideas here to revive Florida’s political discussion with a new “third” way – one that isn’t moderate or splitting the difference between two failed ideologies. 

 An emphasis on the greater good for Florida and the nation will be the focus of this series which will appear periodically in the future. A greater good which involves reform and to which political labels should not apply, though the term progressive should describe this sort of thinking rather than the verbiage describing the current drift of the Democratic Party.  

4 comments

  1. Ruth Ann Eaddy · · Reply

    Will you be naming names and corrupt deeds? The discussion is no good, if we don’t know to whom you are referring.

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  2. Patrick J. Fowler · · Reply

    I was a member of the party for 50 years. Sign waving, phone calling, door knocking, DEC membership and failed reformer. There are two things related to this article that I believe, first that there is no time better than now for political reform and second that there is no institution more creatively resistant to reform than the party. So, my third thought is, if reform is to happen it must be catalyzed outside of the party structure. Whether or not it results in a reformed party or another party it must be done by an independent force.

    The party resists unity in every way. You will notice that they speak of shared values but never actually agree on what they are. Such things are not given serious discussion. Platforms are not long term agendas. Having a shared vision of what kind of society we expect politicians to work toward has not be discussed since Lincoln.

    I hope the planned work discussed in this article can help us engage others in taking seriously what kind of politics we want so that we can structure systems and institutions to help us get to it.

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  3. Many progressives have left the party, which in Florida is self-defeating since NPAs can’t vote in our closed primaries. The party enjoys closed primaries b/c fewer progressives participate. It’s a catch-22.

    On another note, since the term ‘third way’ has always been associated with neoliberalism, it would make sense to abandon it — although I get that you’re using it differently here, as a means to describe a reformist movement.

    I’ve been thinking about the notion of ‘social interest’ as opposed to self interest. Neoliberalism is a politics of self interest which reinforces inequality. It’s completely legit to claim value in the social interest. For instance we argue that ppl should get vaccinated to increase herd immunity b/c that’s seen as being in the social interest. Modern mass transit such as high speed rail systems are in the ‘social interest’ b/c we need to move ppl quickly to keep business humming along. The Powell Memo mindset described in the article has brought us to the brink of destruction with climate change and wealth inequality. The appetite for change is so robust that young ppl have embraced and are mobilized for socialism. But that term (socialism) really doesn’t apply to what the current movement is working towards. Bernie Sanders -style “democratic socialists” are working towards FDR-style reform that undergirds a capitalist system. Their vision would make us a more competitive capitalist country. Capitalism doesn’t work when everything is monopolized, and ppl don’t earn enough money to live on. So, those embracing “socialism” are really embracing ‘social interest’ as a common good (rather than collective/state ownership of businesses).

    Long-winded, but the point is that we could be smarter with regards to the linguistics of reform.

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  4. Patrick J. Fowler · · Reply

    A note about leaving the Party. I don’t see it as “self-defeating” unless a person has allowed the party to encroach to thoroughly into one’s self. To continue to support our corrupt, overly expensive, underperforming two party duopoly allows them to count us as agreeing with their actions regardless of our actual opinions. We become advertising fodder and, in a way, complicit in the party establishment’s self-serving malfeasance.

    I do not find myself uninformed or unable to support candidates in primaries. I simply can’t cast a ballot in those races. I have no evidence that “the people” of the Party have had much influence on the line up in primaries in the past and most of know of incidents in which the Party has influenced the primary vote in various ways in promotion of their own interests.

    I would suggest that we might do more in promoting the social interests of the people, especially the lower classes and the poor, if masses of us withdrew our support from the Party in order to hold them accountable and awake the people to our serious dissatisfaction. In my opinion to continue to support the myth that the Democratic Party has something to do with democracy is a political sin.

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