I am what I am and that’s all that I am (on being a pragmatic progressive)

I POSTED A LINK ON FACEBOOK to an article that took to task a group acronymically known as PUBs, which stands for Progressive Unicorn Brigade. I don’t know how I have missed this reference over the past few years, but I hadn’t a clue as to what PUB meant! The author describes these critters as “usually white progressives who demand perfection from Democrats.”

The article is titled “Who Gets To Be Progressive?” and it can be found on Milt Shook’s Please Cut The Crap website, currently my faveravest political blog! A fellow progressive and compatriot of mine (we’ll call him Bill) read the article and posted a comment on my Facebook page, to which I responded, etc. Here are the first few back-and-forths:

BILL:No need to define progressive but let me define PUB. ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ “

NEAL: “Bill, I guess I haven’t been paying attention: is PUB a common term these days? They sound like the arsewholes who ruined many an anti-war demonstration in the ’60s and ’70s by not compromising with the authorities and getting some things done because they couldn’t get everything they wanted done.”

BILL: “Progressive reform was never a matter of compromise.”

Bill included a link to an article by Thom Hartmann discussing the accomplishments that progressives have made for this country, which includes many important bills by the Federal government that have benefited the majority of the people—and that means you and me. 1

NEAL “Boolschidt! And Hartmann doesn’t even mention compromise. He does mention things that FDR got done, a Dem who worked with progressives.”



Thom Hartmann was a mainstay on my radio when he was part of the progressive talk radio station here in the liberal Pacific Northwest. Then a conservative corporation bought the station and replaced a successful liberal news and opinion station with yet another sports talk station.

Shortly afterwards, it struck me that Bill and I might be at loggerheads over nothing at all—that, in fact, we were using one word to mean two things.

NEAL: “Y’know Bill, we might have different definitions of what progressive means in these here United States. For me, we are a group with certain beliefs about government and business and society.

We are in a 2-party system without our own party.

We are 90% at odds with the current GOP, and perhaps 50% with the Dems.

We must work with one of those two parties.

In a system like the British have, we’d be an independent party with seats in Parliament. The Dems would probably have the most seats, the Rep*blicans second, the Tea Party third, and we’d be fourth.

(But only if we had enough sense to partner with the Greens and Socialists as one party. Otherwise we might be sixth.)

We’d get things done by siding with the Dems against the Reps and Teas. So even if we had a Progressive/Green party, we’d still compromise every single day of our political lives because we’d always be a minority party.

Just as we’ve had to work with FDR, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.

And we’re not gonna get our way most of the time.”

Got me? I think of Americans who identify as progressive as being part of a political movement that is independent of the Democratic Party. We are a party without an official name (easily done but hasn’t been), an official address (easily done but hasn’t been), and an official figurehead or leader (well, there’d be some problems with that one).

BILL: “You make good points. My sense of things is that Dems have hit a tipping point. For years the base has been getting louder and larger but the party’s attitude has been largely to ignore the base because, frankly, where are they going to go? They aren’t about to vote Republican.

But I think this time around the base is so large & its message resonates & is catching on. I’m fairly sure that the establishment Democrats did not see this explosion coming and are having a hard time explaining it and I’d lump Please Cut The Crap in with those unable to explain what’s going on.”

NEAL: “You may be correct. I hope you ARE correct. It would be wonderful if you were. Only voter turnout will tell.I don’t see us EVER dumping the 2-party system so those of us who are Dems-by-default will have to keep compromising to get anything done . . .”

I don’t agree with Bill in the least about his take on Please Cut The Crap and have said so before. So here is an abridged version of Milt Shook (PCTC) on problems that we progressives have as a group. I have edited most of the text out that addresses and have broken lengthy paragraphs up into smaller ones (for ease in reading on my site).

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This is Milt Shook’s unofficial Internet photo, where he looks suspiciously like Joe the Rep*blican of Internet fame. Despite folks who thinks he’s a dyed-inna-wool Hillaryite, here’s his comment on the subject: “I’m leaning to voting Bernie, but won’t trash Hillary. If you claim she’s corrupt, explain why rightwing BS for 30 years hasn’t put her in jail.”

Pragmatic progressivism

I have been a progressive my entire life. I just happen to be pragmatic. All that means is, I realize that everyone doesn’t feel the way I do and that we need to compromise to get things done. I realize that we can’t employ the same sort of rhetoric as the right-wing and expect to have any political success.

Because of that, I suppose that makes me somewhat moderate on some level. Yes, I know this makes the heads of many PUBs’ heads explode, but it is quite possible—in fact, preferable, if we’re being honest—to be both progressive and moderate. There is no place in a democratic political system for intolerance of anyone except extremists.

Apparently [to] PUBs, you can only be progressive if you believe exactly the same things they do. Of course, this is complete bullshit, as anyone with a lick of sense knows.

From 1933 through about 1966, progressives worked with the Democratic Party and we got all kinds of things done, like Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, voting rights, environmental legislation, and workplace safety regulations.

Since 1980, however, we have been ineffective. 2

Here’s the deal, folks; issues can be personal, but politics is not. Politics is cold and calculated strategy and requires making sure you have the best possible personnel the democratic system will allow you to have.

The root word of progressive is progress. Therefore, anyone who advocates for societal progress is, by definition, progressive.

I am a progressive.

Bernie Sanders is a progressive. 3

Hillary and Bill Clinton are also progressives.

President Obama is also a progressive. 4

Anyone who wants to move this country forward is technically progressive and should be embraced as such. 5

The only way to turn this into a progressive country is to get most people behind progressive ideals.

Put simply, demagoguing issues is a political loser for our side. It works for the far right because they’re appealing to morons and racists.

There is never one single solution to any problem we have, with one exception. The reason our government has become so useless and decrepit is because one of our political parties has become radicalized and unworkable.

Get rid of the current Republican Party and what you will have is a new paradigm between progressives and a new loyal opposition, meaning actual moderates and conservatives who actually care about the country and who simply disagree with us on policy.

This country will change in almost no time when we do that. We did it before, in 1932, and we can do it again.

Instead of fantasizing about a revolution that will never happen, why not just win elections for Democrats and then work with them to get as much progress as possible.

It is a democracy, so you will never get 100% of everything you want, but you have to admit, 10-15% every cycle for the next 6-10 cycles is certainly better than the minus-10% we’ve gotten for the last 20.

Everyone who is against the Republican Party is progressive at this moment in time. You do the country no favors by being a lefty version of a rightwinger.

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Coincidentally, as I was writing this article, I met my first PUB in a Starbuck’s line! Harlan was waiting for a tripleshot-lowfat-caramelmint-macchiato when we discussed universal health-care. He was very polite when I asked if he would pose for a photo for this article. As you can see, he agreed.

Progressive as adjective and noun

Shook’s original piece is more than 2,700 words long, while the abridgment above is just over 500 words. So there’s lots more to read of “Who Gets To Be Progressive?” at Please Cut The Crap!

Based on my back-and-forth with Bill and Shook’s article, we can easily surmise that there is progressive as an adjective (“Obama is a fairly progressive President”) and progressive as a noun (“I am a progressive who always votes Democratic at the national level but looks for third-party options at other levels”).

I use it both ways but when I use it as an adjective, I use it in conjunction with another word that describes my subject: “Hillary Clinton had one of the most consistently ‘liberal’ voting tallies in the eight years she served in the Senate, making her a reasonably progressive Democrat.” 6

Finally, despite my mystical liberal leaning, I am what I am: a progressive who happens to be pragmatic.



FEATURED IMAGE: I found this photo from the Occupy Wall Street event (September 2011) on The Guardian website with an article titled “A letter to my dismal allies on the US left.” Written by Rebecca Solnit, it expresses a viewpoint similar to that of Please Cut The Crap:

“O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.”

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1   And every one of these accomplishments that benefited you and me was fought tooth and nail by conservatives, who don’t want anything done by the government that doesn’t make them richer:

Conservatives opposed the revolution.
• Conservatives opposed freeing the slaves.
Conservatives opposed women’s rights.
Conservatives opposed—and continue to oppose—public education.
Conservatives opposed—and continue to oppose—democracy in the workplace.
Conservatives opposed child labor laws.
Conservatives opposed the New Deal.
Conservatives opposed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Conservatives also opposed the Civil Rights Movement and continue to oppose the Gay Rights Movement.

Name a great achievement in American history and conservatives were against it. This isn’t opinion, it’s just fact . . .

Progressives and socialists working with progressive Democrats accomplished almost all of these things and so much more.

2   The “we” here should refer to all Democrats, a huge number of whom sit out the non-Presidential elections, thereby allowing the Rep*blicans to repeatedly take control of the House. Essentially, those Dems who don’t vote during those elections negate the votes they did cast during the Presidential elections.

3   Using my definitions above, I agree that Milt Shook and Bernie Sanders are progressives (the noun).

Using my definitions above, I agree that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama are progressive Democrats.

5   Here! Here!

6   Based on “Hillary Clinton Was the 11th Most Liberal Member of the Senate” by phenry for the DailyKos.

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