What do we stand for?

Many folks around the country find themselves asking that question these days. They may have traditionally thought themselves Democrats, Independents, or else politically-disinclined in the past. They may, like myself, be registered members of the Democratic Party. They may have voted for Hillary Clinton even though they did not agree with 100% of her policies.

But then the Democrats lost. And we got mad. And we joined the resistance.

Democrats are as much a minority party as they have ever been, and for minority parties, resistance is good (and necessary). But resistance alone does not answer the question posed at the top of this article.

So what do we stand for?

The Democratic Party has shown its major fault line, the one that divides the establishment wing of the party and the progressive wing. The establishment (which you may know as the Neo-Liberals, Third Way Democrats, Center-Left, Mainstream Democrats) truly kicked off with Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 and his proclamation that “the era of big government is over”. Defined simply, they believe in tempered free-market reforms to level the playing field combined with social liberalism.

The progressives (varyingly referred to as democratic socialists, Bernie Bros, leftists, and radicals) are best represented in the US today by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and believe strongly in the idea that government can be an effective force for good and that the free reign of capitalists leaves the majority of Americans worse off. They fall further to the left on most economic issues than their more “mainstream” brethren.

Far be it for me to think that I can resolve the differences between these two groups. There are philosophical differences at play here that are seemingly very difficult to overcome. However, recent polling might suggest that one philosophy lines up better with the mood of the electorate today and the other is relying more on past success while ignoring more recent trends.

Despite Donald Trump being the most disliked president in modern history, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 67% of Americans feel that the Democratic Party is out of touch with people’s concerns. That’s more than the amount of people who feel the same way about both Republicans in general, and Donald Trump specifically.

In addition, a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 57% of Americans now say that government should do more to solve their problems and help meet the needs of people. That’s the highest since that question was first asked in 1995, with the numbers rising for Democrats, Independents, and even Republicans.

People might still not want big government, but they want an effective one. They want a government that has their best interests at heart and enacts policies aimed at helping them. The Democratic Party must recognize that, and come together to form a more progressive movement if they want to take back power.

The first step to doing that is answering the question posed at the very top of this article.

What do we stand for?

The answer to that question should be simple and straightforward. It should be easily-digestible, and form the basis for all messaging from the party and its candidates in races both local and national in the years to come. All key policy proposals should stem from it. It tells voters what we believe in and if they share those beliefs, they should vote for us.

Simply put, it is who we are as progressives.

What follows is one person’s attempt at laying this out in a clear and concise manner. Many smarter, more experience people than myself will have a lot to say on the subject, and may tear this apart on reading it. I confess that they may be far more successful than I could be at finding the appropriate answer. But we have to start somewhere. So here goes-

As Progressives, we believe that…

1) Society has a duty to take care of the neediest among us

2) Voting should be easy and accessible to every citizen

3) Healthcare and education are basic, undeniable rights of all Americans

4) Money spent on senseless military conflict can be better spent at home

5) America can and should be a leader in the new energy economy

6) Mass incarceration has no place in a modern society

7) A minimum wage should be a livable wage, with no exceptions

8) Anyone who wants to immigrate to the United States should have a legal way of doing so

9) Everyone has the right to be safe from gun violence