Progressive leaders largely enjoy the confidence of their base. One only needs to look at the kind of excitement Bernie Sanders generates to understand the love progressives have for their leaders.
However, progressives at this moment need to question their leaders. For many years, progressive leaders presented their ideas and were laughed out of the room for neo-cons, neo-libs, and the establishment media. Their ideas were radical for the milquetoast elite, too afraid to think beyond the ‘Chambers of Commerce’ doctrine.
Yet, a seminal moment took place in March. In a deep crisis, Congress and the White House got together to give Americans $1200 relief checks. Seven months earlier, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang got ridiculed by Senators and a Mayor for having the guts to talk about UBI. The idea to send $1000 to Americans was absurd to the establishment candidates.
Seven months later, the idea, at least partially, passed in Congress and signed into law by a Republican President.
The coronavirus pandemic validates all the ideas progressive leaders have stood for.
During the primary cycle, many candidates said they can’t support Medicare for All because they don’t want to bump Americans off the insurance they get from their employers. As we sit here in May, unemployment levels are astronomical and all the precious employer insurance Democratic candidates wanted to protect are down the toilet.
Medicare for all doesn’t seem like a radical idea anymore. Trump recently came out and said his administration is looking into making the coronavirus vaccine free. Keep in mind that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer called for making the eventual COVID-19 vaccine ‘affordable’ back in February. It appears Trump moved to the left of the Democratic leadership in Congress withing ten weeks.
While progressive ideas are gaining acceptance, where are progressive leaders?
A Stunning Lack of Initiative
At a time when we’re seeing Americans struggling to put food on the table, isn’t it strange there is no talk of even a slight increase in corporate tax? No progressive is yet to propose legislation to tax some rich people in the 1% a little more to help Americans get more relief checks.
When Nancy Pelosi ignored all recommendations from progressive caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal, what did she do?
She wrote a letter to Pelosi, requesting an extension to the date of the vote.
During a time when the country needs real initiative from progressive leaders to push the boundaries of a feckless Democratic party, we are seeing House reps write polite letters.
The lack of courage progressive leaders have shown is distressing. Bernie Sanders, the most popular progressive leader in the country, praised Pelosi for saying paycheck protection must make it to the next relief bill. Note the word ‘next’.
Nancy Pelosi is right. We must include the Paycheck Security Act in the next emergency legislation. The best way to protect our economy is to guarantee that, in the midst of this terrible crisis, workers continue receiving their paychecks and health care.https://t.co/MLTobZCb2K
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 6, 2020
Why should Americans have to wait for payment protection in another bill? Why not now? As a leader with tremendous political capital, Sanders can pressurise the Democratic leadership to do more.
Imagine if Bernie Sanders called a press conference the day after Pelosi said payment protection should make it to the next bill. What if Bernie Sanders told the media why Nancy Pelosi’s approach doesn’t care about payment protection? What if he told the truth for once?
Progressives around the country would rally behind Sanders. Young progressive leaders like Rep Jayapal and Rep AOC would act more bravely in the House, instead of sending meek letters during a once-in-a-lifetime crisis.
Progressive Leaders Need to Know Their Strength
Where do progressive leaders like Sanders or AOC draw their power from? They are not good at doing backroom deals with lawmakers. They don’t belong to that world.
Their power comes from the mass popularity they have amongst the people. Working-class people understand the message progressive leaders like Sanders have.
Sanders, AOC, Jayapal, Khanna, and all other progressives are outsiders. Their strength lies in being outsiders. Unlike other centrist and corporatist lawmakers in DC who listen to corporate lobbyists because they fund their campaigns, progressive leaders are not bound in such chains. They are not beholden to the corporate media either.
The only people they answer to is the public, but our progressive leaders fail to use this advantage. People don’t vote for progressives to go to Congress and call Nancy Pelosi the Mama Bear of the Democratic party. No, progressives win because the people want them to fight the leadership.
Why is it that progressive leaders don’t take on their leadership even now when the country needs them to? What do they have to lose?
Perhaps progressive voters need to start voting for braver people. We have a group of generally well-intentioned people in the progressive caucus. However, the time for good intentions is over. The country needs courage now.
(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)