Everywhere progressives turn these days, it seems there’s someone warning that we are asking for too much, that people supporting Warren or Sanders are shoving the party too far left and we run the risk of voters abandoning the eventual Democratic nominee and shifting their allegiance to reelecting Trump. These are the reasons given for the ridiculous late entries into the presidential race by Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg, two men trying to position themselves as moderate alternatives, more dynamic and palatable to the Democratic base than Joe Biden and more acceptable to Wall Street than Warren or Sanders.
Even President Obama, who once ran as the “hope and change” candidate, is warning Democratic candidates not to go too far with their policy proposals, telling a group of high-end donors “the average American doesn’t think you have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”
Obama places himself in the “incremental change” wing of the Democratic party, telling those same big donors, “So I don’t take it as a criticism when people say, ’That is great. Obama did what he did, and now we want to do more.’ I hope so. That is the whole point. I built off the progress other people made and tried to take the baton and run the race a little further, and then I expect people to take the baton from me, and then I want them to run it a little further from that.”
I used to be there with him, believing it is easier and often more effective to make smaller changes and accept less progress as the price of slowly and steadily moving things forward. But as I get older and more concerned about the world I’ll be leaving behind for my grandchildren, I don’t think we have time to wait for incremental change. The science is clear that we aren’t addressing climate change fast enough, and rising income inequality undermines the most basic tenants of America’s promise as a land of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard.
I now find myself squarely in the “big structural change” camp, ready to support a president who will redesign a system that allows FedEx and Amazon to pay zero in federal taxes on billions of dollars in profits. I’m looking for legislative candidates who will stop giving huge tax breaks to corporations in return for false economic blessings and stop continually raising Nevada’s regressive sales tax to keep up with basic infrastructure needs.
As for “electability,” I think any Democrat in the race can beat Trump as long as Democrats, independents and the few Republicans left who can distinguish fact from fantasy get out and vote against him. And I believe there’s more chance of that happening if an aspirational vision of a better America is articulated rather than a picture of the status quo minus Trump.
I agree with economist Robert Reich, who says, “the real contest is between the people and the powerful—the vast majority of Americans versus an oligarchy that’s amassed most of the nation’s wealth and power.” He decries those who long for the pre-Trump days when there “was an economy rigged for the benefit of the few, stagnant wages, socialism for the rich and harsh capitalism for everyone else, a health care system whose co-payments and deductibles were out of control and still didn’t cover 30 million Americans, and big money controlling our politics.” Going back to that is not progress.
It’s time for a seismic shift in America. The planet is in mortal peril. Social, economic and racial justice concerns can’t wait. And while I’ll vote for anyone over Trump, I know incremental change isn’t going to be enough.