Where have all the progressives gone?

As a quick question to start, how sad is it that upon hearing that Pakistan’s president had declared a state of emergency, suspending the constitution and indefinitely postponing elections, my very first thought was that somewhere Dick Cheney was scribbling down notes? And that were the Administration to take similar action, a fair number of pundits would think it was alright, what with the unprecedented threat and all? I just keep imagining the President making the announcement, quickly followed by a host of talking heads making like Mary Sunshine. It ain’t the happiest train of thought.

Anyway, tonight I wanted more to post about a fantastic piece running on Salon right now about this bloke (who does a freakishly good Donald Duck impression, by the way):

kucinich

It’s terrifically written and the tone is perfect, so I’d very likely have linked to it anyway, but when thinking about it in conjunction with Paul Krugman’s op-ed for the Times for Monday morning about the Dems’ unfortunate reluctance to be as liberal as the electorate would like, it became imperative.

(A brief aside: this isn’t going to be a post which argues in favor of voting for Kucinich. Partly because I’m not going to vote for him, but mostly because I’m going to bend over backwards on this blog to avoid endorsing individual candidates. That isn’t what politricks is for. When a candidate does something noteworthy, I’ll certainly mention them for it, but that’s all.)

Anyway, the Salon piece got me thinking a great deal about why it is that no mainstream candidate will put forth the kind of unapologetically progressive views that someone like Kucinich will. Especially with the public so clearly in favor of (among other things) better environmental regulations, universal health coverage, and a swift exit from Iraq. And it can’t just be a matter of traditional “I’ve got a real shot, can’t afford to offend the center” calculation, given that the prominent GOP candidates are falling over each other to figure out who can be the most hawkish on Iran or the most opposed to “socialized medicine.”
Part of it, certainly, is that we’ve been pounded on by the right, called “elitist” and “out of the mainstream” for so long, that we’ve started to believe it. Another big part is the simple fact that when your worldview allows for disagreement and debate, it’s hard not to seek compromise. It’s hard to imagine a progressive candidate being satisfied with the Bush-style “turn out enough of the base to eke out 51% and then ram your agenda down their throats” method of governance.

Still, it’d be nice, just once, to have a Democratic candidate for president who didn’t feel the need to flee from the “liberal” tag as though it were a plague rat. To watch a candidate asked about same-sex marriage say simply that everyone has the right to marry whom they choose, and that enshrining bigotry in the Constitution would be despicable. To say about global warming that leaving behind a flooding, drought-ridden world to our children, when all it would take to prevent it is a little ingenuity and sacrifice, is downright criminal. I know Jed Bartlet isn’t going to spontaneously burst forth from the annals of fiction anytime soon, but I’d at least like to have some reasonable facsimile around.

More than that, though, I want to know why, were someone along those lines to run, he or she would instantly be tarred as unelectable by the press, when a quasi-dictatorial ex-mayor and a former governor who hasn’t met an issue he couldn’t flip on are considered viable, even impressive candidates. And here I’m seriously asking, because I have no idea. Anyone who can explain it, please do.

One thought on “Where have all the progressives gone?”

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7080433.stm

    Apparently [and thankfully] there are people in Pakistan who think this whole ‘to hell with the constitution’ thing is bullshit and are making moves. Unfortunately, people in the US may be too apathetic and lethargic to do the same should the need arise. Can you imagine people rioting because the president cancels elections? Nobody seemed to care when he stole that first one…

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