Had I been writing a Facebook status at the time of Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, I surely would have typed an incoherent “ajdasghgyg!!” to express my extreme displeasure and unhappiness at the election outcome. In the land of the late Democrat Ted Kennedy, in the state with the most progressive health care in the country, I struggled to grasp how a Republican was elected. The whole thing seemed like one bad dream. While the Republicans were shouting how “the nation’s voice had finally been heard” and Democrats were scrambling to try and figure out a plan for health care, I began thinking about how our brief and relatively unproductive era of progressive dominance was over and why it seemed that we could never fully get the upperhand.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist and The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman expressed this idea when he stated in his blog, “He Wasn’t The One We’ve Been Waiting For,” in reference to President Barack Obama. After the 2006 midterm elections, when Democrats finally took back Congress, and the historic 2008 election, it seemed as though our time had finally come. Progressives finally had their chance — with all the power in hands of the Democratic Party — to implement the legislation we had been pushing for. Progressive deliverance and salvation had come with Obama, but we have yet to see any tangible results. Why is that? Despite the statements of naive cynics, it isn’t the fault of Obama or the supposed “ineffective” Congress led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.). It is merely the political environment of today and the realities of being a progressive on the left.
Whether majority or minority, being a progressive is the most difficult political position to have. It represents change, reform and the constant perfection of policies. Being a progressive means working for the ideal and being idealistic. Compare this to conservatives on the right, who merely have to defend the status quo and the reality of the system today. Isn’t it much easier to fight for what already exists than for what could be? The public understands the inadequacies of current structures, such as the health care system, but is fearful of reform. After all, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, right?
Progressives fight for the interests of the underprivileged and underrepresented, the least socially and politically mobilized. It is always said that interest groups have a wealthy upper-class bias, so how much easier is it for conservatives to represent the needs of corporate business, with enough capital to invest in their own political interests? This becomes especially true now, as the Supreme Court has most recently decided to rid corporations of any limits on campaign funding. Your vote may soon become void to the benefits of large companies who buy legislation. On the contrary, when progressives work to fight poverty, they are generally advocating for groups with little electoral benefits. Conservatives have the luxury of enjoying a platform that feeds the interests of greedy and economically unhealthy self-interest. How much easier is it for the public to hear “tax cut” than “the hard and difficult road ahead to economic stability?”
Such is that of the progressive puzzle and why it may never be solved. It is simple enough to understand that the political policies of conservatives on the right are easier to sell despite the many times they are not in the best economic or social interests of the country. Progressives may never have the upperhand politically. The only consolation that can ever be had from being a progressive is that eventually reform will come. It is only inevitable. With all the frustrations that come with pushing and working to change the system, progressives can always keep in their minds that it is not in vain. However slow or however prolonged, progressive goals will be achieved.
Will Butler is an LSA freshman.