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Stop Making Sense

Jun
4
2004

In his response to my response – we’re going to stop with this, I think – Micah Sifry reminds me why I’m a happy Liberal. Optimism. Faith in the future. All that gooey stuff that conservatives dismiss as pie-in-the-sky. Deep down – shhhhh! Don’t tell anyone – I actually believe most of it. But, unlike Micah, I think that many of the pressures being brought to bear — less job security, a falling standard of living for many in the middle class, disappearing health care and other social services — encourage a go-it-alone philosphy. That’s, I think, what’s happened here in California and it’s why Progressive Libertarians are a native species.


And he’s right to point out that I can get a little dismissive when I have to think and talk and write about politics as I see them from out here in San Francisco. I shouldn’t. Not only are there lots of committed folks working on a ton of Progressive projects – Silicon Valley can now count DeanSpace Zach Rosen as its latest wunderkind – but the city’s mayor and District Attorney are trying to carve a path between Progressives and Libertarians. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson’s “tough on spending, let’s help those who need it most” approach may provide the Democrats with a substantive program that carries them forward.
Micah and my disagreement may also be one of degrees: I see a community of political activism centered around business interests because that’s what’s in force out here. But that’s a unique feature of California politics. It always has been; the state was, after all started by self-employed entrepreneurs — FortyNiners. Micah sees political activity at the grassroots level taking advantage of new networking tools and software to fight the good, sustained fight. He’s something of an activist for those causes and that’s what’s in force in his world.
The more I read him, however, the more I suspect we’re both right — some accommodation between these two worlds is actually in the works. And I should be clearer about something: When I talk about Progressives, I am not using the shorthand that many Liberals like to apply to their granola causes. I am talking about the turn-of-the-20th Century reform movement as it was described and analyzed by Richard Hofstadter and Robert Wiebe. These men see Progressives through different lenses but each stresses — and this is what they have in common with their 21st Century compatriots — a determination to made sense of the tremendous changes that have taken place in their world. They were not radicals in the economic or political sense. A millionaire adventurer, Theodore Roosevelt was their hero. So was a pointy-head academic from Princeton, Woodrow Wilson.
Which of the dueling philosophies now at work within the Democratic Party gets the final say — the post position — remains to be seen.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 9:45 AM | Permalink

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