Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 28, 2007

There is no “new progressive movement”

The Scanner tries to explain Why the “new progressive movement” is fucked

So why do I say that the new progressive movement is fucked? Because they have no ideology. They lack any semblance of a creed. Now, naturally, the progressives would vigorously dispute this. Of course we have a creed! We believe in universal healthcare, combating global warming, protecting the right to abortion… [etc., ad infinitum] But that’s not a creed, it’s a list of policies.
The minute these new progressives try to put their creed into words, it melts into a flavorless mush of insensible campaign rhetoric, ...

My reading of the U.S. 'left' is very different.

These 'liberals', the Scanner uses the Center for American Progress as an example, ain't 'liberals' at all. Their creed is the same the right has.

The health care plans the Democratic candidates offer now are to the right of Nixon's plans. What is liberal with that?

Foreign policy? Matt Stoller at OpenLeft says We Should Stay the $#$&* Out of Pakistan but writes:

While we have a checkered history in terms of our involvement in the affairs of other countries since World War II, the last seven years have been nothing short of horrendous.  We ought to stop the meddling in other countries business until we fix our national security and diplomatic apparatus.

Reread Stoller's last sentence "... until we fix our national security and diplomatic apparatus."

What fix would that be? And why would a fix of the national security apparatus justify international meddling. What security interests would be served by that? What is liberal in that?

This is laughingly insincere.

Juan Cole, in a piece about the Bhutto killing, yesterday wrote this:

Pakistan is also a key transit route for any energy pipelines built between Iran or Central Asia and India, and so central to the energy security of the United States.

Why is Iranian gas for India "central"(!) to U.S. energy security? What lunacy is this? Liberal creed?

The 'liberals' have basicly the same creed the right has. They can't say so openly. Instead they market the few policy points in which they differ a tiny bit from the right.

But the Scanner thinks the deeper reason for the lack of liberal creed is this:

[I]f liberals tried honestly to formulate their principles in abstract terms, they would quickly discover how poorly they echo the American vernacular. Many swing-voting Americans would simply recoil from them. After all, Americans are, in the famous phrase, programmatically liberal but ideologically conservative.

This is wrong in all three points.

One can define 'freedom' as economic liberty to run whatever business one likes, as is usually done today in the U.S. policy argumentations. Or one can define freedom as 'freedom from want',  a far more liberal term that includes universal healthcare and other progressive policies. 'Freedom from want' certaily also echos the American vernacular. Packaged correctly,  one can be progressive AND ideologically conservative.

Swing-voters can never be the benchmark for any policy or creed. To cater to them is weak and insincere. If one does so, one is immediately and rightfully distrusted as lacking a backbone - this especially by the swing voters. Triangulation and serving swing voters is what dragged 'liberals' to the right. It is the central illness of the ass party.

If you want to broaden your voter base, why not look where most of the potential votes really are? These are with the people who today do not vote. Those are mostly the poor, the disenfranchised, the people who have no reason to vote because the 'liberals' are not really different from the 'conservatives'.

The lack of creed of the 'liberals' in U.S. policy isn't the problem. The problem is the lack of real liberals.

The "new progressive movement" isn't fucked. It doesn't exist.

Posted by b on December 28, 2007 at 01:55 PM | Permalink


b, that's a lot of issues to tackle at the same time.

Why is Iranian gas for India "central"(!) to U.S. energy security? What lunacy is this?

The vast bulk of American oil imports come from Canada, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. The other wee drops and dribbles we get come from an assortment of small percentage countries. So obviously, this statement of Pakistan being somehow central to America's oil needs is a big stinking pile of crap.

And when you add that 90% of all Gulf area oil exports stay in Asia -- going to China, Japan, India, etc in that order -- the statement makes even less sense unless America is interested in controlling the economies of those countries by turning the fuel spigot on and off like we did to Japan prior to WWII; which is exactly why Japan finally had to attack the US to protect its own economy. Maybe Bush wants a rerun, only with China this time perhaps? I also don't see any of the front-running candidates of either party who wouldn't consider happily jumping on that wagon as well.

Posted by: Ensley | Dec 28, 2007 3:12:40 PM | 1

A progressive ideology: how about (naivete aside, this is a type of pitch):

The government is the only powerful entity that is in any way accountable to the people, that is, the voters, rather than money. For this reason it is the only entity that can protect society against amoral behavior by the host of other powerful entities. It can do this by x,y,z (desirable positions). None of this will come into being due to the profit motive, and in fact the profit motive suppresses them. The voters should use their ability to alter the government to put it to use protecting society, and allow it sufficient size to perform this role. History shows that the alternative is complete control by moneyed interests, with or without a large government. The national interest needs to be redefined as the interest of individual Americans, not the collective interest of the (often non-American) shareholders of the (often overseas) corporations that we falsely think of as "American". Given that, and basic moral restraints such as avoiding aggressive war, our foreign policy will fix itself.

I think that there are many Americans who see things this way, and many more who could be easily convinced.

apropos of nothing, the National Rifle Association is a great example of how to use political organization to punch way above your economic weight. If only passion for the environment could be similarly mobilized. Does the Sierra Club view the NRA as a model to be emulated?

That Juan Cole statement is bizarre beyond belief.

Posted by: boxcar mike | Dec 28, 2007 4:15:28 PM | 2

I got your progressive creed right here, baby.

In the immortal words of Steve Gillard with a nod to Matthew Saroff:

Progressives are People who believe in the public good over private gain.

Progressives believe the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few.

It's that simple.

Posted by: kelley b. | Dec 28, 2007 6:02:22 PM | 3

what scanner fails to understand is that the people taking the greatest deal of punishment are the ones who are deciding. in real terms. whatever the pantin petraeus pouts at this or that press conference

it is the people deciding in nepal this day or in bolivia. everywhere where the people have transcended or transformed their fear - it they who are doing the deciding

it is only us in the west - stuck as we are between privilege & fear - who are poleaxed into political impotence. this in itself is not surprising. neo liberals in their hatred of the people - showed in their construction of malls as in their construction of universities, an architecture which palce fear of the people meeeting at its centre. it is but one example but it is not peripheral. the common spaces have been torn from people at every level - even at the level of sport

if you are not there to consume - then you constitute a menace

universities right up to the sixties always had agoras where different students from differing disciplines could connect - now it does not exist - in the sixties there was much cross disciplinary work - which cultivated solidarity & resistance - but today, outside the imperatives of greed such mutlidisciplines do not exist

in that sense - the left has been fucked in the west but it has also fucked itself up. to obey all the conventions of post modernity - they did not see that capitalism was unchanged & imperialism was still its highest stage

we mock the islamists but has not the western adoration of consumption just been another form of fundamentalist privilege & mysticism(i say this acknowledging i am using a beautiful computer given to me by my friends here at moon & an i pod given to me while i was in hospital) but this obsession with consumption as deanander has often pointed out has hurt even tho most militant of us

but what we can do & it is being done here in spades - is that counter information, research & real analysis can oppose the crude untruths that vomit from the medias each & every day 24/24 & that is not the least of things because in our day to day lives that information plays a critical role

& that role - might not possess the theatrical aspects of opposition as it did in the sixties but for me its quotiidian effect will be to overwhelm the beast because that beast has gone too far & has lost any sense of restraint or moderation

pakistan is just one more disaster it though it had mastered but it has done the opposite

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 28, 2007 6:18:48 PM | 4

It is the central illness of the ass party. well, that and sucking Israel's dick. I believe there are two, possibly three central key themes missing if one were to consider themselves truly liberal, --and as an aside, this game with labels is verbal prop-agenda, but I digress-- the missing themes are (real) 1) Campaign finance reform, and 2) the issue of Corporation person hood.

When the scanner talks about atrios eschaton being left, or an opposition I knew right then, that they (whoever scanner is) hadn't really got the grasp of the situation they think they do.

Because Atrios, Dkos, and their tribes are not liberal, progressive or left. They are centralist's at best.

I believe scanner is at best an effigy of the real thing, in bladerunner deckard questions if he is human or a bot himself, to get all sci-fi on ya; and things have ceartainly gotten that weird, others have said, 'I feel like I am watching TV, to quote Andy Warhol'.

to my reply of, 'I feel like I am watching myself watching TV'.

When Michael J. Smith speaks of the republicans moving further to the right, and the democrats complicatedly following them, the whole gambit tilts rightward, in other words, The ratchet effect. B is right to say there no only is no "new progressive movement", there hasn't been one since the 70's.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Dec 28, 2007 6:31:14 PM | 5

The (Morbidly Obese) Princess and the Pea(ple)

Incredibly, the Neo-Zi vampiroyals got their extortion money,
but now they threatening a veto, because they didn't get their
Get Out of Jail Free card with it, even though McCain has made
sure that torture was no longer illegal in the United States,
and Gonzales bumped Executive Privilege up to Supreme Emperor.

"Overall, the (Defense Funding) bill authorises $696bn (£348bn)
in military (sic) spending, including $189bn for the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan (ed. "and for other undisclosed national
security purposes"!), for the 2008 financial year."

$696B is enough blood to build the World Trade Center in 50
cities in the US, which is every town over 350,000 people!!
Since the start of this SNAFUBAR cluster-f--k, DoD scammed
enough of our life savings to build a World Trade Center
in every rural American village over 100,000 campesinos!!

$189B for 130,000 troops is $1,425,000 EACH in troop support!

Then they send BB into Paki, knowing full well it'll mean GW4.

Dickie Bird sure warn't a kindin', when he said Perpetual War!

!And now they get an absolute guarantee of sovereign immunity!?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!

Posted by: Tuolumne Meadows | Dec 28, 2007 7:28:59 PM | 6

I'm not entirely sure what Cole meant about the Asian pipelines, but since the market for oil truly is global, one interpretation is that the U.S. is better off (assuming one takes as a given that the U.S. can/should not lower its current per capita energy usage level)with additional Asian capacity coming on line in the global market place to be consumed by expanding asian economies, or whomever, but not necessarily the U.S. The U.S. benefits because the expanding Asian economies aren't then competing with the U.S. for the previous limited supply from the ME, Africa, Latin America; additional supply from those sources is more available for U.S. consumption.

Personally I don't buy that this is a vital security interest for the U.S., but, oddly, my views are continuously disregarded in Washington. I am mystified about it. :)

Posted by: Maxcrat | Dec 28, 2007 7:51:08 PM | 7

$cam beat me to linking to "the ratchet effect" (which is fine, I picked up the link from him in the first place), and ASKOD has described the same phenomenon as "moving the goalposts". Call it what you want, genuine "progressives" in the USA have been marginalized out of existence since at least the Reagan era.

Although the name is regularly invoked by the likes of Coulter, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, et al, ad nauseum, there are no genuine American liberals. In fact, the demonisation of the word "liberal" in America serves the same function that "al Qaeda" does (which may also very well not exist). They are the "enemy". They are the nebulous rallying point upon which an equally outrage-weary segment of the population must focus their fear and hatred in order to assist those in the halls of power in getting what they want. We don't prop up a leisure class because we love them and agree with their philosophy of personal entitlement. We do it out of fear and hatred of the invisible boogiemen... and when we become inurred to our fear of imaginary terrorists, then we simply switch to our hatred of the imaginary progressives and vice versa. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I am still chafing from the responses that I received here the last time I suggested that activists stupidly allow themselves to be marginalized and enable their opponents to use them as polarizing devices to turn people away from their causes. This is so formulaic at time that it almost seems intentional... if I didn't know many activists personally, I would suspect them of being agents provocateurs. Since I do know them, though, I realise that it is a question of tunnel-vision induced myopia... or, if you prefer, having a good heart combined with a bad brain.

So, I disagree with Bernhard that "(t)he lack of creed of the 'liberals' in U.S. policy isn't the problem. The problem is the lack of real liberals." While it is true that there presently exist no "real liberals", they can be made in America just as easily as they were unmade. If we accept as a working definition that a liberal is "one who favors reform or progress" (from Webster's New World), we would find many people proudly lining up to accept the label.

The problem, as I see it, is that so many potential liberals are more than happy to fulfill the rôle of "propoganda tool". They think with their heart rather than their head and make themselves into fodder to be used by the likes of Karl Rove, et al, ad nauseum.

The right rose to their present position of enormous influence the same way the right has historically risen to that position. There is no more a unified right than their is a unified left, but those on the right have demonstrated a remarkable willingness to work together to further their interests. They are united, at the end of the day, by their avarice.

We on the left have compunctions about this or that ideology, we quibble over issues of "who is more pure than whom", and we will not work to support one another. They form brain trusts and networks, while we fight amongst ourselves and wait for a white knight to come and rescue us in the final reel. They attract, and we repel. The right are a team, the left are lone wolves hunted to near extinction. The right do have a creed, and it is "divide et impera". Divided, we on the left have fallen.

It didn't have to go this way.

Posted by: Monolycus | Dec 29, 2007 1:56:19 AM | 8

Why is Iranian gas for India "central"(!) to U.S. energy security?

I dunno, but I thought a prime goal of the PNAC/neo-con game to establish global hegemony was major control over the world's energy resources -- in other words, in the cock-eyed PNAC/neocon world view, the pipeline would be a "threat" becuase "we" would not control it.

True, Cole's phrasing here is unclear as to whether this is his view or if he is describing present US gov't perception of energy security.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Dec 29, 2007 2:30:12 AM | 9

The US political class ( is a sort of bubble that intersects for a small part with the rich or moneyed. Entry into it is pretty open and free (vote), compared with feudal nobilities, or other systems, such as Pakistan (where one must belong to the upper overlords or the army, which is the only organized institution)...however once in, to be accepted and belong, and to maintain membership, one has to sign on to the ideology and a whole host of behaviors, positions, etc.

These are all today at heart service to the rich, the class that isn’t officially, openly, represented. This state of affairs explains, I feel, the very confused, shifting, sometimes contradictory, positions of the pols and policies of the Gvmt. Lip service to ‘issues’ or ‘hot button’ stuff serves to distract, the core points have to be camouflaged, that is quite clear, but beyond that, all is confusion. Repression and control of the poor peons - they might rebel and stop working, the ‘free market’ is an ideological mainstay. More trade to fill the coffers, but control is needed to dominate enemies. Armies and aggression have their place to fulfill long term objectives, but that can also be misguided. Media has to be controlled and short or no memory induced. What is best? They don’t know, no grand plan, no future aims, no political principles, no schemes in mind. All *ad hoc*!

Kerry as a staunch member accepted his role, not very graciously or convincingly. Wannabes like Obama can make it if they can talk the talk, are quick, smart, can latch onto and adopt the corporate talking points.

Sarkozy is a perfect caricature. Raybans, Rolex, elevated shoes, mistresses, Disney World, cigars, personal fetishes (and a tiny yapping dog that the French journos are too ashamed to is 20 cms of hate and called “Big”) best friends with all the media lords and arms merchants, he can pretend to belong to the top powers on his borrowed yachts.. Bling bling!

Posted by: Tangerine | Dec 29, 2007 1:07:12 PM | 10

rememberinggiap #4--

Your comment about the disappearance of public space (in the West) is apt. The US in particular has been destroying the physical requirements (space and architecture) of democratic thought.

Posted by: Gaianne | Dec 29, 2007 7:14:23 PM | 11

yes, the closing of that democratic space was parrallelled with the intense demagoguery of three institutions of the state & not only in america

what was already deeply problematic in the media became & remains constantly hysterical always placing its subject in relation to fear. worse it authorises what constitutes what is good & what is bad morally. even in the fifties they were no angels but they were treated for the carpetbaggers they were - worse than hearst or hearst or worse - but they were never allowed that moral space. now they totalise it

education - never a very egalitarian institution especially in the west became factories - especially when the middle class began to annex the trades & they serve only the interests of capital & have lost any real interest in education - i remember a famous old professor of economics sayting to me - the best don't even come here. what is happening within the western education system is extrememely ugly & the so called culture wars were merely instrument to kill the democratic impulse within education

& the church which had in its way become quietist even secular - suddenly manifested from that state to prosperity preaching & edicts coming out of rome that had been written by the deviants of thr opus dei forcing the institution of belief into a public & even a political question. indeed the current islamophobia is deeply connected to the anti semitic impulse that was a cherished tradition of western civilisation

the most intimate of thoughts became annexed by one or all three insititutions & we wonder why these societies are so fucked, so deeply criminal in their nature, so completely unable to even respond to the most simplest of problems let alone the enormous questions that face us today

katrina for me was a key -it is where we saw openly & clearly - that the elites do not care, the do not care at all & if the physical anhilaltion or dissapearance of marginal populations was possible they were/are ready to accept it

we have a metaphor for this in iraq where they will not count deaths or casualties because these very facts illuminate the utter failure of their schemes

what is true in iraq is true elsewhere - they utterly fail to construct anything - they destroy all - & the mere game of hiding figures is supposed to console people but people can see what they are seeing with their eyes - the ongoing collapse of imperialism & the mother system, capital

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 29, 2007 7:43:43 PM | 12

What Amurkans (spelling to set the tone of this post) don’t unnerstan’ is that Iraq will be their home soon, in a watered down way. It has already been happening for many years. Apparently that is OK - bombs abroad and unlimited credit at home will see one through. (Not that Europe is any usual disclaimer.) Investment in aggression will in the end bring nothing but empty coffers, slave minded ppl. spouting God Stuff. Rebellion would be welcome...but no.

Katrina was not only inefficiency but downright sadism, blockage of aid, etc. Perhaps even worse. Normal, expected, though, in its authoritarian herding of ppl right and left, complete disdain for preparation, for logistics, rational solutions, etc. Ineffective bureaucracy gone mad, at best; cover up for ethnic cleaning in fact. The US does this abroad, why are Amurkans critical and outraged when it happens at home?

Posted by: Tangerine | Dec 30, 2007 1:46:03 PM | 13

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