The Next Progressive Era: Book Review
November 23, 2009
First of all, I’d like to thank PoliPointPress for sending me a copy of Phillip Longman and Ray Boshara’s new book, The Next Progressive Era. Reading it expanded my understanding of the past, which has sharpened my perception of the present and broadened my vision of the future. I think that’s about the best any two authors could hope for.
The most salient point to be taken from The Next Progressive Era is that progressives must stress the ways in which the changes they wish to make in society will stimulate the economy. That’s why the book is subtitled A Blueprint for Broad Prosperity.
Sadly, the fact that progressive change will help people lead healthier, safer, happier lives is not enough to push that change through government channels. The general population will not jump out of their recliners to educate the poor, feed the hungry, or provide job training to the rudderless. But they will run if they see dollar signs at the end of the track.
Before they delve into their agenda for a new Progressive Era, Longman and Boshara draw a picture of the original one. Their Introduction is filled with comparisons between America in the 1890s, when the first Progressive Era began, and today, including:
- Society was quite xenophobic.
- Agribusiness was unregulated and food quality was poor.
- Corporations tied the hands of many.
- Conservatives were poised to gain power.
- Common people were struggling because they could not receive a “family wage.”
In the face of these conditions today, the authors argue, progressives must frame the debate as one in which programs that help the middle class do so by helping the economy. As Longman and Boshara state, without this kind of framing, the list of things progressives want sounds “utopian at best and foreign, unpatriotic, illegitimate, elitist, socialistic, and relativistic at worst.” My, aren’t those words familiar to anyone who watches the nightly cable news?
Talk about the economy and you’ve got a mainline to the public’s hearts and minds. Think about it: that’s why conservatives today–if that is what we can call the hate-morphed Republicans who stand at the forefront of their party–are attacking health care reform as being too expensive. Put money into the equation and things like equal opportunity and fairness get canceled out.
The Next Progressive Era contains chapters on thrift, debt, health care, and transportation, among other important topics. Of health care, the authors say, ” Progressive politicians would be concentrating not on how to provide more Americans with cheaper access to a broken system; they’d be concentrating on the broken system itself.” I guess that means we didn’t get quite as much of a progressive as we hoped when we elected President Obama.
And the chapter called “America in Motion” says some of the smartest things I’ve ever read about America’s transportation system and how very much it impedes progress in every part of American life. Read the book for that chapter alone.
Mr. Longman and Mr. Boshara have done us all a great service by writing this book They have captured the true spirit of progressivism and outlined ways to bring it into the 21st century. Let’s all hope it gets there, along with all of us. For the broad prosperity and the utopia.