“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” JFK
Ever since the 2018 election and the ushering in of progressive/liberal ideas into the United States Congress, the climate of the Democratic Party discourse has moved inevitably to the left. Whereas Bernie Sanders once resembled an Old Testament prophet howling into the wind over some sub-Saharan desert landscape, his ideas today are the backbone of many of the Democratic 2020 hopefuls. If ever the seeds of revolution in America have been sown, these “ideas” offer hope that true political and social change might be possible. “Might” being the operative word here. More on that point later.
With all of the chaos surrounding the early days of the Democratic primary race, it is nearly impossible to keep a tally of all the new progressive ideas floating around the field. Fortunately, the always reliable NPR news service broke down the ideas for us. In an article by Danielle Kurtzleben titled Here Are The ‘Outside The Box’ Progressive Ideas 2020 Democrats Are Pitching, she lists some of the most current and tangible progressive ideas being bandied about by a number of Democrats. The number and depth of ideas out there is astonishing in these days of Donald Trump.
Kurtzleben notes when Bernie Sanders came up with the single-payer health plan, he was written off as a fringe candidate. Now, Sanders says the idea is supported by 70 % of Americans. As NPR’s Scott Detrow wrote, when Sanders submitted the single-payer health plan in 2013, there was not one single cosigner. When he reintroduced it in 2017, he had 16 cosigners. Single-payer health plan morphed into Medicare for all and is supported by a number of candidates as something who’s time has come.
Kurtzleben points out that some topics have tacit support throughout the field like the $15 an hour minimum wage, free college for all, and repairing of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Other topics are being pushed by individual candidates like Cory Booker’s guaranteed jobs program. Kristen Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders also support some form of guaranteed job initiatives which speaks to the synergy currently flowing through the party. Kamala Harris is promoting a hybrid of the Earned Income Tax Credit called LIFT the Middle Class Act as refundable credit guaranteed tax return even in the absence of income up to $6,000 per family for low income families. There is a caveat for now that states it is only for families already working and earning a modest income. Similarly, concerning rent relief, Booker and Harris support refundable tax credits to people paying large shares of their income to rent. Elizabeth Warren is all for overhauling corporate accountability laws while improving working conditions in the job place is supported by Booker, Sherrod Brown, Gillibrand, Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Warren as well.
Possibly, the most controversial topic is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her New Green Deal. Honestly, I think this such a frightening concept that it’s hard for me to get my head around the entirety of changes it would bring to the American commercial, social, and judicial scenes. The only thing more frightening is if we don’t get behind something like this. Folks, the Earth is dying. If we don’t do something now (yesterday would have been better), life on this planet is going to be altered in seriously detrimental ways. Is Ocasio-Cortez’s plan the right plan? Who knows? But it is a start of the conversation that has to be had by Americans whether they are Democrats, Republicans, Democratic Socialists, or whatever people want to label themselves. NPR
Of course, there are pros and cons surrounding all of these ideas that will have to be hashed out over the next two years throughout the Democratic Party. However, Democrats seem more likely now than ever to consider moving toward change; a stance the Republicans will challenge at ever step of the process. But there is hope. Kurtzleben quotes Jared Bernstein, Joe Biden’s former chief economist as saying,
Bernstein knows many of these criticisms exist, but he isn’t worried just yet.
“I would actually caution many of my fellow progressive wonks out there not to immediately reject these ideas because of their technocratic limitations,” he said.
What he means by “technocratic limitations” is that in some cases, these policy proposals do not, technically, exist yet. But in his view, that’s not necessarily bad.
“It may well be the case — in fact, I’d say it is — that they don’t have a clear path from where we are to Medicare for all, or an ambitious guaranteed jobs program,” Bernstein said. “But what’s important right now is the aspiration that those programs represent in terms of finally trying to really do something about the profound gap between the haves and have-nots in this country.” NPR
If these changes are going to take place, America needs a revolution in government like we saw under Roosevelt in the 1940s and under Kennedy/Johnson in the 1960s. Revolution is a funny word. The mere utterance of the word conjures up scenes of fighting in the streets, destruction, and division on all levels of society. It is important to remember that change on this magnitude is going to be messy. Republicans will fight to keep their status quo of the richest of the rich staying in power while raping the other 98 % of Americans toiling in the trenches.
And there will be Democrats that will need to be led kicking and screaming down the path of change. The moderates and conservatives within the party will oppose these changes on the same grounds as their Republican counterparts. Kurtzleben gave one pertinent example,
Former Vice President Joe Biden has been out pitching his economic ideas. But at a spring think tank event, he “stopped short of pitching some of the more sweeping proposals emanating from the party’s left flank,” as CNN’s Lydia DePillis noted. “Instead, he offered up more mainstream ideas, like providing more federal funding for infrastructure projects and making the tax code less friendly to investors while expanding tax credits for low-income families.” NPR
The outlier here as it has been for the past two years is Trump. Let’s face it; much of what the progressives are proposing is going to be über controversial unto an anathema to the Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Vlad Putin gang of thieves. There will be those in the Democratic Party that will plead for the progressive wing to wait until the party wins control of Congress before trying to push these ideas. Others, and rightfully so, will argue that the most important 2020 goal is to defeat Trump. They will push a more moderate, centrist candidate who is not as radical or frightening to the body of the party as a whole.
The voter in me who has followed the clashes of the Republican and Democratic parties over the years want to say yes to these suggestions. Why risk another four years of Trump’s tyrannical rule? The problem is that there is no guaranteed outcome of any election after what we saw in 2016. The realistic voter in me knows with increasing certainty that our time is up. Not going to be up, but up. Every day we put off changing the way we view our stewardship of this planet in a more healthy and less destructive way is one day closer to the tipping point. When we reach that point, it won’t make a damn bit of difference how cautious we felt like we had to be.
Now is the time for revolution. not hand wringing and submission.