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The Progressive’s Dilemma

Updated on September 15, 2012
DemRep | Source

A well-meaning man may vaguely think of himself as a Progressive without having even the faintest conception of what a Progressive is. Both vision and intensity of conviction must go to the make-up of any man who is to lead the forward movement, and mildly good intentions are utterly useless as substitutes.

Theodore Roosevelt
April 1912
Louisville, Ky

Theodore Roosevelt described the progressive movement’s goals thusly: “…to destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics.”

Progressives want to weaken the power of the government and corporations and support the power of the people. Moreover, a progressive wants to limit corporations to the sphere of business, where they belong. Progressives also want to reduce corruption in government and business. The progressive movement of the early 1900s shares much of the ideology of the Occupy movement of today, both wanting to reduce the power of corporations in our government.

So what is a progressive to do when it comes to voting in this fall’s presidential election? Many progressives believe that voting is important; however, progressives have no candidate that wholeheartedly support them and their causes.

Should progressives vote for Barack Obama when the evidence is clear that Obama is unwilling or unable to affectively address the issues they care about such as unemployment and jobs, education, health care, the environment, and the Iraq and Afghan Wars, among others. In fact, evidence shows that President Obama has worked counter to causes progressives hold dear. Should they once more be content with a president that will only marginally slow the growth of corporate power in the United States because the Republican challenger will clearly speed up the corporate takeover?

Many people think President Obama has the right policies and the plan to enact them. Others feel that he is the better of the two choices and will vote for him in the fall. For many progressives, it's not that simple.

The Progressive Case Against Obama

The biggest indictment of Obama and the Democrats from a progressive’s point of view, and for others, is that he is firmly entrenched in a two party system that for the past 40 plus years has been an accomplice to the largest transfer of wealth from the lower classes to the 1% in U.S. history.

Obama’s constant war footing is a another problem for progressives. With one order he calls for a withdrawal from Iraq, and with the next order he increases the drone strikes overseas.

Obama promoted one of the largest giveaways to the health care industry in history with the Affordable Health Care Act. The president ignored the calls for a debate of single payer health care, a very cost effective model. This is what progressives wanted. But the President wasn’t even willing to have a debate on that point because as his staunchest supporters say, it wouldn’t get past the Republicans in Congress.

However, the Republicans were a minority in both houses of Congress until 2011. The real problem was that Obama could not enforce Democratic party discipline to pass the plan and by the time he became president had dropped his support of single payer health care. However, as all good negotiators know, you start by asking for too much in order to have a better bargaining position later. Obama gave away too much before he had to.

While Lyndon Johnson was admittedly harsh, brash and rude, he knew how to bully Congress into getting what he wanted. Johnson was able to push through the Civil Rights bill of 1964 against strong opposition “…without significant compromise. Success was achieved by a combination of aggressive lobbying, ruthless out-manoeuvring of the considerable remaining opposition, and astute political manipulation of Congressional rules.” Johnson had the talent and experience President Obama lacks. President Obama is a nicer, but a less effective, president than Johnson. Should progressives vote for a President who compromised to get a flawed health care bill passed that does little to address long-term costs in the hopes that he learned his lesson and will be a more effective negotiator in his second term?

The signing of the National Defense Authorization Act also displeased progressives. How can they, with clear conscience, vote for a man that signed a bill that allows the federal government to target its own citizens for detention without warrants on only the government's say so? Many progressives can’t.

On that same note, many Americans when hearing about the drone attacks killing civilians in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere become upset and wonder why we don’t find a better, less expensive, way to stop militant attacks on the United States. In fact, drone strikes have increased five-fold during Obama’s presidency. Even if we know Romney would be a worse president overall, can we really give our vote to a man responsible for mass murder?

Obama has sided with the standardized testing cabal with his own version of No Child Left Behind called “Race to the Top.” One can surmise that he changed the name, 1) to sell it to liberal Democrats, and 2) because No Child Left Behind has a much deserved bad reputation. Obama also supports the failed idea of merit based pay and unproven charter schools.

Can progressives support a man for president who attacks unions and doesn’t do his homework around educational issues and testing even if we know he is a better choice than Romney in many ways?

It is true that Obama and his White House have advance an impressive list of items that the President enacted through his power as executive or were passed in Congress. Is that enough to make up for the fact that he has not fundamentally challenged the banking, tax and economic systems that lead to the current economic catastrophe?

The President's jobs bill should have been the first order of business after he was elected. Obama spent so much time, energy and political capital on passing the Affordable Health Care Act that when it came to addressing unemployment, the House was controlled by the Republicans. And we know where they stand on hiring.

Before I finish, I want send a special word out to staunch supporters of President Obama. First, progressives know what Obama has done and what he hasn’t done. It’s not that progressives are “stupid” for not supporting Obama as some claim. In fact, progressives, myself included, see ourselves as an intelligent and thoughtful group that have weighed our options. Nor are progressives “traitors”, “dupes”, “ignoramuses”, “in denial”, “pathetic” or any other derogatory remarks that some Obama supporters have heaped on us. Don’t act like Republicans and use name calling just because progressives disagree with you.

Progressives are your natural allies. You might even call yourself a progressive. There is no need to act like teacher-bashing Rahm Emanuel and call us “retards.” Leave that for your real enemies. I know you are scared of a Romney presidency. So are progressives. That is the dilemma. Progressives do know there is a difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney, despite what some angry Democrats say. However, many progressives see that the two party system is broken, and some of us will take our vote elsewhere in November.

Tex Shelters


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    • texshelters profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      While Romney is not Bush, he's back by the same criminals. I like to say, "While Obama is in the pocket of Wall Street, Romney is in the jock strap."


    • texshelters profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      Well put Wes. And the two party monopoly relies on this idea of a lack of independent voters.


    • texshelters profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      UH--yep. The Teathuglickens will never get my vote either.


    • texshelters profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      Thanks. My vote is for President is thrown away by the electoral college in Arizona. So I'm voting Stein with a clear conscience.


    • texshelters profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      Well put Jaye. Still, for reasons posted here, I can't vote Obama. But I will vote for local Dem and former Giffords advisor Ron Barber, though he is far from progressive. My vote actually counts in that one and he has yet to have a record and is likely to vote with moderate to progressive Dems on most things.


    • GNelson profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      I will vote for Obama because he is the best of the two, progressive or not. We can't afford another Bush.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Repeating over and over and over again that "there are not enough independent voters to....."


      We create our own reality, and supporting Obama out of fear of Romeny is a mind disease that can only be cured one person at a time.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      First, congratulations on your 50th hub. Second, your last sentence vibes with what I've been thinking for a while-- basically, a vote for anyone who is not a Dem or Repub. The thought of scaring the two parties is very tempting, but what JayeWisdom says seems very true. I will withhold my decision until the last moment but the Tea Party-hijacked Repubs will never get my vote.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Gosh....It really worked when I paid Jaye to say exactly what I wanted to say. She is a GEM......word for word.....that's all I have to say...WHAT JAYE SAID!! AKA DITTO!.......Vote for one or the other, but don't toss your vote away TEX!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      The problem with taking your vote "elsewhere" in November is that there are not enough Independent voters to do anything except take votes away from President Obama and give them to (shudder!) Mitt Romney. Voting for an Independent candidate might make a statement, but it won't push a third political party into the system this year. (You've seen what's happened in the past.) It will only give America away to the greedy corporations.

      I agree that we should have a third party, but this movement should be left until after the election and pick up grassroots support over the next four years so that it has momentum when the next presidential election rolls around.

      I think President Obama learned his lesson the hard way during his first term. He is just naturally a negotiator and wanted to bring Democrats and Republicans together, wanted it to be his legacy that he could forge bipartisan support. His continued compromises didn't make me happy either, but by now he should realize IT CAN'T BE DONE! The GOP has one agenda, and only one, and they don't give a damn how many Americans must be sacrificed in the process. Republican Congressmen and women don't dare vote against their party agenda.

      I hope you will think very carefully before you throw votes to Romney/Ryan. There is no way a third party candidate can win in this election, and "making a statement" is not worth it if we lose everything in the making of it.


      P.S. I'm a Democrat, but I am also a Progressive, and I stand firmly with Teddy Roosevelt in wanting " dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics.”


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