“Don’t Call Me a Progressive” – A blast from the past

It’s amazing when I look at the things that are going on on many of the “progressive” blogs, with the purists who have taken them over and the hyperventilating from the Professional Left that so little has changed in  them.  At the beginning of the year, January 20’th to be precise, they’d “hit my last nerve.”   That’s when I decided to do something that was intended as a “good-bye cruel world” diary, only to find it on the Recommended List.   On my way out the door a week later, I decided to delete most of my diaries, but I saved a few – and one of them was that one.    Why am I mentioning it?  Because it’s amazing at how little has changed in that year.  It’s exactly the same.  So, in a “blast from the past” I’m reposting it here.  Enjoy!

It wasn’t so long ago that there were “liberals” and “progressives.” Liberals were the idealists, the ones with the wonderful ideas that sometimes were better as theoretical constructs than as realistic plans. Then there were the pragmatic ones – the Progressives. The ones who took the liberal ideas that could be made into reality, and worked to put them into practice. After watching the past year, I realized something. Many of the people who call themselves “progressives” are not people I want to “go to war” with.

I’m a pragmatic liberal. I’m going to use that term for myself from now on, because “progressives” have made it clear that they’re not interested in progress.

There’s a couple of diaries sitting on the Rec List here, talking about the failure of the Democratic leadership in messaging. How “out of touch” they are. Even how the lack of accomplishments “depressed the base” when it came to turnout. Yes, they bear a part of the blame. But you know what? Take a look in the mirror. What was the messaging from the “progressive” blogs? What were prominent voices in the “progressive movement” saying in print, television, and other media?

I expected to hear a litany about how bad the Democrats were, how President Obama and his administration were terrible, how bad Congress was from Republicans. That the “progressives” would chime in, and in the most negative way, feeding the right wing drumbeat with the chants of failure? I didn’t expect it, but lo and behold, there you were. If conservatives wanted to knife the Democrats in the back, you were there sharpening the blade for them, and giving them advice on the best place to insert it.

Out of touch? The divorce from reality was remarkable. We had a candidate who ran on a slightly left of center platform. No mistaking it. Somehow, you convinced yourself that he was running on a far left program. You spent years complaining about the Blue Dogs and “ConservaDem” Senators. You spent two years whining about how things weren’t happening in Congress, even with Democrats in the majority. I didn’t notice that the people you’d been complaining about had left office, or had made a sudden shift in their positions to the left. Yet, right around this time last year, many of you somehow managed to convince yourselves all that magically changed.

I never expected liberalism to suddenly break out. There’s a lot of entrenched interests, with too many legislators who are either in their pocket or set in their ways. I knew that. I expected that it was going to be a long hard effort to shift things. I knew that we’d have to identify the worst of the bunch so they could be primaried. That we’d have to work hard to primary them this year. We’d have to advocate hard, and smart. The problem? A lot of people thought liberalism would suddenly break out, that the entrenched interests would disappear, that legislators would “see the light.”

They haven’t done much to recruit strong primary challengers for many races. Even worse, while they advocated strongly, they advocated dumb. You want to be taken seriously? You don’t attack the very people who are working the hardest to implement your agenda. You don’t waste your time trying to persuade the people who are already on your side. That was done. You persuade those who can be persuaded. Disagree with the President and various Congressional representatives? Fine. Expected, even. There’s a way to do it. You’re reasonable. You push saying “we can do better than this.” You state disagreements in terms that appeal to the “better angels.” That’s smart.

Instead we got tantrums. Long screeds about how Congress was inept, a failure. Heavy opinion-making editorials and television appearances feeding into the right-wing memes that Democrats were inept, incompetent failures. Even joining up with right wing groups to help “advocate.” Many blogs stating how “betrayed” they felt, and how they weren’t going to vote anymore. Depress the base? Sure thing. You did a hell of a job of it. “We’ll show them!” It was exactly the sort of thing that conservatives prayed for. Boneheaded. Outright fucking stupid. It’s amazing that in less than a year, “progressives” have managed to do such a great job of fragging.

That’s why I’m not a progressive anymore. Too many people claiming that label have torched its reputation as a label. I’m a pragmatic liberal. I hate losing. I hate being in the minority. I don’t like being the “victim.” I’m planning on the long term, a long hard slog through the trenches to get what I want. I recognize that it’s not going to happen in a year, or even a generation. That I may have to take an inch now to gain a yard down the line. It’s work, and I plan on keeping at it. “Progressives”? I don’t trust you. You’re going to jump ship the first time things don’t go your way. You’ll be trying to stick a knife in my back, or fuck up something that took a lot of work. With “friends” like you, one doesn’t need enemies. You want to blame everyone else – but you have just as much to share in it as anyone else. Me? I actually thought you people were dedicated and serious. That was my mistake. I won’t make it again.

Postscript: The same thing is true if you visit there today.  Sad, but true.  They’re still complaining, they’re still attacking, and they still don’t get the clue.  There’s too much to be done to waste time trying to persuade them, because you can’t teach those who aren’t willing to learn.  The rest of us will be out getting to work on accomplishing things,  while they will still be in their little circle telling each other how important they are and how bitter they are about being betrayed.



Filed under Politics

28 responses to ““Don’t Call Me a Progressive” – A blast from the past

  1. Mary

    Testify, Norbrook. You are wiser than I am. It took me another year. I had hoped that the election would teach them something. Something constructive, I should say.

    It didn’t. They are running further in the other direction now–hysterical irrelevancy, paired with alienating people like us.

    I saw a comment recently from someone over there that I thought was dead-on: DK has succeeded in doing something Republicans have been trying to do but couldn’t: turn me off of the left.

    It’s so true. I don’t trust these folks to work with me on anything of substance.

    • I don’t know if I’m wiser -I think it’s just that I have less patience with fools.

      I was originally thinking of doing an “updated version” of this for here, but when I looked at it, I realized that I was describing exactly the same crap as before. You’d think getting slapped around as much as they have would eventually have woke them up, but apparently not.

      One of the comments I saw on another blog about a different set of purists applies – if you’re beating your head against a wall, you need to stop before “thunk” becomes “squish.” Pragmatics realize it’s better to go over or around the wall, the purists just keep running into it.

  2. An interesting piece Norbrook. It well applies to the right as much as the left.

    Years ago, while not a member of the RP, I voted pretty much the party line. When the religious right (Christian Coalition anyone?) grabbed a hold of the Republicans in the late 80’s I knew I didn’t belong and departed to become a registered Dem (yep, I would have been somewhere between a Blue Dog and a liberal). I stayed solidly Dem well into the late 90’s (I lived in CA then) when I got a fed up with what I felt was too much leaning left extremism. I departed the DP and fell back into my stance as a independent moderate conservative looking for the best candidate – regardless of party. I still follow that practice, though today I have a streak of libertarianism within my thinking.

    But ultimately what you wrote about is what – more or less – drove me to where I stand today outside all formal political parties.

    • Thanks. The “purists” in both party really end up doing more harm than good to the party they’re trying to “save”. Both of them have an attitude of “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts!” So, after a while, the only real option in politics (and for your own sanity) is to talk to the people you can persuade or reason with, and try to keep the nutcases in the asylum where they don’t hurt anyone or themselves. 🙂

  3. Hey, Norbrook. I’m starting to see more and more GOS-fugees around the web. And for good reason, too–in that, reason has all but dissipated there, and replaced by a discordant group of purists, who want to determine who gets to sit in their tree house, and who gets kicked out of it. In your case, and in the case of many others, I’m glad you chose to walk.

    I plan to write more about politics, but not there–I’m not about calling this president a loser, and I have much more important things to do than tell them to collectively “eff off”, so anything I try to write won’t get read–or any of the major “progressive” (read: white affluent no-kids having from NYC and California) sites. In my opinion, they’ve been gamed, and the site owners are willing participants in it. There’s a reason for that, I guess.

  4. kittypat

    I’m probably a little to the left of you politically NB, but I am a pragmatist and find myself agreeing with you almost all the time (should I be scared?) 😉 This quote from Dr. King’s speech on March 25, 1965 sums it up for me:

    “I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?”….

    “I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again.

    “How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.

    “How long? Not long, because you shall reap what you sow….

    “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

    • Probably true. 🙂 By training and experience I’m a pragmatist. I’ve had too many experiences with the field reality of someone’s “bright idea” to not want to take a look under the hood at times.

      I’m also older, so I’ve gotten a lot more experience with political and social realities than many of the purists. I understand the reality behind the saying “close enough for government work.” 😀

    • Dorothy Rissman

      Beautifully said. thank you.

  5. ACD

    Norbrook – I keep chasing you around our blogs to compliment you, and misssing you. HERE – you are “captive” LOL.
    SO…I f’ing LOVE your work!!!!


    • Thanks, although you’ve seen me around enough. 🙂 I’m also “captive” over at BWN.

      • ACD

        They’ve made a wonderful addition in hiring you. FAJ as well. I feel like all these blogs are one big family 🙂 Downside though, I am spending too much time online…

        I’m hoping that DK4 does NOT rescue that site – thx for the info on that.

        Your essay above is perfection. See you around.

        Also – LOVED seeing the LOL Cats a couple weeks ago!

        • Thanks. 🙂 I was actually supposed to be one of the original writers there, but I ended up being too tied up professionally to have the time.

          I actually think DK4 will hurt more than help. From everything I’ve seen about it, it actually has a lot of downsides, particularly given the rather poisonous nature of some of the inhabitants. A few instances, and you could see a lot more people deciding that their interests are better served elsewhere.

          • ACD

            Thanks for the anaysis. I respect your take on things. I forsee a group v group environment springing up there, (except the P/W group, of course). Those people just can’t help themselves.

  6. Aguagranny911

    Great diary, Norwood and my sentiments exactly. My last comment there in a diary about them being the “saviors of the Democratic party” was this:

    “IF we have to rely on you to ‘save’ the Democratic party then we are doomed!”

    One thing that bothered me the most was the treatment of AA’s and their concerns. During discussions of immigration reform, I read some nasty comments about Latinos but I took that as trolling and ignorance. However, over these last few months the racism got more bitter and overt.
    AA perceptions were denigrated, their voices were shouted out, the vitriol against President Obama dripped with subtle racist insinuations. All polite discourse was out the window. Haters deliberately hijacked diaries in order to spew venom.

    Driving BWD out was the last straw for me. In my mind the haters and racists have won over there. I’ll miss BlackKos, Tuesday’s Chile, and P&W diaries but I am discovering some refugees on other sites. I love BWD’s new site. I have just started to visit WSY and I am really enjoying that. I love reading what you write. We share a lot of the same goals and outlook even though I think I might be a little left of you. I am also pragmatist. I will work for that slice of cherry pie I’m offered rather than sit in a corner and whine for that whole moon pie in the sky.

    The People’s View is great and I am so happy seeing more and more people commenting. I suspect that Deaniac has a lot of readers who are just getting a feel for the site and all of us before they jump in to comment.

    I had one last thought. I think it is good that we have so many diverse liberal blogs that we can visit and share practical ideas. Trying to combine all these blogs into one would be a mistake. We can work together when we need to, supporting each other without risking becoming another DK.

    That’s all and thanks for letting me spout off a bit here.

    • Thanks. I know BWN is seeing a lot more traffic as well. I agree that there’s definitely a racist element in the background of this, as much as I would have hoped it wasn’t there. But, as much as I loathe instantly looking for that as a convenient excuse, since my “Occam’s razor” explanation is “stupidity,” it’s gotten to be something that I can’t dismiss anymore.

      I think it would be nice to have a sort of a “common place,” but also agree with you on the diversity. I know a lot of the new readers here think that I started this blog (and Deaniac his) in reaction to GOS, but really, we started them before we considered leaving there. I know that even if a “common place” was developed, I’d still have this one going. Even now, with my writing for BlueWaveNews, there are things that I do here (like this) which aren’t part of the mission for BWN.

      • Aquagranny911

        I enjoy your blog and hope you will keep it up. Even if I don’t always comment I do read. Maybe I should send you an ♥ when I read so you will know that I have been here. LOL

        • Oh I plan on keeping it up. There reason I started it in the first place is still there – I have a lot of other interests, so as things even out, this will eventually go to “just thinking out loud” sorts of things… oh, and pootie & woozle pictures. 😀

    • Dorothy Rissman

      Thanks Aquagranny. YOu shine girl.

  7. Dorothy Rissman

    Norbrook, This is a terrific piece. It saddens me deeply when I think of all that is going on. I argue with friends who think Obama has been a failure and is a wimp.

    What has happened to this county when so many of its citizens no longer value a person of character and willingness to listen.

    Thank you for your goodness and hard work.

    • Thanks. Unfortunately, it ended up not having its intended effect – a figurative “wake up!” call to them. Considering how long it sat on the Rec List (almost 24 hours) it really ended up being a case of talking to a brick wall when it came to the people it was directed at.

  8. Aquagranny911

    Be of good heart, Norbrook.

    Maybe those you hoped to reach ignored you but so many more have followed your wise words here and to other productive blogs.

    I am thinking that DKos is imploding and the truly productive people there will be looking for new ways to make our country thrive and be better for all of us.

    • Thank you very much for the encouragement. I knew I’d hit a nerve with people because it made the Rec List, and also drew quite a few hide ratings in the Tip Jar. 😀

      I think it is imploding now. It’s a slow implosion, but I see the same thing happening I’ve seen on other sites in the past. As I pointed out in another post here, there was an exodus underway beginning last year, which was a “quiet” one. No one was writing big GBCW diaries or anything, but one day, they just … stopped going there. I think the entire BWD episode was more-or-less the final straw with many people. I’ve talked to a few other people with “pragmatic progressive” blogs, and all of us have been seeing a huge spike in traffic since Greenwald stepped in it.

      Everything I’ve been seeing about the planned DK4 is not something I’d want to go to. It’s got a lot of “features’ which are really the same reason I’m not on Facebook – in terms of privacy, etc., it’s not what I really want, and it really opens up the door to misuse by various “stalkers” on that site. *cough*Slinkerwink*cough*

  9. Aquagranny911

    Recently, I have considered the HR’s there to be badges of honor.

    I doubt I would have followed DK to their new incarnation of DK4 even without the new divisiveness. It seems more like a facebook/twitter/HS popularity contest than a serious blog.

    I admit to being a tech challenged elder but I do still have a few discerning brain cells left.

    • Exactly. It sounds more like it’s geared to be something the “popular kids” get to use to control the site, and form little “in groups” from which they can show everyone how “popular” they are. The aspect that was troubling me – besides that – was the amount of information it enables people to get about you, as well as enabling them to “follow you” around. Given the issues they’ve already had with people “stalking” various diarists and commenters they don’t like (BWD for example) and the “gang mentality” at times, I see it as something that’s going to end up being another one of those “gee isn’t this neat!” ideas someone has that ends up being “no, it wasn’t at all.”