Recent Writings

Adults in the room

Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize! – Labor organizer and activist Joe Hill before his execution by Utah

Progressives carry an enormous burden: They’re expected to be the adults in the public room, to speak with erudition and behave civilly. They’re not allowed to rant, which Merriam-Webster defines as “bombastic extravagant language.”

There’s a clear distinction between rant and moral outrage and a delineation between where each lies. We hear and read a lot of ranting on the right, the realm of new-age conservatives. It erupts when one has little thought-evoking to say but feels obligated to fill up the airwave or print space.

The Denver Post features two regular rightists writing columns. There’s Mario Nicolais, who presents conservative positions thoughtfully, soberly, and respectfully. Then, there’s Jon Caldara, the bombastic leader of the misnamed Independence Institute. His pieces are generally a chore to wade through.

The former Republican Party shares one trait with Mother Earth: climate change. With temperatures ever rising, the party’s landscape has been transformed like that after a major forest conflagration. In 2016, Colorado Republicans stood tall against Trump and Trumpism. Today, many prefer to be sniggling sycophantic Trumpkins. Their gubernatorial nominee is state evidence number one.

On the left though, the outcry is moral outrage, outrage at the moral turpitude of the Ranter in Chief, the Dear Leader and his kowtowing legions who bizarrely are outraged about what a person does with his sex organ but not about infants and toddlers forcibly separated from their mothers, an action that will leave them psychologically scarred for life. The immoral right spews spittle over protestors’ First Amendment actions, which is cheeky considering the vile assaults, such as spitting on Democratic congresspersons, in the runup to the Affordable Care Act vote. Which many now love as long as you don’t call it Obamacare.

Conservative pundit Joe Scarborough, who certainly aided and abetted Trump’s rise to power, recently wrote about Democrats needing to keep their focus and not going off the rails. He summarized his advice, ironically, in Joe Hill’s last words. After reading an online piece, I occasionally peruse through comments by readers. Many were scathing of Scarborough. One though, wrote a well-reasoned apologia of the Democratic Party:

“Democrats have had a coherent message for half a century,” he/she wrote. “Protect and advance Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Protect and advance the right to vote. Protect and advance the equality of every American. Protect a woman’s right to choose. Protect and advance sustainability through clean air, clean water, and endangered species habitat protection. Protect and advance the right of workers to collectively bargain for wages and working conditions. Provide every American child with the opportunity for a world-class, free, public education. Protect and advance the rights of individuals against the economic and political influence of business interests.”

The problem with thoughtful reasoning is that because it is thoughtful, it cannot be easily summarized in a shallow, bumper-sticker phrase for which the right is infamous: America, love it or leave it; limited government; make America great again.

Not only are progressive positions hard to be sound-bitable, they’re not readily reduceable to a simplistic, three-plank platform consisting of meaningless nostrums meant not to evoke thought but to appeal to passion where fear beats intellect. Progressives must be thoughtful as opposed to Trumpkins who can wallow in the muck, hurling outrageous claims and offering blatant falsehoods as truth, even to the point of flipping, as Trump constantly does and getting away with it.

While progressivism necessitates being thoughtfully analytical, it need not be placid, sterile, Mr. Spock-like unemotive. Recently, I reregistered Unaffiliated after two decades as a Democrat for that reason: The Colorado Democratic Party under John Hickenlooper’s uninspiring tutelage was becoming anemic and principle-less. With our congressman Jared Polis now leading the party, I’m confident it will regain its mojo. His top agenda item: health care, personified by his choice for lieutenant governor, Dianne Primavera, CEO of Susan G. Komen Colorado and four-time breast cancer survivor.

So, now that I’ve argued that progressive/Democratic positions cannot be easily summarized, I’ll do it, drawing from the above: “Protect, provide, and advance ___.” Fill in the blank. Of course, you’ll need lots of bumper stickers.

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