The U. S. Needs a New Populist Progressivism

tags: political history, progressivism

Walter G. Moss is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University. His most recent book is An Age of Progress?: Clashing Twentieth-Century Global Forces (2008). For a list of all his recent books and online publications, including many on Russian history and culture, go here.

In a recent LA Progressive article I argued “Why Progressivism Should Be Our Nation’s Political Philosophy.”  One commentator objected that , “‘progressivism’ will not be enough. We cannot wait for our intellectual betters to come with ‘plans’ to save us. Ordinary people must become empowered to come up with their own solutions regarding their economic and political circumstances. We need class struggle —guided by the principles of democratic socialism —at work, on the streets, and on the campaign trail. The many must rise up like lions against the few to demand a better world.”

Having carefully considered that comment leads me to offer the following refinement: “The U. S. needs a new populist progressivism.” It will not so much pit the poor against the rich, but a broad rainbow coalition (including well-meaning Whites) and the common good against White special entitlement and special interests.

And the “populist progressivism” I champion is very different than the “populism” often championed by the right wing, including Trumpian “populists.” For they do not really represent the “people,” especially if by the “people” one means all well-meaning U. S. people, whatever their color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or place of birth.

Variety and diversity are one of life’s  glories. Look at wondrous nature. A recent estimate puts the number of bird species alone at about 18,000. As the English poet—and gay Jesuit priest—Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote, “Glory be to God for dappled things . . . .  All things counter, original, spare, strange.” Or as his contemporary, American abolitionist Frederick Douglass said in a Boston speech a century and a half ago, “our greatness and grandeur will be found in the faithful application of the principle of perfect civil equality to the people of all races and of all creeds, and to men of no creeds.” Douglass recalled the U. S. mistreatment of both Native Americans and African Americans, but he also praised the contributions of the latter, as well as of various immigrant nationalities like the Irish and the German. In his day, there were great fears regarding Chinese immigrants, but he also thought that they could enrich our nation. “Do you ask, if I favor such immigration, I answer I would. Would you have them naturalized, and have them invested with all the rights of American citizenship? I would. Would you allow them to vote? I would. Would you allow them to hold office? I would.”

Read entire article at L.A. Progressive

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