Longtime Capitol Hill cohorts, and we are talking very longtime, are ratcheting up the use of progressive verbiage to dominate the field of Democrat Party presidential aspirants. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who gave up his independent status in hopes of surviving another Democratic National Committee (DNC) primary, and former Vice President Joe Biden are hoping to disguise their combined years on the public dole – a whopping 88 – by self-identifying as progressive.
These two political dinosaurs are redefining the word in order to lure voters easily sucked in by soundbite semantics. This task has two old white guys vying for cameras and decrying, “I am the best progressive!” Followed by a return volley of “No, you’re not, I am,” and another endless retort of “No, I am.”
Their antics are as tiring to Americans as a full-on sibling slap fight in the back seat of mom’s mini-van halfway through an eight-hour road trip to Nana’s house. And now mama needs a stiff drink heading down a long and twisty highway toward 2020.
Nope. No Progressives to See Here
Frankly, neither Biden nor Bernie can claim ultimate progressive status regardless of the number of times the word passes their moving lips.
Biden is an old-timey Democrat’s Democrat. He dallies in the center, caters to big corporations, has voted “yea” on conservative-sponsored big deals and wars and conflicts. He is the epitome of the establishment but is way too handsy to appeal to the younger wing of the party who wants safe spaces from that type of behavior.
And then we have Bernie, a flat-out socialist ready to turn America into the next Venezuela after amassing his wealth on the backs of hard-working American taxpayers. Almost anyone over the age of 40 — who isn’t on the lam sporting a false identity for radical protesting and who is registered and willing to vote — understands that socialism is the death knell of freedom.
What is being a progressive all about? Not much has changed since the term first burst on the scene in American politics at the beginning of the 20th century. The progressive movement of the early 1900s sought to disperse the concentration of wealth among the elite and the enormous economic and political power of the corporate trusts. Comprised of insurgent Republicans, disenfranchised Democrats, journalists, and academics, progressives formed institutions with a unified goal of strengthening the national government. Sound familiar? It seems to be the goal of this year’s crop of elected Democrats as well.
As America has witnessed, being progressive, such as the 116th Congress proudly self-identifies, means no meeting halfway. No give and take. No concessions. Simple strict adherence to an agenda that gets nothing done, all the while whining that nothing is getting done.
Historian Sean Wilentz recently took a stab at explaining progressives in the journal Democracy, calling them “emphatically anti-liberal” and adding that they, “deep down, harbor the hope that one day, perhaps through some catastrophic event, American capitalism will indeed be replaced by socialism.”
How to Insult Your Non-Progressive Rival Without Being Mean
There are those political foes who can direct their antagonists toward perdition and have response inquiries about the best route to take. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were famously known in political circles to mind-bend the opposition into supporting legislation that was in direct conflict to its stated beliefs. It’s a skill, and one that the two frontrunners do not possess.
In the field of declared wannabes, who seem to have sworn on stacks of low-denomination bills to be polite and not eviscerate, the competition is challenging. Although even this early on the road to convention, it appears insults will hurtle about as the process plays out.
Here’s how the top seeded are wiggling around the unofficial, yet overly referred to, civility pledge. Before even formally entering the race to salvage the soul of America, crafty Joe merely had to declare in Delaware, “I have the most progressive record of anybody running for the … anybody who would run.” Slight slip of the tongue aside, he trotted out his self-styled image.
For a man who announced on a debunked lie stemming from the racially charged incident in Charlottesville, what’s telling another whopper to spike poll numbers?
Sanders, who believes he is the original progressive whom other candidates strive to emulate, spat back:
“I think that if you look at Joe’s record and you look at mine I don’t think there’s a question about who’s more progressive. Joe voted for the war in Iraq, I led the effort against it. Joe voted for NAFTA and trade agreements with China. I led the effort against that. I disagree with many of the votes that he cast.”
But poll numbers (yes, take those with a grain of salt) show Biden leading the pack of hopefuls and over Bernie 27% to 20% respectively, with the rest of the field clinging to single digits. Interesting how Joe has not sworn off big money like Sanders. And Joe has a history of supporting segregation, inappropriate touching, plagiarism, and a shady deal with Ukraine involving his son. Yet it hasn’t mattered to the Democratic base. And Bernie may be feeling a bit desperate after selling his soul to the DNC.
Biden’s late arrival to the party and claims of being the truest and damn bluest progressive of them all are simply the slick words penned by a political operative for the former vice president to sound 2020 hip. As for Bernie, he hides behind the word progressive when he is simply a socialist; selling socialism in the United States is not for the faint of heart. He caved to pressure to give up his coveted Independent status to run in the Democratic primary, pandering to those who hold political power. Plus, he’s an old white guy. And the other old white guy, Biden, is known for crossing the aisle to move the ball forward, not holding out for an all-or-nothing win. How do they merge their pasts with a progressive future?
With a growing field of 20-plus candidates, neither Bernie nor Biden can take the title in the battle for most progressive of them all.
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