Update: Critic Tells Progressive Group Leaders Why New Definition Is 'Nearly Comical'
July 1st, 2018, 12:51 PM
Update: The last four paragraphs of this June 29 article now have an expanded reaction from Washtenaw County Democratic Party chair Chris Savage to a media release from leaders of the state party's Progressive Caucus, which he belongs to.
This seems like a policy of leave no word behind.
Actually, it makes sense that political activists pushing for greater diversity and inclusion embrace all kinds of phrases to describe themselves.
"What does Progressive mean?" asks the headline on a new statement from the Progressive Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party. The answer tops out at 119 words, including a 75-word sentence that can't be read in one breath or even two.
The P-word "has become an overused buzzword but this has afforded us an opportunity to question what it means to each of us on all levels," caucus chair Kelly Collison and vice-chair Ayman Khafagi say in a release emailed Friday morning. Collison, 30, was a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign volunteer in 2015-16 and Dr. Khafagi is an emergency medicine physician living in Ann Arbor.
They clearly mean to define progressive on all levels. Here's the mouthful crafted after "many hours" and "careful democratic deliberation:"
We define progressives as a group of people aspiring for freedom, equity and justice. A progressive stands by the oppressed, marginalized and less privileged until the scale is evened. A progressive implements those ideals by: promoting economic justice, ending capital control of our economic and political system and agitating for workers’ owned and operated businesses, forming a truly democratic government that derives its own legitimacy from the active consent of all governed, advocating for reparations for victims of our nation's original sins; slavery, colonization, manifest destiny, racism and greed, and striving for justice for people of all races, beliefs, gender identities and sexual orientation. We believe a progressive crafts policy based on science, fact-finding and careful assessment of context.
Blows away any fogginess, right?
To be clear, we poke purely as language sticklers doing our own careful assessment -- not as political critics. These typically are our peeps, supporting positions we generally share and pushing party leaders to be more . . . well, progressive.
We're certainly cool with "active consent of all governed" and "promoting economic justice." But we detest "implements" and prefer to stay grounded in practical reality rather than drifting aloft with talk of "reparations for victims of our nation’s original sins; slavery, colonization, manifest destiny, racism and greed." That doesn't sound like a way to attract new Democratic friends and influence elections.
"This is how Trump gets re-elected," a former politics reporter comments privately to Deadline.
Eyebrows also are raised by a caucus supporter, Eclectablog publisher Chris Savage of Dexter.
"Where did the "careful democratic deliberation" on this take place and how/where was the 'unanimous' vote taken?" he asks at the caucus' Facebook page, which has 2,300 followers. "I am a MDP Progressive Caucus member but somehow missed all of it."
Collison, a 30-year-old Lansing resident running foir a state House seat, replies:
As per our bylaws, this was discussed and decided in the executive committee, which was elected by the membership according to the MDP rules.
The caucus asks if the popular blogger disagrees with some of the four sentences "so that we can have discussion about it." Savage responds two days later:
I don't have major problems with it other than it's far too long to be an effective definition. The bits about reparations and being anti-capitalist are pretty dodgy, too, and certainly NOT something all progressives agree on.
The part that gripes me the most as a member of this group is the fact that you present this -- in a press release, no less -- as the unanimous view of the entire, very large group with literally thousands of members, when, in fact, it is the view of a small group of people in leadership.
In the Washtenaw County Democratic Party we would NEVER pass a resolution or similar item at the Board or Committee level and then erroneously portray it as the unanimous action of the entire general membership. We would (and have) explicitly state which subgroup had taken this action and that's what you should have done here. What you have done with this action is deceitful and shows incredibly poor leadership.
And then there's the minor fact that the word "progressive" actually already HAS a definition. The fact that you're attempting to redefine it to suit your own purposes is nearly comical to me. Who does that?