*When A Progressive Has to Compromise*
by NYMinute, Thu May 22, 2008 at 07:33:41 AM EDT
As MyDD has spiraled exponentially into the depths of anti-Clinton and anti-Obama hatchet jobs (and more recently...whose supporters said what when that offended whom and who honestly cares...diaries), we seem to have lost touch with a number of ideals and characteristics which, for me at least, are inherent in the spirit of a tireless progressive activist.
As progressive activists, we can separate out our emotions - which run rampant toward the furtherance of progressive causes - from the strategic choices we know that we must make in order to see progressive policy implemented. We can find it in our hearts to forgive and forget when a (largely) progressive candidate panders for votes by trotting out gimmick-laden policies. And perhaps most importantly, we can temper our enthusiasm for progressive causes with the pain that millions of Americans are suffering. We can know and understand that sometimes the best policy for the country isn't the best policy for each individual voter, and that sometimes progressive unity requires understanding an issue from an alternative perspective.
*I can find it in my heart to forgive and forget when a progressive candidate panders for votes by trotting out gimmick-laden policies.
I know that a "gas tax holiday" is not progressive policy. Gas prices will rise even higher with rising short-term consumption (especially in the Summer travel season), the rising tide of Americans using mass transit will be temporarily stemmed, and we will inexcusably further (instead of dispelling) the ridiculous notion that crucial Federal, state, and local gas taxes are the root cause of high gas prices and not rising global demand for oil combined with peaked global oil production. If you aren't already aware, the well-being of your roads, trains, and buses are all subsidized by essential taxation on gasoline at the state, local, and Federal level. Buying into the GOP talking point that taxes, and not markets, are the cause of high prices is a disastrously poor choice of policy and message.
By siding with John McSame on this issue, I worry that Senator Clinton is promoting obvious falsehood (that taxes are the cause of our energy problems) for her own political benefit at the expense of our ability to implement a truly comprehensive energy policy once we actually elect a Democratic President. If we embrace the false notion of gas taxes being the root of energy problems, we undermine our ability to push for alternative fuels, alternative energy sources, more viable public transportation, and lower carbon emissions...and this is absolutely, positively unacceptable to any progressive activist.
Indeed, I may disagree with pushing gimmick policies like a "gas tax holiday", I may question the extent of Sen. Clinton's commitment to the progressive cause of comprehensive energy policy, but at the end of the day I know that her heart is in the right place. She fights for me, even if she doesn't always take the high road...and that provides comfort in light of the fact that, in politics, I can't always get my way.
*Separating out heated emotions from the strategic choices which must be made in order to see progressive policy implemented.*
I know that providing healthcare for all Americans is perhaps one of the most central progressive causes of the past thirty years.
As a progressive, I favor a universal healthcare system, though I express the caveat that I would like to see the details of any "enforcement mechanism" before I sign off on any plan, and I am concerned that Senator Clinton leaves this part of her plan out on purpose for political reasons. I know that Senator Obama's plan will cover every child - without exception - and will actually reduce the cost of healthcare further than Senator Clinton's plan will. The Kaiser Foundation has found health coverage under Obama's plan to be more "portable" for low-income workers who change jobs often, while Paul Krugman and others have criticized Obama's plan for allowing healthy persons to opt out of the system - potentially raising the cost of care. Criticism from Paul Krugman and MIT Professor Jonathon Gruber about the lack of a mandate for coverage in Obama's plan have made me nervous, but I recognize that it is a battle between universal coverage and universal access, and not a battle between the forces of darkness and righteousness on the plains of Armageddon.
While I clearly and unequivocally favor Senator Clinton's approach, Senator Obama's plan would be a vast improvement on our current state of affairs, and both healthcare plans are leagues above the pathetic excuse for an approach to healthcare offered by John McSame. Once we establish universal coverage for children and universal access for all adults, I know that we will be able to further address problems of gaps and remainders in the system as a permanent Democratic majority is re-elected to Congress time and time again. I may question the extent of Sen. Obama's commitment to this important progressive cause, but at the end of the day I know that his heart is in the right place. He fights for me, even if not always taking the high road...and that provides comfort in light of the fact that, in politics, I can't always get my way.
*Tempering enthusiasm for progressive causes with the pain that millions of Americans are suffering. Knowing and understand that sometimes the best policy for the country isn't the best policy for each individual voter, and that sometimes unity requires understanding the alternate perspective.
Free and open international trade is a benefit to the United States and to third world nations alike. This is not a controversial statement in the field of economics, nor is this a controversial statement among economic progressives. Specialization always leads to greater wealth for both countries involved, whenever two countries engage in trade. Prices for consumers decrease dramatically, and although jobs are lost in certain sectors (like manufacturing in the U.S.) more jobs are created in other sectors than those that are lost (notice the stable U.S. unemployment rate over the past 15 years, and that - when examining multiple business cycles over time - total employment has increased in the U.S. despite free trade agreements and the "outsourcing" scare).
In fact, increases in technology and worker productivity have led to more job losses in the U.S. than free trade has (The BLS has estimated that 80% of manufacturing sector job losses are due to technological advances and at most only 20% due to free trade). But we blame free trade as a scapegoat for a changing global economy that we fail to understand - at our own peril. As Paul Krugman once wrote: "There is no inconsistency or ambiguity in the economic case for free trade; but policy-oriented economists must deal with a world that does not understand or accept that case."
It bothers me that we don't have a Democratic candidate willing to stand up and fight for this country's role in an increasingly global economy. Consumers here in America are hurting because of debt and foreclosure crises and rising food prices. We don't need protectionism to add to our troubles. And if we want to remain competitive and continue to create jobs in a global economy, we won't be looking in the manufacturing sector, I guarantee you that much. (With the exception of "green" technology and manufacturing, which has very limited - but nonetheless important - potential)
Perhaps most irritatingly, I do not appreciate Senator Clinton's disingenuous approach to NAFTA. Bill Clinton's support of NAFTA was unpopular in his own party, but it was the right thing to do. Hillary was a part of that White House, and could have taken credit for good policy, but chose to distance herself from her husband's wise choices. Regardless of whether Senator Clinton supported NAFTA at the time - which I believe she did - the really irritating part is that she chose to backtrack for political gain. And I found her attacks on Senator Obama over Austin Goolsbee's comments to the Canadian delegation to be absolutely inappropriate. The idea that Hillary would re-negotiate NAFTA as President is as absurd as it is wrong-headed.
But where was Senator Obama on this? I know Goolsbee is pro-free trade...so why aren't you listening to your own advisor, Barack? I will give you credit for explicitly stating in Wisconsin that the manufacturing jobs aren't coming back (which I would like to see Senator Clinton explicitly say), but I wanted more from you over free trade, and have really been disappointed thus far in this regard.
But at the end of the day, I know that Millions of Americans are hurting in communities which have been devastated by job losses. When it comes to free trade, the pain we feel is acute, but the success we enjoy is widely dispersed, and I understand that sometimes the best policy for the country will leave some people behind - people who deserve better, and who deserve to be fought for. Indeed, I may disagree with BOTH of the Democratic candidates, two people whom I love and adore greatly, on this issue. And I may question the extent of our candidates' respective commitments toward progressive trade policy. But I know that their hearts are in the right place. They fight for me, even if they don't always take the high road...and that provides comfort in light of the fact that, in politics, I can't always get my way.