The Left’s Identity Crisis

Ken Brociner in In These Times:

“Love me, love me, I’m a liberal” was one of the most memorable protest songs of the ’60s. Written, recorded and performed by the late, great Phil Ochs, the song expressed the widespread anger that ’60s radicals felt toward mainstream liberalism during that tumultuous era.

Today, in the eyes of many progressive activists, a similar divide exists within the Democratic Party. According to this view, the Democrats’ intra-party struggle either pits the insider vs. outsider, grassroots activists vs. elites or sellouts vs. those willing to fight for what they believe in (or all of the above).

By setting up these misleading dichotomies, too many activists have contributed to the dilution of what was widely meant by the word “progressive” when it became the adjective of choice for the left sometime in the mid-to-late ’70s. The fact is, over the past 10 to 15 years, the label “progressive” has come to be used so loosely that it has lost much of the substance that it had in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.

So what does it mean to be a progressive in 2007? What do we stand for? What do we believe in?