A New Progressive Era?
by Chris Bowers, Fri Jan 12, 2007 at 10:55:34 AM EST
For the past twelve years, virtually every major legislative initiative in this country passed with overwhelming Republican support, and significant support from moderate and conservative Democrats. Welfare "reform," the telecommunications bill, Bush's tax cuts, the Iraq war authorization, Medicare "reform," the bankruptcy bill, the elimination of habeious corpus, and on and on. The direction of legislation in this country has been overwhelmingly conservative, and often facilitated by triangulating, conservative Democrats. About the only major piece of legislation passed, or even fought over, since 1995 that was overwhelmingly backed by Democrats, and made possible by just enough moderate Republican defections, was the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform act of 2002. In virtually every other case, the progressive position was left out in the triangulation formula, and conservatives romped to legislative victory after legislative victory.
Quite frankly, I thought that when Democrats took control of Congress, that this pattern would probably continue. While we had a numeric, partisan majority, I still feared that "New Democrats" and "Blue Dogs" would break with their party, join with Republicans, and continue to pass conservative legislative policy. However, so far the opposite is happening: Republicans are breaking with their party in significant numbers while Democrats hold together, creating enormous majorities on a variety of issues, from the minimum wage, to stem cells, to opposing escalation, to providing universal health care. In ways that go far beyond what I anticipated form election results, the legislative center has shifted profoundly in our favor in recent days, leaving conservatives in pretty much the same position progressives had been in for twelve years. Our victories tended to either be symbolic or, at best, came from stopping conservative legislation--hardly ever were we in a position to actually pass something form our agenda. Now, the positions are somewhat reversed, even though having Bush in the White House keeps conservatives from ever being in as bad a position as we ever faced. I guess it helps to have a very, very popular legislative agenda.
If this is what we can expect in the years to come, consider me extraordinarily encouraged. I am tired of just having to try and stop conservatism--I want progressivism to have a real chance in government. We may soon be reaching a point where moderate Republicans start chastising their own party and saying that they need to move to the center in order to be elected. When that happens, we will have achieved a victory far larger than anything we won back in November. Being moderate is closer to being a progressive than it has ever been during my lifetime. The more that trend continues, the bluer the country will become.
Update: The Medicare bill passes, with 24 Republicans suporting and no Demcorats opposing it.