I’ve always had a problem with the internet ‘progressives.’ I have never liked the term progressive, particularly since I’m not ashamed to call myself a liberal (here’s one reason why). I haven’t blogged much about the YearlyKos convention and ensuing controversy (being a lefty blogger, albeit a small one, I suppose I am the actual subject matter of much of that commentary). But a couple of posts have really made it clear to me why I’m not excited at all by the internet progressives.
It’s the same reason I’m not excited by the mainstream Democratic Party as a whole: they don’t seem to stand for much of anything. Bloggers like Kos constantly remind people that the lefty blogosphere isn’t liberal (sounds kinda like the DLC doesn’t it?). Actually to say that the internet progressives don’t stand for much of anything is unfair. It’s just that what most of what the internet progressives stand for is what any sane, reality-based person should stand for:
- When trying to stop Bin Laden, you should not invade the wrong country, particularly when there is ample reason to expect the ensuing occupation to go sideways.
- Scientists and other experts, when presenting highly vetted and substantiated information about the reality we are confronted with, should not be denigrated (e.g., global warming).
- The government should not be in the forced childbirth or pregnancy-as-punishment business.
- Rampant corruption sucks and is harmful to the country’s interests.
- ‘Faith-based’, wingnuttian approaches, when unsupported or contradicted by evidence, suck and are harmful to the country’s interests.
- Slandering war heroes is wrong.
- Eliminationist rhetoric is wrong.
- Hating black people and interracial couples is wrong.
- Hating Latinos, and in particular Mexicans, is wrong.
- Hating gay people is wrong.
- The Enlightenment, overall, was a good thing.
- The libidophobic ‘religious’ right is idiotic, not to mention often hypocritical.
- Giving Paris Hilton a tax cut when there are so many unmet needs is wrong.
- Some kind of universal healthcare is needed (although the more conservative elements of the progressive movement might not actually agree with this point).
Other than the Paris Hilton item (which is usually couched in non-ideological terms), and universal healthcare, which was proposed in 1939, there really is no underlying philosophy in this list other than basic human decency (which, mind you, is too often in short supply). You don’t get points for holding these views in my book because it’s what any decent, rational, and sane person should do. Sadly, the Republican Party has realized there’s a lot of political advantage to be gained by advocating batshit loopy positions, but in a reasonable universe, we wouldn’t be ‘debating’ these points (and frankly, we should just stop ‘debating’ them and just start countering the propaganda and the ‘mainstream’ media that spew it).
(An aside: This reminds me of the Rabbinic midrash where the sages asked why Noah isn’t elevated to the level of Abraham or Moses. After all, Noah was “a righteous man in his generation.” To paraphrase the rabbis, they responded that Noah lived in a pretty crappy generation.)
What you’ll notice missing from this list are any proposals that would seriously alter the relationship of citizens to massed economic power. Before you say, “Oh the Mad Biologist is going off into lefty bizarro world”, keep in mind that most of the problems we face, from healthcare, to information privacy, to environmental degradation, stem in part, if not entirely, from the imbalance between capital and labor, or between capital and the individual citizen. Here’s what you don’t hear about very much in the lefty blogosphere:
- The necessary and morally just role of government in moving towards (if not reaching) full employment.
- A more progressive income tax (leaving aside the issue of how much revenue should be generated).
- More tax revenue from corporate sources.
- Raising wages, particularly of those in the service industries (which are the fastest and largest sectors of job growth, such as it is under Little Lord Pontchartrain).
- Affordable housing, for both homeowners and renters.
To the internet progressives’ credit, there is a recognized need for investment in technological development (this is the Internet after all). But, at its core, the internet progressive economic plan-to the extent that there is one-is the now-classic neoliberal paradigm. As Nathan Newman writes about Mark Warner, who is a favorite of both Kos and Jerome Armstrong (boldface mine):
On the positive, Warner’s speech to the convention was more than a list of talking points. It was a narrative about bringing Virginia together around expanding health care for the poor and delivering jobs to communities suffering from deindustrialization. He also made the case that energy-efficiency at home is a job creator, far better than buying overseas oil which creates few jobs at home– and that’s one of the smartest themes any candidate should be making.
But let me return to his argument about bringing jobs to rural Virginia. He painted a nice story about education and retraining leading to software jobs springing up in rural towns, especially if supported by strong investments in broadband locally.
All to the good as far as it goes. But the story hides one of the big lies of DLCish economic policy, which is that the key to improving wages is just more education and more training. While that’s ONE good thing to do, the hard reality is that a large portion of new job creation in the future will not be high-tech jobs but traditional service jobs. Warner had essentially NOTHING in his speech about how to raise wages for those in traditional service or remaining manufacturing jobs, no mention of the minimum wage or other policies to help the workers who will make up the vast bulk of new jobs.
This is why I feel disconnected from the internet progressives-there is no discussion of this issue. For me, this is not simply a policy issue, or a clever way to reach out to millions of voters (although it is both those things), it is a moral one. One of the implicit assumptions of the neo-liberal consensus, which is a conservative economic worldview, is that those who are not doing well ultimately have themselves to blame. In this mindset, unemployment, underemployment, and low wages for ‘menial’ work are not structural equities, but the results of personal failings. Certainly, many neo-liberals are not that harsh–no Social Darwinists they–so there is the hope of salvation by job training. If you study hard enough, there is the hope that you will be saved through education-never mind that most jobs will not be ‘information’ jobs, but service jobs.
If you truly believe in the notion of integrity through hard work, raising wages for all, regardless of the type of job that person has, is just. Martin Luther King once said:
If you will judge anything here in this struggle, you’re commanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the worth and significance of those who are not in professional jobs, or those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity, and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive. For the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician. All labor has worth.
Until the internet progressives start emphasizing this, I don’t think they will be able to cross the digital divide to where most Americans are. And they won’t have reached this Democrat either.