Who’s the Real Extremist
I’m sick and tired of hearing about the “extreme left,” the “radical left,” and other tropes members of the elite deploy in describing progressives. Our ideas and our policies are denounced as being excessive or out-of-step with the public. It’s absolutely absurd. Let’s unpack this.
First of all, we need to have an honest conversation about who these folks are that denounce, diminish, and belittle movement progressivism. The chorus of nay-sayers is comprised of magazine columnists, cable news pundits, corporate executives, and politicians. While they may come from different regions and speak from different platforms, the common denominator they share is their membership of the 1% or at the least top 5%. The status quo has made these people very rich and is, likely, allowing them to continue increasing their wealth. By dismissing the need for societal change as “extreme” or “radical,” the elites give cover to their selfish desire towards status quo preservation. But here’s the thing. The American people are rising up.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have participated in a strike this month deeming observers to coin the term “Striketober.” In the last election, the presidential candidate who won ran on the most progressive platform in modern history and got the most votes of any candidate in US history. Progressive insurgents are winning primaries in races up and down the ballot. A prison abolitionist is poised to be elected to District Attorney in Seattle. And progressive ballot measures are winning in red states (i.e. Florida raising the minimum wage to $15/hour). The American people are coming to grips with who the real extremists are in our society.
Is it extreme to decriminalize drug possession or is it extreme to incarcerate and arrest millions of people who suffer from substance abuse addiction or who have indulged in marijuana while allowing the perpetrators of the opioid epidemic to evade virtually any form of accountability?
Is it extreme to raise taxes on the wealthy and big corporations or is it extreme to allow the most profitable enterprises and billionaires to pay next to nothing in taxes?
Is it extreme to design, pass, and implement a universal, single-payer healthcare system that provides free or low-cost health care to everyone or is it extreme to allow 45,000 Americans to die annually from the absence of health insurance?
Is it extreme to end cash bail or is it extreme to allow hundreds of thousands of presumed innocent people to be locked in cages because they couldn’t afford the fee a judge assigned them?
Is it extreme to spend trillions of dollars to transition away from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy or is it extreme to allow fossil fuel companies to continue exacerbating the climate crisis and pollute our air and water which already costs the lives of 250,000 Americans a year and costs hundreds of billions of dollars?
Is it extreme to want redirect dollars allocated towards policing towards mental health counselors, social workers, violence interrupters, community-based organizations, and other proven first responder alternatives or is it extreme to continue funnelling hundreds of billions dollars (more than the military budgets of nearly every country on the planet) into policing and prisons every year as police and prison guards kill thousands of people every year and as we have the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world?
Is it extreme to invest in redistributive programs like a universal basic income and a child allowance or is it extreme to allow tens of millions of children to live in poverty and experience malnutrition and housing insecurity?
Is it extreme to cut our military budget, bring our troops home from overseas, and demand a more peace and diplomacy-focused foreign policy or is it extreme to spend more on our military than the next seven countries combined and perpetuate regime change wars that kill nearly one million people (just in the past two decades) and displace millions more?
Is it extreme to end discriminatory zoning laws and build mixed-income housing in order to build inclusive communities or is it extreme to accept neighborhoods and schools that are more segregated today than they were in the 1960s?
Is it extreme to open our arms to refugees and asylum seekers or is it extreme to cage in concentration camps those escaping horrific conditions in their home countries whose destabilization is the result of our own foreign policy?
Is it extreme to make colleges and trade schools tuition-free or is it extreme to saddle our young people with trillions in student loan debt for trying to get a good education for themselves?
Is it extreme to raise the minimum wage to a living wage and allow every worker to join a union or is it extreme to allow CEOs who make on average three hundred times what their workers make while the majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck?
The changes progressives are advocating for would mean significant departures for what most people are used to. That doesn’t make them radical or extreme. What’s extreme is ignoring or reforming around the edges a society that in so many facets causes insurmountable and preventable harm. Status quo preservationists are dead-set on quashing our movement for progressive social change because it will hurt their bottom line. They’re invested in a society that denies healthcare to all, that pollutes Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, that allows financial institutions to commit mortgage fraud and other forms of predatory behavior, and that incarcerates and generates free labor from 2 million people every year. Let’s disrupt the extremist status quo and transform our society to one that is compassionate and inclusive to all.