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Why I Am a Progressive

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One of the main reasons I wrote my book, The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, was to give progressive leaders and activists a narrative about American history that would let them argue the progressive cause. I am delighted to pass the word on that members of the Democratic caucus in the House have taken that idea, and run with it. Congressman Keith Ellison and the Congressional Progressive Caucus organized an hour-long special order on the subject "Why I am a Progressive." The first half-hour was on what progressives have done to make America a better place, and the second was on what bold progressive vision for America could be now.

I was especially honored because Keith told me that The Progressive Revolution in great part inspired the idea of this special order, and because he used research and talking points coming from my book in his remarks on the floor.

This is what progressives should be doing, on the floor of the House and Senate, and in their organizing on behalf of progressive causes everywhere across this country: telling the proud story of the progressive movement, and why we should be bold in pushing for more and bolder progressive change.

Here are the thoughts I sent to Keith on their special order.

I am a progressive because progressives have always fought for Jefferson's idea that all of us are created equal.

I am a progressive because progressives embrace the idea of a government of, by, and for the people instead of a government run by the wealthy and powerful.

I am a progressive because we need an economy built from the bottom up, not the top down; an economy that is built on rising wages and an expanding and prosperous middle class, not one built on getting scraps trickling down from the rich and investor bubbles; an economy built on producing quality products, not one based on moving money around from one wealthy financial conglomerate to another.

I am a progressive because all of the great advances in American history come from the progressive movement, from people who believed in equality and democracy and justice and change fighting against the powers that be:

-The American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence
-The Bill of Rights
-The abolition of slavery
-The national park system
-Consumer safety laws
-Breaking up the big corporate trusts
-Women's suffrage
-Social Security
-Minimum wage
-Unemployment and worker's compensation
-Rural electrification
-The GI Bill
-Child labor laws
-The weekend and eight-hour days
-Ending Jim Crow
-Medicare and Medicaid
-Head Start
-Legal Services
-Clean Water Act
-Clean Air Act
-The EPA
-The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
-Martin Luther King Day
-Labor Day
-Family and Medical Leave
-S-CHIP

All of these gains for the American people came about because progressives had the idea, organized for it, and passed it into law.

If progressives could make all these things happen in our history, what can progressives do in our times if they think big and act boldly?

-Build an economy that is run almost entirely on wind, solar, and other clean renewable energy by the year 2020

-Create a health care system where every American has access to health care services, with their own choice of a high-quality doctor, whenever they need it, and where they and their doctor don't have to fight with insurance companies over the treatment they need.

-Create a full employment economy where everyone is paid a wage that will keep them and their families above the poverty line

-Create an educational system where anyone who wants to get a college degree is able to do so without going deeply into debt, and where every single K-12 public school succeeds at getting their students ready for life as productive citizens.

-Invest in a non-profit sector where citizens are empowered to build community organizations that make a difference in their lives.

I would love to know how you would answer those questions , and frame the progressive argument.

Here's some video highlights from the "Why I am a Progressive" hour on the House floor.

Congressman Keith Ellison: "Why I Am A Progressive" from Progressive Revolution on Vimeo.