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That’s Not Progressive

The day after Hillary Clinton chose Tom Kaine as her running mate, a story on my NBC app was titled, “Boring? How Tom Kaine’s Faith, Upbringing Make Him Anything But.” The article’s pro-Kaine bias was difficult to swallow, but its second sentence, which described him as “a white male progressive Senator,” really stuck in my craw.

Tom Kaine is no progressive. The article touted his moral compass because while he’s personally opposed to abortion, as Governor of Virginia he supported a women’s right to choose because it was the law of the land, and while he opposed the death penalty, he presided over several executions for the same reason. That sounds more like slavish adherence to the status quo than being either moral or progressive.

But there is a bigger issue in play. We’ve heard the word progressive bandied about with nauseating frequency at the Democratic National Convention this week. It was used to boost LBGTQ rights, to reject the blanket exclusion of Muslim refugees and indiscriminate, mass deportation of the undocumented, to understand that Black Lives Matter has a point, to acknowledge human induced global warming, to support a gradual increase in the minimum wage and free public college tuition.

All of these things are fine, but we can’t let centrist democrats, or anyone else, be anointed progressive simply because they have cherry-picked items from our agenda. A progressive program must also include a fundamental restructuring of neoliberal, globalized capitalism. It should place human needs before the profits of Wall Street financial manipulators and the military industrial complex. It must demand the redistribution of wealth from the 1% to the rest of us. It needs to elevate diplomacy over warfare, and address the root causes of terrorism, rather than counter their violence with that of our own.

I don’t always agree with Bernie Sanders’ positions. But he has confronted the masters of capital and, therefore, deserves the progressive mantle he wears so proudly.

It is not progressive to buddy-up to Wall Street. It is not progressive to back fracking and nuclear power. It is not progressive to support agribusiness and global extractionism. It is not progressive to bomb Bosnia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. It is not progressive to embrace Henry Kissinger, AIPEC and Benjamin Netanyahu.

I fear that the mainstream media and the centrist democrats they support are attempting to redefine progressive to delete any critique of our economic system from the term. We can’t let them hijack that word. One way to thwart that is to refuse to use it as they do. Whether you hold your nose and vote for Clinton and Kaine, decide to vote for Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, or sit out the election entirely, don’t accept that you are voting for a “progressive” unless you are voting for someone whose program at least seeks to restructure, if not destroy, today’s rapacious capitalism.  Read More 
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