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Allen Schmertzler Headshot

Compassionate Progressivism Can Stop the Balkanization of America

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More signals this week that the Obama presidency is standing on its last lame-duck leg. I have now lost any great hope to see progressive legislation until the country gets to reboot with a 2016 mandate. It was a wonderful dream of hope to have the country move progressively together, but for now we are going to have to leave progressive reforms to the states.

Obama's administration has become an exit door. Jay Carney gives notice of his departure and Eric Shinseki resigns under duress to give his president some cover for what is going to be a very damaging and nasty scandal. This one has been stewing for a long time and is brought to us by the previous administration's indiscretions and congressional neglect to lead toward the future preferring to play short-term politics. However, as commander-in-chief, President Obama has to own this one.

Meanwhile, the once self-declared compassionate conservative, former Vice President Dick Cheney, still mean, grouchy, gnarly, and vindictive, with his lopsided smirk and weakened heart, has been making the media circus rounds attempting to rewrite his legacy by declaring that President Obama is "weak," maybe even the weakest president in his lifetime. Wow, really! This must be a case of Freudian "foreign-policy penis envy." I do not feel sorry for how pathetic Mr. Cheney appears. I hold him in contempt. The world holds him in contempt, maybe as a war criminal. Truth be told, there never were "compassionate conservatives." That was a clever election-year marketing slogan. But what this country needs now are the emphatic, sustained voices of "compassionate progressives."

The optimism that sprouted from the 2012 election is lost. Americans aching for progressive change know the effort is lost at the federal level. No way will Obama get any legislation traction outside his periodic executive orders. Along with the negative messaging by our obstructionist Republican Congress, the president and progressive messaging are also being drowned out by a media obsessed with the insidious theme of "lost." We the people have been seduced by one tragic news-story orgy after another. Consider how much focus the following recent stories have received:

Flight 370 is lost. I believe CNN is still allocating prime coverage on the missing plane, but it is lost, swallowed up mysteriously. A South korean ferryboat is lost, and with it, too many students, swallowed up by the ocean. Democracy in Crimea, maybe in all of Ukraine, is lost, swallowed up by Russian nationalism. Young girls abducted by Boko Haram from a Nigerian school are lost, possibly swallowed up in the world of female sex trafficking. A human life is lost in a tortuous way from a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma. Lost with it is the obnoxious, smug attitude that killing inmates can be done without violating the "cruel and unusual" clause of the Eighth Amendment. Another mentally ill, lost, gun-toting young man calculatingly commits mass murder. So many lives lost. So many families lost so much. Lost with it is another bucolic schooling community. This one is named Isla Vista.

But the "lost" story that has been lost in all this "lost" is the one about our 113th Congress, a no-show legislative body dominated by the same Cheney-like, not-compassionate-for-anything-but-their-own-power-grab types and their billionaire backers. It is the Republican majority that is lost, and it should get lost but won't! They have no ambition to provide legislation to help a majority of Americans. Their goal is to kill federalism, at least until they can figure out how to win back the White House. If their strategy is to play up state' rights, then bring it on, because the advantage goes to the blue progressive movement.

With the Obama coalition of voters empowered at the state level, the progressive agenda can continue. This will continue to be temporarily a Balkanization of quality of life. One state may have a higher minimum wage, one may have more or fewer clinics attending to women's reproductive health concerns, and some may be more or less enthusiastic about embracing all aspects of the Affordable Care Act. As folks from neighboring states peer over their borders and see how good it can get, with just a little help from family-friendly, worker-friendly, women-friendly, financial-equality-friendly state government, they will demand the same from their own.

Women are at the forefront of these issues. They voted so in 2012, and they currently poll likewise. They are the majority. The country is ready. Hillary is on the move. Women want smart gun-safety legislation. Women want equality. Strong female voices from strong females with strong voices are going to continue to lead the charge for sane progressive and fair reforms. They are the core of the compassionate progressives and can bring that agenda back for the entire nation in 2016 and end the current state of Balkanization of equality, fairness, saneness and real compassion for we the people. All is not "lost"!