Can Progressives Mobilize to Save the Middle Class?

By James A. Haught | (Charleston Gazette-Mail) | – –

The progressive vision for America — to make life better for all families, not just the privileged elite at the top — has suffered setbacks. After the 2016 election, Republicans control the White House, both chambers of Congress and more than half of state governments.

Liberal hopes for free college, universal healthcare, equal opportunity, female rights, higher minimum wage, less militarism, less imprisonment and other left-wing goals seem doomed, at least for now. All that reform-minded folks can do is try to prevent losses of past social progress.

Hurrah for Liberals: How Progressives Defeated Conservatives to Create Democracy, Human Rights and Safe Modern Life

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is trying to rally progressives into stronger unified resistance against the conservative Trump era. Her new book, “This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class,” is a blunt weapon.

From the New Deal to the 1980s, she points out, America “built the greatest middle class the world has ever known.” She continues:

“We built it ourselves, using our own hard work and the tools of government to open up more opportunities for millions of people. We used it all — tax policy, investments in public education, new infrastructure, support for research, rules that protected consumers and investors, antitrust laws — to promote and expand our middle class…. Income growth was widespread, and the people who did most of the work — the 90 percent of America — also got most of the gains.”

However, trickle-down economics under President Reagan turned the tables, giving ever-bigger favors to the rich, who used snowballing technology and their amassed wealth to corral more power.

Warren, a former Harvard professor, writes that she spent years researching the “great and terrible story” of middle-class decline. Today, college debt hobbles many families. Job insecurity grows as electronic breakthroughs wipe out more jobs. Wealth keeps amassing in hands of the 1 percent who control corporations and investments — and who stash their money in overseas shelters.

“People are angry because trade deals seem to be building jobs and opportunities for workers in other parts of the world, while leaving abandoned factories here at home,” Warren continues. “…Today, this country works great for those at the top. It works great for every corporation rich enough to hire an army of lobbyists and lawyers. It works great for every billionaire who pays taxes at lower rates than the hired help. It works great for everyone with the money to buy favors in Washington.”

She calls President Trump a man “always on the hunt for his next big con.” She urges progressives to follow the pattern of the million-member Women’s March on Washington, to mobilize resistance against conservative attempts to slash the public safety net and human rights.

Another form of resistance is citizen lawsuits to prevent new law changes from scuttling past public gains locked into statutes.

With Republicans controlling most government power, will it be possible for progressives to resist effectively? Maybe — maybe not. But at least conscientious Americans shouldn’t just surrender.

( Haught, editor emeritus of The Charleston Gazette-Mail, can be reached by phone at 304-348-5199 or e-mail at His latest book is Hurrah for Liberals: How Progressives Defeated Conservatives to Create Democracy, Human Rights and Safe Modern Life.)

3 Responses

  1. No

    The USA middle class can not be saved unless Americans are willing to embrace “socialism light” and be willing to drastically reshape society to deal with the FACT that technology has eliminated most middle class jobs.

    The reshaping will have to be the opposite of the path trump and his cronies are on. That is, the wealthy and businesses will have to be heavily taxed and society will have to provide a basic sustenance for all but the wealthy.

    The simple reality is the USA has a large excess of workers and no hope of ever changing that situation so social structures will have to change to reflect that.

    BUT . . .

    The USA myth of the “rugged individual” will prevent Americans from making the necessary changes. They will fight “socialism” to their last breath rather than make the necessary changes to deal with reality. Myths die hard – just talk to trump voters.

    • Sparta was renowned for its warrior class, which was the product of its willingness to deform itself in every possible way to create slaveowners vicious enough to put down slave rebellions by all means necessary. But the consequence was that the tests for becoming a Spartan citizen/soldier were so severe that fewer and fewer Spartans could actually pass them. Finally, they had to bring in foreign mercenaries as their low-ranking foot soldiers, officered by a dwindling number of Spartans. This cultural obsession with purity led to disastrous defeats and the king having to flee and himself become a mercenary.

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