Progressives and Liberals

In an interview with the Comics Journal in 1988, Jules Feiffer, the political satirist, said:

“I’ve always seen liberals as people who’ve taken radical ideas, whether from socialists or communists, finding ways of redefining them, relabeling them, reforming them, compromising them, and then improving the society with them. And the liberal’s job generally has been to process and homogenize the more radical notions out there for some time and make them acceptable to the mass society. And to that extent, liberals have played an important part. That liberals innovate anything is questionable. But that they innovate anything worth innovating is doubtful. The innovation comes from more radical sources generally.”

This is something that I’ve been coming across a lot lately in books and documentaries about progressives history: the interdependence between the radical and more moderate wings of a progressive movement. In the women’s suffragist movement, for instance, Elizabeth Cady Stanton provided many of the arguments and radical ideas on women’s equality that society later adopted, but Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone did the dirty work of building coalitions of more moderate and conservative people for the immediate goal of getting women the right to vote. In the book “Izzy: A Biography of I.F. Stone“, author Robert C. Cottrell wrote of the New Deal:

“There was a sense of excitement in the air as the New Dealers devised one program after another that at least harked back to the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century and at times beyond that to the Populist and Socialist platforms as well. Long-standing calls by American reformers and radicals for greater government control over business operations, for support of labor unionization, for social welfare measures, for public works projects, for planning, and for a discarding of laissaz-faire approaches appeared to be heeded to some degree or another by the roosevelt Brain Trusters. While it was clear, after a brief spell, that the New Deal was not ushering in a hoped-for revolution of the left or a feared one spearheaded by the right, it was also evident that the influence of progressive intellectuals and activists on government policy was greater than ever.”

I think this dialogue between the moderates and radicals is important. It seems to me that an important sign health of this dialogue is how responsive Democratic politicians are to the grassroots.

In the documentary on Ralph Nader, An Unreasonable Man, the DVD has a great special features that has a talk on what is wrong with the Democratic Party. One of the people commented that during the 1980s, Democrats were worried because the Republicans seemed to have an advantage in elections because of their ability to raise money. So Democrats started competing with Republicans for corporate money and Nader and many activist feel that this led to corporations having too much influence within the Democratic Party and that the party has strayed from its earlier egalitarian values.

It seems like Progressives are trying to reassert their voice with in the Democratic Party. In the year 2000, Doris Hadock, a 90 year old activist, walked across America to fight for campaign finance reform, and she ran for the Senate in the year 2004 to fight corporate interests. In the House, Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee have formed a group of congressmen whose goal is to push the Democrats towards being more Progressive. The anti-war movement had a profound influence on the presidential campaign of Howard Dean. Nader stated that one of his goals in his Presidential runs of 2000 and 2004 was to influence the Democratic Party the way Norman Thomas influenced the New Deal in the 1930s.

In these upcoming Democratic primaries, I think it’s good that we have all these voices competing to be heard. We have to be sure our candidates forcefully and articulately argue progressive views, and we should really test the 3 frontrunners. Election years are times when politicians listen to the grassroots to get their votes, and this is when we can press them on issues of war and peace, on curbing the bad side of globalization, on issues of poverty.

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About angelolopez

I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life. Since I was a child I’ve drawn on any scrap of paper I could get a hold of. When I went to San Jose State University, I became more exposed to the works of the great fine artists and illustrators. My college paintings were heavily influenced by the humorous illustrations of Peter De Seve, an illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. I also fell under the spell of the great muralists of the 1930s, especially Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. I graduated with a degree in Illustration. Angelo Lopez has had illustrations published in Tikkun Magazine, the Palo Alto Daily News and Z Magazine. From April 2008 to May 2011, Angelo's cartoons were regularly published in the Tri-City Voice, a weekly newspaper that covers the Fremont, Hayward, Milpitas, Neward, Sunol and Union City areas in California. He does a political webcomic starring his cartoon character Jasper for the progressive blogsite Everyday Citizen. Since December 2011, Angelo does a regular weekly political cartoon for the Philippines Today, a Filipino American newspaper based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since March 2013, he has also contributed cartoons to the Manila Mail, a Filipino American newspaper based in Washington D.C. Angelo is a member of the Sunnyvale Art Club, and the Northern California chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. During the 1990s, he was a member of the part-timer workers SEIU unit in the city of Sunnyvale. Angelo won the 2013, 2015 and 2016 Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial cartooning for newspapers with a circulation under 100,000. He has also won the 2016 RFK Book and Journalism Award for Editorial Cartoons. Angelo won first prize for the Best of the West contest in 2016 and third prize in 2017. Angelo is married to Lisa Reeber. They enjoy taking walks, watching movies and hanging out with their nieces.
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One Response to Progressives and Liberals

  1. Pingback: Progressives and Liberals | Liberal Left Books

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