I'm collecting articles and videos that examine many of the key problems facing Progressivism in the United States. I grow weary of tweeting them individually, so I thought I would combine them here. Where appropriate, I sometimes link to introductory blog posts which I felt might properly frame or augment the work. I also toss in a much older post on Conservatism… because I can. If you like this sort of compendium, you may also may want to see my Rants & Primers page. I hope you will please pass them on via the Tweet button below.
Scroll the Table of Contents to see all the titles. Click the bold & underlined title above each blurb to read the essay.
by Sara Robinson
This is now my number one must read on this page and is likely to remain so for quite some time. It's a brief and concise primer on just what the cultural forces have been at play for 400 years, which have led to this rank devolution of the American experiment. A demotion from which will probably never recover until we fight a more honest Civil War; one that addresses the enemy''s true nature and motives, and not merely the digestible political ploys and pretexts of the day, as we experienced in the 1860s.
by Joe Brewer
I am much happier when Brewer focuses on things like this, rather than trying to persuade me that merely playing with words and "frames" will change anything.
Have you ever wondered why it is that Progressives repeatedly lose ground in American politics? We almost always have the facts on our side. The experts agree with us. Hell, a lot of us are the experts. And yet history clearly shows that Conservatives have the best political game in town. They dominate political discourse, establishing which frames shape the most important issues of the day.
What’s going on here? Why is it that Conservatives are so good at winning and Progressives produce a lackluster resistance at best? The answer comes from a fundamental insight from evolutionary biology. Stated simply, it goes like this:
When two groups compete, the one with the most social cohesion wins in the long run.
By Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein
Few articles like this have ever been written in the history of American politics. And the book from which it comes is an extremely important read.
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition
by Michael Lind
Let's stop with the obsolete Left vs Right labels, which just confuse people, and mean less and less as this battle goes on. Conservatives and Liberals are basically in a duel to the death over which two philosophical outlooks should prevail: The Jeffersonian or the Hamiltonian views of government. This is a must read book, but this article gives you a taste of it.
“But that would not be true,” he continues. “What is good about the American economy is largely the result of the Hamiltonian developmental tradition, and what is bad about it is largely the result of the Jeffersonian producerist school.”
Hamiltonian development built the Erie Canal, the transcontinental railroad, the land-grant universities and the Interstate highway system. In the process, the United States became a giant, interconnected market, a place where companies like Standard Oil, General Motors, John Deere and Sears Roebuck could thrive. The government — and the American military in particular — also played the most important role in financing innovation at its early stages. The industries that produced the jet engine, the radio (and, by extension, the television), radar, penicillin, synthetic rubber and semiconductors all stemmed from government-financed research or procurement. The Defense Department literally built the Internet.
The Powell Memo is still not fully understood by far too many Americans—especially on the Left. Jonathan Alter frames it all quite perfectly here. If you have never seen the entire Powell Memo, do so after you read this introduction to it. You will have a clearer understanding of how just how a dangeous conservative extremism has managed to seize control of America
By Michael Kazin
You just can't understand where the American Left is now, unless you really understand where it was, and how it got here. Michael Kazin is an historian, and long-term observer of the Left, its expectations, its successes, and its more recent wallowing in failure. This piece is essential reading. In discussing it, RedEarth at Democratic Underground writes:
The liberal triumph of the 1930s was in fact rooted in decades of eloquent oratory and patient organizing by a variety of reformers and radicals against the evils of “monopoly” and “big money.”
Sadly, that triumph has been all but obliterated by a Left that assumed it had won the broader economic war, and set out to win every cultural war on its agenda. The impact was to dilute its ranks, obfuscate its purpose, and minimize its power. We must get it back.
By Andrew Sullivan
Sometimes it takes a conservative to explain Obama's long game strategy to progressives, who have never been very patient (see next essay too)
But given the enormity of what he inherited, and given what he explicitly promised, it remains simply a fact that Obama has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb. Their short-term outbursts have missed Obama’s long game—and why his reelection remains, in my view, as essential for this country’s future as his original election in 2008.
By Jonathan Chait (Introduced and augmented by Bob Cesca)
Former New Republic editor, Jonathan Chait explains a basic fact: Liberals have always been dissatisfied with the Democratic presidents they elect, and then mythologize them after they leave power. He details how modern liberals are ignorant or unwilling to look at those presidencies as a mix of some successes, and a whole bunch of failures, yet still posture as if all those disappointing white presidents should still be the measuring stick for our only black one. I don't feel he gets into just how much of this national liberal malaise is actually promoted by a very small cadre of liberal bloggers and the "professional left." Take away Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher
By Tim Wise
This is simply a must read. It not only debunks Ron Paul as anything like a serious option for progressives, but he destroys ridiculous pseudo progressive rationales from people like Glenn Greenwald that pretends he has anything to offer them at all:
I want those of you who are seriously singing Paul’s praises, while calling yourself progressive or left to ask what it signifies — not about Ron Paul, but about you — that you can look the rest of us in the eye, your political colleagues and allies, and say, in effect, “Well, he might be a little racist, but…
By Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times
Kristof always comes around to making the big observation when it most counts. If liberals don't recognize who the real enemy is (radical conservatism), and soon, we're all in for some pretty rough water ahead:
"In this economic crisis, Obama will face the same headwinds. That should provide a bracing warning to grumbling Democrats: If you don’t like the way things are going right now, just wait."
Despite the best efforts of Jane Hamsher, and all the other professional left demagogues who have torn it down, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) had a very big time-bomb inserted into it. One that was too wonky to even be understood by the media, and most of the left taken in by all the "sell out" narratives which polluted our national health care dialog. Read here just how the ACA was always designed to eventually change our health care system forever by deconstructing the very financial appeal of private health insurance.
Compendium of Essays Assembled By Washington Monthly Magazine
"But there’s also a widespread assumption that extreme positions taken in the primaries will fade in the general election as candidates “move to the center,” and will disappear entirely once the serious business of governing begins. Surely President Newt Gingrich would not get rid of child labor laws. Surely President Perry would not seek to eliminate three cabinet departments.
We don’t think that this year, with this GOP, those assumptions are warranted. And so we asked a distinguished group of reporters and scholars to think through the hitherto unthinkable: What if one of these people actually wins?"
By A. Jay Adler
It is no secret that I find the overread and overrated blogger Glenn Greenwald to be a pretentious phony and rather an insult to a long tradition of progressive thinkers and writers with whom too many other overpaid pundits mistakenly associate him. He doesn't discuss ideas, he flogs political demons as a career objective, upbraids government and chief executives for sport, and continually masks whatever emotional monsters compel him to lash out at his growing numbers of critics, such as yours truly. Why should we care? Because his thinly disguised, poorly formed libertarian agenda, and vicious attacks on Democrats (and anyone in power) are often taken seriously by a growing sea of 3rd-rate pundits writing way outside their weight class. He provides them with easy polemical diatribes mixed with tendentious word salad that provides them with rich and controversial content they can report on, rarely bothering to vet it for facts or relevance. If it bleeds it leads and Greenwald's prose drips with the blood he drains out of any public figure or action he chooses to gut with his digital pen. And he has a famous habit of trying to badger and browbeat his critics all over the internet with shrill accusations of corrupt motive, egregious malice, or any one of several pet forms of bad faith. Often his more scholarly critics will risk accusations of cowardice, simply because they resent his uncivil and intellectually dishonest manner of discourse. His popularity (at least until this year) says far more about our vanishing standards for thoughtful writers than it says about his modest intellectual stature. It is a continuing shame that so few writers with intellectual firepower will take him on as forcefully as this one does.
The author of this essay is a Professor of English at Los Angeles Southwest College. But from this profile you can clearly see why he can so easily dissect Greenwald. He's a real human being, with rich life experiences, who can discuss politics and philosophy in the context of his — and our — lives. If you read Greenwald much, you know there is no life in anything he writes about. His words are acerbic, glum, and dispiriting. His common goal is to paint incendiary and dehumanizing portrayals of anyone who has ever sought to serve in government. He never has his own expertise or solutions to bring to his narratives. The goal is to always tear down someone else, and drive his readers into pitchforked frenzies of ideological zeal. He does it so well that his screeds will suck all the oxygen from the national conversation whenever he drops a new one at Salon.com, the Guardian.co.uk, or whichever venue is giving him space that day.
To some minds, including mine, he is a viciously judgmental person with no real beliefs to be found outside of the palpable hatred he exhibits for the powerful people who control the nation he left (he now lives mostly in Brazil). He writes manipulatively, mostly to advance himself and whatever agenda he rationalizes in his own head (he never writes of any goals or objectives for himself or society, except in the broadest possible terms that can never be challenged by any self respecting liberal), until the topic has been exhausted in the media. When challenged, he is lightning fast in responding with a tweet or a blog comment that avoids any response to the criticism, deflecting with some shrill label for his accuser like "cultist!" or "mentally deranged sycophant!," or some other churlishness that would embarrass him if serious people were paying as much attention as they should be. Once he's milked his subject for a few weeks, often distracting the entire nation with it, he drops it like a stone and moves on to his next equally vitriolic contrivance. He is the anti-government, anti-social, and anti-joy blogger, who does nothing to help America battle its way back from its slide into the radical conservatism that has consumed it, choosing instead to be a high profile careerist lobbing spitballs at the powerful from the comfort of his not-very-cheap seats in Rio de Janerio.
After seven years of getting by with very little real criticism, many are finally coming to see just how Glenn Greenwald operates, and how fragile his intellectual stature really is. Hopefully, this essay will be the first of many to take a swing at his glass jaw. I found it brilliant.
By Brian Elroy McKinley
Excellent overview of some of the most misunderstood (and misrepresented) aspects of Liberalism, and why it's always been seen as sitting at the very base of American values (according to almost any non-partisan historian or political scientist).
By David Frum (Introduced and commented on by @shoq)
Former Bush speechwriter, David Frum explains why his precious Republican party and much of conservatism have devolved into a trade fair for ideological and personality marketing. The takeaway from this is that these are not responsible people, are sociologically reckless, and are incapable of anything like what we once thought governing was supposed to be about.
Note: Mediamatter's Jamison Foser has urged me many times to see Frum as a manipulative phony quarterback who routinely fakes left, but runs right, blowing a lot of pseudo-moderate smoke to steer Republicans toward his preferred (only slightly less crazy) candidates such as Mitt Romney. I realize there may be a lot of that in Frum's motivations, but that doesn't mean some of his analysis is not on-point, nor useful to the left for its indictment of so many aspects of this Republican noise machine run amok. Read his take on Frum here.
by Rootless_e, ThePeoplesView.net
A good introduction to the professional left, and why many of us feel it's hurting Progressivism and America.
by Bob Cesca, Blogger
Bob is one of the few bloggers from the glory years of progressive blogging whom I find myself in agreement with most of the time. That's partly due to our similar pragmatic bent, and partly because he's a lot smarter and more eloquent than I am. Bob was a front-line blogger when the American left was duking it out over Obama, Clinton and Edwards in the primaries, and knows first hand that most of the so-called Progressive left never supported Barack Obama in the first place. Most of them were John Edwards supporters. And yeah, that judgment worked out well for us, eh? Below are some other must read posts from Bob that are well worth the read by anyone who wants to more clearly understand where so much of this misplaced anger at Obama really comes from, and how it gets memed all over the Internet, often with very destructive effects on broader progressive narratives, interests and goals:
by Joshua Holland, Alternet
Josh is one of the most even-handed, level-header journalists writing today. This essay is a must read to grasp the forces at work inside the often overlapping Conservative and Republican machines.
By Philip E. Agre
Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:
My good friend Karoli takes on a topic that has consumed both of us, and our friends, for years: how the entire angry political blogosphere, whether right, left or libertarian, seems to need to magically transform bullshit into fact. If you like this essay, you are sure to enjoy these other work of hers, each hitting a different bullseye on a different target, but all on the same shooting range of social justice.
By Joy Ann Reid
I continually point out that I think Joy is one of America's best political analysts working today. Here she completely guts the ridiculous assertion, so often made by disaffected liberals, that President Obama squandered huge progressive majorities that he never actually had.
By Shoq Value
They pretty much speak for themselves.
By CitizenK (Blogger)
"It's an article of faith among the left that its harsh — and often brainless and naive — criticism of President Obama puts it squarely in line with the left wing "insurgencies" (as Katrina Vanden Heuvel wrote) that pushed Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson to the great reforms of the New Deal and the Great Society. This might be a fair point if it bore any actual relationship to reality."
I often like to discuss the difference between diagnosing a problem, and treating one. George never spent much time on the latter, but when he engaged in the former, few could match his brilliance.
By Jake Lamar
On October 8, 2011, Democrats Abroad France held an event titled "Voices for Obama" at the Nikki Diana Marquandt Gallery in Paris. One of the speakers was the American author Jake Lamar
A VERY important short video about how our precious Fourth Estate is now little more than a yard sale. But hey, and least there's a swing in the yard!
by Milt Shook
My friend Milt has a gift of making the complicated sound simple. But then, some things are simple to start with, such as most of his rather intuitive bullet points as listed here.
by Chrystia Freeland
F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he declared the rich different from you and me. But today’s super-rich are also different from yesterday’s: more hardworking and meritocratic, but less connected to the nations that granted them opportunity—and the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind.
But Congress has made it nearly impossible to transfer captives anywhere. Legislation passed since Obama took office has created a series of roadblocks that mean that only a federal court order or a national security waiver issued by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta could trump Congress and permit the release of a detainee to another country.