The Thread Needler

Progressive Identity Politics: The New Emo

Once upon a time, Progressivism was a pragmatic, “reality-based” movement seeking to advance justice and equality by implementing the best policies available.

That time has passed.

Progressivism has morphed into an exclusionary identity-politics movement – an echo-chamber populated by a group of individuals who are so rapt by the symbolism and aesthetics of their beliefs that they do not understand they are on a sure path to irrelevancy.

Progressives think - like Tea Partiers - that the emotional resonance they feel with respect to their political beliefs is enough to achieve overwhelming political victory. But whether Tea Party or Progressive, that logic is flawed.

And have no doubt, Tea Party-ism and Progressivism are becoming flip sides of the same coin.

For instance, Tea Party identity politics go like this: “if only others were as personally offended by Barack Obama’s existence as I am, they’d have to vote him out of office.”

Progressive identity politics go like this: “If only others could feel as strongly as I do that Krugman is right, they would have to support a massive new stimulus.”

It is the second step in this line of thinking when things get dangerous & fatally wrong – when individuals start externalizing the blame for wounded political identities: “if others do not feel as strongly as I do about the policies I’d like to see implemented, then there’s something wrong with them.”

Thus, if the President decides not to follow Paul Krugman’s advice to push for a new stimulus that is certain to fail, then “there’s something wrong with him.”

Thus, the President who expanded the social safety net more than any other in 40 years is accused of wanting to shred the social safety net.

Thus, the President who has unabashedly pursued Progressive policies like carbon regulation is accused of being a corporate Manchurian candidate.

Thus, the President who secured a massive increase in the deficit over the last year is accused of pursuing contractionary fiscal policies.

All because he does not feel Progressive priorities strongly enough.


Over the last week, the President called for new stimulus in the form of continued payroll tax cuts and an infrastructure bank. After Labor Day, he plans to release a plan for rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

Yet these have not been the major stories discussed on the Progressive blogosphere this week.

Much more important business has been at the forefront.

It turns out that an employee of Obama’s campaign organization sent out a link to a blog that called some Progressives “firebaggers.”

Huff Post | Obama Campaign Staffer Sends Out Email Bashing Paul Krugman And The ‘Firebagger Lefty Blogosphere’: On the evening of Aug. 1, just after Congress passed legislation to raise the debt ceiling, Obama for America (OFA) New Mexico State Director Ray Sandoval sent an email to supporters with the subject line, “Please take 5 minutes to read this, Please.” [...]

The rest of the email was a blog post taken from a blog called “The People’s View,” run by Spandan Chakrabarti. [...]

The blog post that Sandoval thought was important enough to share with others harshly condemns Krugman and progressive bloggers who have been critical of Obama.

Oh, the Humanity! The Betrayal!

Read this excerpt from an emo diary at Daily Kos on this topic and tell me Progressivism hasn’t turned into a giant exercise in self-mockery (emphasis mine):

You know, at first I was angered, but it quickly changed to sadness and profound disappointment. This is not a political game [eds. note, yes it is a political game; all politics are] or target shoot. Progressive policies are popular with the majority of Americans. We have been critical, yes, but we have spent countless hours trying to discuss and promote progressive policies that benefit everyone and now more than ever good policy is good politics…

Mr. President, if you truly want to regain the trust and retain the support of progressives, I strongly suggest that you encourage a wave of attitude adjustment in OFA, the DNC and your campaign.

Mr. President, if you want Progressives to continue to support you as you implement health care reform, regulate carbon pollution, overhaul Wall Street and push for jobs legislation, you better make sure not a single anonymous staffer utters a mean word about us. Because - screw the millions of people who could benefit from your policies - MY FEELINGS ARE HURT.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>