Democratic Base: “Socialist,” Not “Progressive”

Over and over again, political pundits and journalists make constant reference to the Democrats’ “progressive base.” Without heavy progressive turnout, we are told, the House won’t flip in 2018 and Democrats will have to endure the most painful, humiliating victory Tweetstorm from President Trump.

This is likely true, but it raises an important question: What exactly is a “progressive” at this point?

The group of voters currently holding Democratic leaders (and let’s face it, donors) hostage has made it clear that the party’s next nominee for president must adopt certain policies, such as single-payer health care and a nationwide $15 minimum wage, to secure their support. Such policies will likely be sold by the press and Democratic leaders as a “Strong Progressive Agenda,” or something similar.

Yet such a description is vague at best and deceptive at worst. After all, Senator Bernie Sanders mainstreamed many of these policies in last year’s Democratic primary campaign, not as a Democrat but as an Independent who proudly calls himself a “democratic socialist.” Despite his outsider status, Sanders still received over 43 percent of the votes cast in his campaign against Hillary Clinton. And according to a poll done in 2016 by American Action Network, nearly 60 percent of Democratic primary voters viewed socialism as having a “positive impact on society.”

So one must ask why so many insist on using an outmoded nicety like “progressive.” While the term was originally used to describe those who supported a more active federal government and expansive welfare state in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, old-school progressives like Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson didn’t advocate for government control of the means of production, as many socialists do today. Setting aside whether or not their policies of trust busting or expanding the role of the executive branch produced desirable…

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