Are Progressive Politics Being Redefined?

Filed in Delaware, National by on May 29, 2014

There’s a great article in Vox magazine about Andrew Cuomo — Governor 1 Percent — the Governor of New York who is seen in many circles as the future of the Democratic Party. What this article does well (I think) is show the strategy of the self-proclaimed moderate Democrats — visibly fight for socially liberal causes and values, but spend your legislative time and energies catering to the priorities of the 1%. This glances by the question of whether these Democratic politicians who are proudly Blue for marriage equality, but looking to provide tax cuts and special subsidies to the 1% are actually becoming the face of what passes as progressive in this country.

Many New York progressives think that Cuomo has made a bet on what Democrats truly care about — that if he gives activists what they want on social issues, he can get away with giving the wealthy what they want on economic issues. Worse, they fear the combination might be politically irresistible to the Democratic Party: as the rich get richer and the Supreme Court systematically dismantles limits on money in politics, what if a Democrat who pleases the wealthy becomes the only kind of Democrat who can win an election?

This sounds like at least one of our local Senators, right? Someone who gets alot of credit for supporting marriage equality and filming “It Gets Better” videos, but who can’t be found on economic justice issues. Even one as basic as Social Security. Take a look at who is on the Judiciary Committee reviewing the Comcast/Time-Warner merger. This merger is 1% business if I ever saw it, and this won’t be especially beneficial to customers. And not only is Senator Coons a recipient of money from Comcast and Time Warner, so is the man with all of the progressive cred — Bernie Sanders. Shame on Bernie Sanders here, but at least he does have a track record of trying to push on the income inequality problem — and he certainly is at the tip of the spear for fixing Social Security that doesn’t shortchange the people who will need it.

Cuomo, whose office didn’t respond to requests for comment, has leveraged the rise of the rich perhaps better than any other Democrat — and maybe even any politician — in the country. He hasn’t just catered to them on economic issues, he’s mobilized them in favor of liberal social causes, using their support to get things done. And so far, his strategy is working. “If he’s successful — if in a state like New York one can be an acknowledged champion of progressive politics with those kinds of economic policies — there’s no reason that argument can’t be made nationally,” Brodsky warns. “You’d get a re-definition of progressive politics that takes the economic component out of it for the first time ever.”

So this is the Money Question (sorry) for me. We have a very great many Democrats who are hell bent on making sure that middle class, working class and poor people are hurt just because these Democrats see the 1% as their constituency. One of the people interviewed for this Vox article notes that it takes time for issues like income inequality to bubble up from the grassroots. That’s probably right, except that this is a problem that is more than 30 years in the making. And the problem is accelerating, with no sign that the Government (at any level) is going to pay attention to the fact that economic life gets harder for the many every single day they are helping the wealthy and corporations take more from us. Since the Occupy movement, you could hear some of the concerns of the rest of us start to get some discussion, but not much action. It seemed as though there was a slow dawning that the people who are persistently burdened by they way that the weight of government has been pushed to focus on the issues of the 1% might make good electoral politics, but I’m not sure that Democrats are ready to really warp their energies around the concerns of the majority of us. Certainly that is true for our Congressional delegation, right? But how do you get the attention of politicians when they don’t seem to have any incentives to deal with the problems of the rest of us?


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"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas." -Shirley Chisholm

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  1. Saturday Open Thread [5.31.14] : Delaware Liberal | May 31, 2014
  1. Delaware Dem says:

    Replace Cuomo’s name with Markell’s and the article remains accurate.

  2. puck says:

    But how do you get the attention of politicians when they don’t seem to have any incentives to deal with the problems of the rest of us?”

    In my opinion, there just needs to be one economically progressive issue that captures the attention of rank-and-file Democrats, and focuses them on turncoat Dems. Something like Social Security cuts, or mortgage interest deduction, or student loan debt. I was sure the 2010 extension of the Bush tax cuts was going to be that issue, but it was too soon. Even the cliff deal giveaways were too soon to draw a reaction from progressives. Even certain Dem activists greeted my own protests with a yawn or a sneer (you know who you are). Same sex marriage seemed to be a greater priority. Obama himself seemed to me one of those too willing to coddle the 1%, flirting with corporate tax cuts and safety net cuts. But to his credit he seems to have woken up in time to mount a goal-line defense, perhaps coincidentally shortly after the Occupy movement.

  3. MikeM2784 says:

    The surge of this movement in the Democratic Party seems to correlate with the decline of moderate Republicans…these are actually the positions many moderate Republicans used to hold. The problem now is that you have parties largely divided only by social issues but coalescing around their support of big banks / business interest. That doesn’t seem to leave much room for the rest of us…or rather, it leaves a lot of room for a true populist third party candidate to gain some ground should one emerge at some point.

  4. pandora says:


    “The surge of this movement in the Democratic Party seems to correlate with the decline of moderate Republicans…these are actually the positions many moderate Republicans used to hold.”

    I 100% agree with. It’s like Dems are fighting amongst themselves since the other side has gone nuts. Then again, politicians are, or become in office, far too wealthy to relate to the rest of us.

  5. Steve Newton says:

    @deldem–agree completely. This is why you don’t actually have a functional GOP in Delaware any more: when the Democrats are giving the corporations everything they want (and more!), why bother funding an opposition party?

    Or think of it this way: Matt Denn is the most “progressive” statewide Democrat in Delaware, and what did he recently write a WNJ editorial about? Reducing the cost of workman’s comp premiums for corporations and businesses at the expense of reducing payments to health care providers … Why? Because even anointed by the Dems for AG, he still has to kiss the ring.

  6. puck says:

    Repubs have successfully pulled off an Overton window strategy. Some Repubs may have fallen off the right edge, but they have also dragged establishment Dems squarely into the heart of traditional Republican positions, and now Dems are carrying out Republican policies. Republicans have laid their cuckoo eggs in the Democrats’ nest and now we will be rearing their young.

  7. Dave says:

    I think it would be an interesting study to see how much ‘ink’ progressives spend on various social, economic, national security, et al issues. My perception is pretty much the same as puck’s. I loosely categorize issues as galvanizing, outrage, or bread and butter, safety and security. My perception is that progressives spend the majority of their time on galvanizing (marriage equality) and outrage (incorrect signs in Spanish) issues than they do on bread and butter issues (workman’s comp, roads, etc.). That’s just my perception, so it may be very wrong.

    I would have thought that economic inequality would be a real galvanizing issue, because it influences every other social and economic issue, but it hasn’t happened. I wonder whether the culture wars have caused a lack of focus on some of these things?

    Of course, my perception is as a non-progressive and the far right says that as a moderate I don’t believe in anything so maybe my perception colored by my non-belief system.

  8. stan merriman says:

    This strategy is a craven effort by a combination of the DNC, their consultants, DSCC and DCCC to recruit what is left of the “moderate” or what used to be called Rockefeller Republicans into our fold. All this in the name of pragmatism, leaving principled issues on which the party should stand in the domain of those of us who maybe foolishly stay with the party as progressives and populists.

    Our failing on the progressive/populist side of this party equation. Continuing to tolerate our local big money Dem. donors mostly exporting their money to the national groups above, rather than funding local party building, local messaging and upending the vital ground the right wing has captured. This includes school boards, courts city and county councils, state legislatures and the like which make the lives of the 99% harder each day and much more directly impact our daily lives.

  9. cassandra m says:

    Even the cliff deal giveaways were too soon to draw a reaction from progressives.

    Because puck never remembers the entire story: The fiscal cliff deal made extended the tax cuts temporarily AND it extended unemployment insurance (and added some other stimulative measures). At the time, puck kept arguing that the UI insurance didn’t matter — the Congress could bring it up later and it would pass. Fast forward to RIGHT NOW when extended UI is expired and seems that is is a victim of the usual gridlock. Which it would have been in 2010 too if uncoupled from the cliff negotiations — even though the need was more urgent — because the GOP doesn’t care about the people who need UI and the progressives who count puck as one of theirs don’t care about the people who need UI, either.

  10. puck says:

    ” extended UI is expired and seems that is is a victim of the usual gridlock”

    … and of half-hearted attempts to extend it by our President and Dem leadership, who seem to believe that we can get along without it as long as the 1% are taken care of.

  11. Geezer says:

    “half-hearted attempts to extend it by our President and Dem leadership”

    The attempts to extend unemployment benefits have not been “half-hearted” by any metric except the failure of the bill to pass. Perhaps you confused it with your own half-witted comment.

    “Replace Cuomo’s name with Markell’s and the article remains accurate.”

    Not the part about 99% of Cuomo’s contributions coming from the 1%.

  12. John Manifold says:

    Hogs get slaughtered.

    This somehow offends the most: “The governor, although a Democrat himself, has been reluctant to tip the Legislature into single-party rule and reduce his negotiating leverage.”

    Some men dream things that never were and say why not. Other men see things the way they are and say, ‘I want leverage.’

  13. puck says:

    If people want a UI extension so bad, they do have congressional elections coming up. Let’s see how many high-unemployment red districts choose to return their teabaggy representatives to Congress.