In 2013, I debated (part 1, part 2) Daniel Marans of the Huffington Post on the Grand Compromise (that never happened) in which President Obama had offered Republicans certain reforms of Social Security, such as adjusting the cost-of-living-increases based on a different consumer price index that accounts for substitute choices. The debate came after my writings on the method and President Obama's other proposals to shore up Social Security (like setting a minimum benefit above the poverty level, increasing taxes for the wealthy, etc.).
When I pointed out that under current law, Social Security is scheduled to be cut by more than 20% once the trust fund is exhausted since Social Security is legally prohibited from using general fund revenue, Marans said that such concerns were unwarranted, as Congress will always fix social security and continue it in any urgent situation. As an example, he pointed to the social security compromise in the 1980s that was spearheaded by Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neil. When I hit back that the Reagan-O'Neil 'saving' of Social Security actually raised the retirement age from 65 to 67, Marans seemed a bit uneasy finding excuses for why that couldn't happen this time.
Anyway, my point is this. The likes of Marans and other "progressives" who fought the Obama administration tooth and nail over a minor adjustment to Social Security were the same people who kept telling us there was no urgency because Congress fixed it under Reagan, seemingly oblivious that the deal under Reagan was much, much worse than what President Obama was suggesting, even discounting all the upgrades that President Obama had envisioned.
Tip O'Neil is still a hero among these "progressives" for having compromised with Ronald Reagan on Social Security, but when Barack Obama proposed a much better deal with a Republican Congress, he became a villain.
This, my friends, is why we lose.
It is often touted that on issue after issue, a majority of Americans agree with Democrats. A majority of Americans want higher taxes for the wealthy, a higher minimum wage, greater regulation for Wall Street, strong anti-discrimination laws, comprehensive immigration reform, protection for reproductive choice and so on and so forth. Yet, 'progressives' keep losing key policy battles: on union rights, on reproductive choice, on voter ID and a whole host of issues and elections.
Why? Because progressives hate compromising - with friends. With foes though, they seem to always be ready to give away the house.
Just recently, Bernie Sanders set such an example again, saying he's ready to work with Donald Trump to compromise away his demand for a $15 national minimum wage and settle for the $10 minimum wage that Trump once said he supported. Bernie Sanders wasn't so kind to his Democratic rival, however, as he relentlessly pounded Hillary Clinton for proposing to raise the national minimum wage to $12 as a baseline. The GOP picked up on this with quite a bit of relish along with other Sanders attacks on Clinton.
This is the biggest downfall of Left's ideologues who fancy themselves spokespeople for progressivism: they fight friends for proposing anything short of their ideological ideal, and wait until an utter foe gets elected to compromise.
Progressives are now playing defense on how much of Obamacare can be protected under a Trump presidency and GOP Congress. But what were these people doing when President Obama and a Democratic Congress was trying to pass it in the face of unprecedented obstruction and venom from the Teabaggers? "Progressives", too, were trying to "kill the bill", because in their view it just wasn't good enough.
We are now trying to guess just how much tax cut Donald Trump will give away to his billionaire buddies. But when President Obama passed a package of middle class tax breaks and infrastructure spending to stop the economic bleeding of the time when he took office, "progressives" angrily denounced it as 'not enough' and 'supply side.'
We are now trying to figure out how much of financial reform can be protected from being rolled back by President Pussygrabber and his party. When this president was trying to put it in place, however, Left wing nuts were berating it for not immediately breaking up all the banks.
We are now in the midst of watching just how much of LGBT rights can be rolled back with the stroke of Trump's pen. One thing that cannot be rolled back is the abolition of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, because President Obama had the patience and the foresight to repeal it through Congressional action, even as a whole bunch of "progressives" mocked him to "evolve already" for not achieving a temporary halt to DADT through executive order.
I will not list everything that belongs in the same mold, because that would turn into a book. But suffices it to say that the Left's loudest voices claiming the "progressive" mantle has again and again been hostile to the President who has relentlessly and thanklessly moved public policy to actually be more progressive. It is in large part this unforgiving assault by "progressives" on President Obama that depressed Democratic turnout in key areas in 2010, 2014 and now 2016. It is large because of them that we now have Donald Trump moving into the White House and Paul Ryan salivating over his plans to obliterate Medicare.
Imagine how different it would have been if these "progressive" mouthpieces had stood by President Obama and Democrats for the gargantuan task they took on to reform health care and the financial sector, to pull the economy back from an abyss, to fight against discrimination. Imagine if they had not told their fellow progressives that President Obama was a weak-kneed invertebrate who was intent on selling us out. Imagine if instead they pushed for the big compromises that would improve the social safety net alongside the president and helped get the word about what a monumental job President Obama was doing.
Imagine if they had expressed as much pride in the Democratic field in 2016 as Hillary Clinton did. Imagine if Bernie Sanders and his fans hadn't spent almost a year trashing Hillary Clinton on minimum wage and speeches and instead focused on finding common ground with her strong platform of expanding on President Obama's financial reform. Imagine if "progressives" hadn't spent months portraying the most qualified candidate for president in history as the same corrupt, establishment caricature Donald Trump and GOP picked up on. Imagine if they hadn't spent months sporting hashtags like #IfItsHillItsJill and instead pushing their friends to get out and vote for the baddest ass feminist that ever ran for president.
Imagine if "progressives" actually treated their friends well and did not wait till we are out of power to seek compromise for the common good.