10 questions to distinguish truly progressive politicians

by: plf515

Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 18:33:05 PM EST



I've come up with 10 questions that I think distinguish progressive candidates. I'd like to ask each congressional candidate these 10:

1.  Would you vote to repeal the Patriot Act?
2.  Would you vote to repeal No Child Left Behind?
3.  Would you vote for a truly inclusive Employee Nondiscrimination Act?
4.  Would you vote to decriminalize marijuana?
5.  Would you vote for a law saying marriage is between any two consenting adults?
6.  Do you support a woman's right to choose abortion, without restriction?
7.  Would you vote for a truly progressive tax system?
8.  Would you join the International Criminal Court?
9.  Would you vote for the Kyoto accords on the environment?
10. Would you support a "Manhattan project" scale effort to fund and develop renewable energy sources?

Then what I would do is compare the percentage of correct answers to the share of the vote Obama got, and fund people who were more progressive than their district and more progressive than their opponent.  

plf515 :: 10 questions to distinguish truly progressive politicians
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An interesting exercise, perhaps, (1.86 / 7)
but has a "litmus test" feel that makes me squeamish. Certainly could identify "truly progressive" candidates this way, but not electable ones.

Lemme see how I would do...

1.  Would you vote to repeal the Patriot Act?

I would study the crap out of it, pick it apart and likely strengthen defenses against parts of it.

2.  Would you vote to repeal No Child Left Behind?

I think so, yes. "Studying for the test" hasn't seemed to help anything. The intent wasn't imho a bad one, but education has changes so much since it came out - and has so much change to do in the next ten years - that what I would really vote for is a Manhattan Project to analyze and likely remake the entire education system.

3.  Would you vote for a truly inclusive Employee Nondiscrimination Act?

Not sure. I am guessing you mean to itemize as many as demographics as possible and make discriminating against each illegal?

Might be simpler to have a one-liner law stating that discriminating on any basis not related to job performance is illegal.

4.  Would you vote to decriminalize marijuana?

Yes.

5.  Would you vote for a law saying marriage is between any two consenting adults?

Yes.

6.  Do you support a woman's right to choose abortion, without restriction?

Almost. Late term is outright killing, and only in extreme cases with specific imminent risk to the life of the mother. As the ability to sustain life outside the womb moves backwards in the 40-week scale there may in foreseeable time be a point where abortion is only an option very early, after which external gestation would be the alternative.

7.  Would you vote for a truly progressive tax system?

Really hard to say, that's a very broad statement. It could (and has) been taken to the "that's one for you 19 for me" stage, in which case the answer would be no.

8.  Would you join the International Criminal Court?

Probably not, though I would vote to commit significant resources to finding a way to integrate more fully with international law (a slight variation of "yes", but significant).

9.  Would you vote for the Kyoto accords on the environment?

No. I think they are a decent start and would, like 8, vote to commit significant resources to negotiating a truly workable international system for managing climate and other bioshpere issues.

10. Would you support a "Manhattan project" scale effort to fund and develop renewable energy sources?

No. As 8 and 9, I would vote to commit significant resources to energy issues, but "Manhattan Project" is wrong analogy for what I would support. MP was a massive sole-source centralized effort with a single goal. My answer to 9 is more what I think would work, but focused internally.

Energy use is going to quadruple (or greater) in this century. In itself this is a good thing, environmental impacts will need to be engineered out of the process. This may mean full-capture of carbon for fossil fuels (the nickel research has me a bit enthusiastic atm). It may mean better fission. Fusion would be lovely. A full inventory of potential sources (tidal, geothermal, OTEC, solar - heck, plate tectonic might be a big deal.

---------------

I would caution - overall, however - progressives from doing these sorts of tests except in purely hypothetical terms. Capital C Conservatives are busy showing the folly of purity tests for politicians, the political left would be wise to avoid even the suggestion of attempting the same thing.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


Acually on 3, I meant something like what you seem to mean (2.00 / 7)
That is, I'd write that no one could be hired, fired, promoted, demoted etc etc except for reasons that were directly related to job performance.  

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter

[ Parent ]
Yeah, I think we are reaching that stage in various realms of civil rights. (2.00 / 7)
We started by arguing against mistreatment of Group X. I think we need to reach the stage of replacing all those granular laws/memes/efforts/groups with simpler ones.

National Association for the Advancement of People.

The ever-expanding acronym of sexuality is another good one. LGBQTXWPZ (or whatever it is up to). We have to get to the "none of your damn business" stage.

My earliest divergences from mainstream liberalism were along these lines. Suggesting in the late 70s that someday we will have to wrap up and end pick-a-civil-rights-group was asking to be jumped on.

But we do.

Every effort put together for the purpose of righting a wrong has to have a built-in self destruct mechanism. Affirmative Action is a failure if it has to exist forever, for example.

In the end, we want human rights to be fundamental.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
since i've thought about this for 24 hours (2.00 / 4)
i'll go ahead:

6.  Do you support a woman's right to choose abortion, without restriction?

Almost. Late term is outright killing, and only in extreme cases with specific imminent risk to the life of the mother. As the ability to sustain life outside the womb moves backwards in the 40-week scale there may in foreseeable time be a point where abortion is only an option very early, after which external gestation would be the alternative.

1.  maybe a woman's health care decisions should be between a woman and her choice of doctor.  
2.  i have had a couple friends who may have needed a late-term abortion to save their lives.  there was also a pair of diaries at the gos friday night on this topic.  it is an utterly heart-wrenching decision.  when pregnancies go bad, they can go very very very badly.  for baby, and for mom.  


[ Parent ]
Let's put the core issue right on the table: (2.00 / 3)
"Is there one person involved, or more?"

Aside from that, there isn't any contention on this issue. Everyone - everyone - understands the issues of the mother. Even the most rabid "Right to Lifer" (god I hate that tagline) understands the issue of the mother.

I know that is very hard for many of their opponents to understand, but I believe it is absolutely true. I have many of those folks as extremely close friends, and not one of them has any lack of sympathy and concern for the mother in these cases. The folks I am thinking of now volunteer extensively and provide direct care for such mothers and others.

For my part I have a wife, a mom, two grandmothers and two daughters. I get all of the issues about the need for women to control their bodies and destinies.

All that may seem more caveat than necessary, but on this issue more than any other I think that everyone involved needs to be almost cartoonishly clear where they do not disagree. So that the fine points - the small differences that are as large as the Hindenberg (and more flammable) - can be handled with due care.

The only reason - the single reason there is any debate whatsoever on this topic - is wrapped up in that quote above. "Is there another person involved?"

Some people of very good faith believe that there is, at the very moment of conception. I am not one of those, though even at that point believe that the intended or spontaneous loss of that potential person is very sad. A third of those are lost spontaneously, most often to parents for whom this is very traumatic.

For me, however, it is very clear that that potential person becomes an actual person at some point after conception and prior to delivery. For anyone who has seen a baby born premature this should, I believe, be entirely clear as well. The question which I wrestle terribly with is "at which point does the 'potential person' become an actual person?", and for all those beyond the two most extreme positions this is where all the trouble lies.

At one point I found comfort in the Libertarian view. That no person owes anything to another, not even their life. Age and the realization that 'philosophical treaties do not a reality, make' has robbed me of that comfort.

So, while I will fight to defend - as much as possible - the right of my daughters and any other woman to retain a near-Libertarian control of her own body, I cannot find a way to support a complete and absolutely legal autonomy in all ways on this issue. There must, I believe, be a point where the yet-delivered child is recognized as such. How we ever find a way to legally deal with that is something that leaves me as befuddled as anyone.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
Sorry, but I disagree (2.00 / 1)
The question is not "is there one person or two" but rather what jlms said, "who makes these decisions?"  Should a woman and her doctor be the best ones to decide what should happen in an individual case or should they be overruled by a black letter law written at some earlier time that may or may not have known their case even existed?

You would permit a late term abortion

only in extreme cases with specific imminent risk to the life of the mother

I'm not a health professional, but even I can come up with several (extremely rare and unlikely, yet possible) scenarios off the top of my head where you would probably agree that late term abortion is probably the best of a set of bad choices and yet still don't meet your precise criteria:

What about a case where the late term fetus has a defect that would mean it could at most have a short and painful life AND carrying the child to term would severely impact the mother's health, including her future fertility, but not her life?  You would sacrifice any future children she might be able to have to save one that is doomed in any case?

What about a mother carrying multiple fetuses where one is again doomed, but not yet dead and without a selective abortion, the twin would also be doomed?

What about a case where the fetus is severely deformed, but might actually "survive" in a vegetative state for years after birth, but caring for such a child would be financial ruin for the family and such a great emotional burden that the parents and siblings would be emotionally ruined?

In the end, the real question is not, "Is it a person?" but rather "Who decides?"


[ Parent ]
You're right, it is more complicated. (2.00 / 1)
Fortunately they don't let me write the laws... ;~)

I agree with your additional exceptions, and I am certain there are some others. However, just as it is necessary to use the black letter of the law to permit abortions, I believe it is equally necessary to use the black letter of the law to define them and the conditions under which they are performed.

Since - certainly at eight months without dramatic contention - there is another person involved, the issue will remain morally and legally complicated. While I understand the desire to keep everyone except the mother and doctor out of the conversation, I do not adhere to that belief for exactly that reason. It fails my personal test of the best solution to provide the maximum justice possible.

Doctors are not morally infallible (you know what they call the person who graduates at the bottom of a class: "Doctor"). I have known some who I would not trust with my bathwater, and I would have an enormously difficult time agreeing that putting this power into their hands would be wise or just.

Ethically questionable humans also come in female sizes, as well. Everyone also has incredibly bad times in their lives, and leaving unquestioned choice in the hands of every person carrying a 8.5-month baby does not sound like the wisest decision for the interests of everyone involved.

For all that, declaring legal personhood on the unborn carries with it the same supportable fear of slippery-slopedness that gun owners fear in that debate. There are certainly those who would use that to incrementally whittle away women's rights until they were gone, as there are certainly those who would use any gun regulation to whittle away at the right for anyone to own any gun.

So, while I understand the positions and fears, I place faith in our social ability to come up with rules which are short of "the government has no role to play" and which do not lead to the worst fears being realized. If I did not, I would not see any reason to have any social compact, at all.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
Ack! Posted response in wrong spot (2.00 / 1)
It's way down at the bottom of the comments if you want to see.

[ Parent ]
Happens all the time. (2.00 / 1)
Technology is not actually our friend. ;~)

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Don't I know it. (2.00 / 1)
I already had one very long, well thought out, and insightful comment eaten by a mistaken mouse click today.  You can rest assured it was brilliant.  And lost forever.

[ Parent ]
Google "lazurus form" (2.00 / 1)
It is a browser plug-in that will prevent that. When you lose something you can get it back.

lifesaver...

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
thanks, I'll look into it (2.00 / 1)


[ Parent ]
I think I'm in the wrong country (2.00 / 5)
All those questions were so sensible they seemed like no-brainers to me. Of course that's the way the world should be.

::sigh::

Even if the voices aren't real, they have some pretty good ideas. -- Anonymous


Maybe we're on the wrong planet (2.00 / 4)
or in the wrong species.

I don't know of any country where ALL of those questions are answered the way I like (although certainly some countries are closer than the USA).  

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter


[ Parent ]
i'd want to clean up and prosecute some (2.00 / 3)
Persons of interest before joining the ICC formally.
Otherwise, the inclusion would be very uncomfortable, and embarassing and possibly legally ill advised. We looked forward. Not sure how much of the world did. Some bad acts and obvious exposure make the ICC problematical until our own culprits have been brought down. And we have captives who should have been freed long ago, I think, still.

Yes women right to chose as general rule. Unless/except there are psych issues found to complicate decisions. There are people who would surgery themselves to ribbons if they were allowed.

It's a fair list and shows many choices quite desirable to enact.


Whenever someone says (2.00 / 5)
"true progressive" I have a hard time taking it seriously.  Progressivism has a lot of forms, I don't think there's any set of questions that could define them.  

"These are hard times, not end times." - Jon Stewart

It makes me itchy to have any sort of litmus test and when I see the words "true" or "pure", I want to run screaming. (2.00 / 6)
The ideology of the far left is just as offensive to me as the ideology of the far right probably is to moderate Republicans (an endangered species). I am not saying that those 10 things are in themselves offensive but they seem to leave little room for nuance.

For example, number 10 suggests both the need for renewable energy sources (which I agree with completely) and the means to do so ("Manhattan project") which I think is not very practical. Renewable energy will come from many sources and there are no 100% clean energy alternatives when you are looking at power generation for large populations. So there really is no "Manhattan Project" to deliver that.

A better list would select some worthy goals rather than insist upon the solutions.

My only litmus test for a progressive is that they believe in the value of each person. I would start with Civil Rights: you can't NOT support the right of every human being to be treated fairly by law and to have the same opportunity to succeed as every other person.  

 

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.


[ Parent ]
totally agree n/t (2.00 / 3)


"These are hard times, not end times." - Jon Stewart

[ Parent ]
So who should decide then? (2.00 / 4)
If doctors can be morally fallible, and pregnant women may not be wise enough to make the right decision, then what role do you suggest that government have in this decision?  Should a woman have to get a court order to terminate a pregnancy past a certain gestational age?  Because judges are so much less morally fallible than doctors?

And even if you do believe that is true, what happens in an emergency when the decision must be made in the matter of hours or even minutes?  Google "interlocked twins" for one such gruesome situation where it might actually be necessary to terminate a fetus in mid-labor, lest you lose both twins.

Tragic situations such as these are much more common than a woman carrying a pregnancy for 8.5 months and suddenly deciding to terminate it on a whim.  I can't support any legislation that would endanger the lives and health and cause mental anguish to grieving women who are already facing the difficult loss of a wanted pregnancy just to prevent spree abortions that may be sought by some mythical woman some day possibly in the future.

While I may agree that a late term fetus may be morally a person, legal personhood should be held to a higher standard, because there are so many difficult corner cases.  There are a lot of physiological differences between a later term fetus and a pre-term baby (heart and lung function are two of the biggies) but there is one simple test that even a layman can perform:  Point at the object in question.  If you are pointing at a pregnant woman, it's not a legal person.


oops (2.00 / 3)
This was supposed to be a response to Chris Blask up above

[ Parent ]
I don't claim to have an answer. (2.00 / 2)
I don't think anyone does.

That is one of the problems with this debate, there isn't any clean-cut solution.

Right-to-Lifers say - with sincerity - that an unborn child at any stage is a person. They have a lot of science, reason and ethics on their side, at least past some undefinable stage.

Pro-choice folks have an equally strong position, that the mother is definitively a person and has rights of her own, even regardless of any status of the unborn.

This is at is very best an issue where the identity of political positions enters an ideological black hole. It is just as easy to say that those on the left could rally to the point of the right and vice-versa than is the current political alignment. As someone who doesn't give a hoot about political alignment this issue serves as one that makes my point.

I am left with the uncomfortable - but, I maintain, entirely rational - position of supporting both sides and neither. On a topic where none of the fine points can be isolated and pinned down there is left nothing but pragmatism and compromise.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
I understand your discomfort (2.00 / 3)
I'm not thrilled with all the real world consequences of many of the laws I support.  I'm not real thrilled with the perfectly legal mind-fuckery(*) that parents are allowed (and often encouraged) to do to their children every day every where around the world.

One thing I can take solace in is that while one can imagine some pretty sick scenarios of women choosing to abort late term fetuses for spurious or even downright evil reasons, in actuality, that almost never happens.  I say "almost" only because I am not omniscient, so I cannot say with certainty that in the entire history of mankind it has never happened, but I would be confident saying it is more rare than winning the lottery AND getting struck by lightening.  On the same day.  

It's just not something that is worth trying to go to extremes to prevent, when any such attempt would bring real anguish to real women.  Roe v Wade gives the state the right to restrict abortion in the third trimester as long as the life AND health of the woman are not at risk.  Personally, I think that goes too far in infringing on women's rights, but it's a compromise I'm willing to stretch to.  But no further.

(*) that's the technical term


[ Parent ]
You know I luvz teh technical turms... (2.00 / 1)
Won't win me that way, vile temptress! ;~)


John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
One point I must dispute (2.00 / 4)
Right-to-Lifers may sometimes say that an unborn child at any stage is a person, but when push comes to shove, they don't really believe it themselves.  Present any of them with the following scenario:

A fire breaks out at an IVF clinic.  You are a stranger and the first person on the scene.  You only have time to rescue one of the following, which do you choose: the newborn infant in the nursery who is screaming or the cryogenic container holding 100 fertilized eggs?

I have yet to hear a single pro-lifer admit they would turn their back on a screaming infant to save a metal canister.  And yet if the choice were two screaming infants versus one, each and every one would pick the bassinet holding two.

And as for pro-choice persons having the opinion that the mother is a person with rights of her own, do you honestly dispute that is true?  Even if you were to say the fetus also has rights, that doesn't eliminate the mother's personhood does it?


[ Parent ]
One of my very closest and most trusted friends is fundamentally right to life. (2.00 / 1)
I have never met anyone more tolerant and big hearted.

We've gotten into all these aspects. As with your point about uncommon instances in the prior statement, when you get down to the hardest choices the answer of a decent person is always to do whatever you can that is the most positive.

It is critically important not to demonize people. There is no truth to the rumor that pro-choice people want to kill babies - none whatsoever. There is similarly no truth to the rumor that anti-abortion people do not care about women.

My friend volunteers of his own time and not limitless resources to tutor, help troubled families, give what advice and assistance everywhere he can. The list of things he does in a given week really is staggering. He simply believes deep in his heart that even a frozen embryo is a child, and the fact that it could be given the chance makes that an irrefutable position.

We can't ever let ourselves get to the point where we believe the rumors we say about each other. They just are not true.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
I agree that demonizing your opponents is not productive (2.00 / 4)
I sure hope you didn't mean to imply that I was, because that was the furthest thing from what I intended.  

All I mean to say is that pro-life people are often internally inconsistent.  I have no doubt that many of them truly believe unborn life is precious and work very hard to preserve it and mourn its loss when they are unsuccessful.  What I don't believe is that they themselves, in the deep recesses of their heart, truly believe an embryo is the moral equivalent of a living baby and when push comes to shove, even most of them will admit that.  Ask your friend the fire in the IVF clinic question and see how he responds.  If he truly says he would save the canister and leave the infant, well then, that's the first person I've heard say that, but at least he's consistent.

Similarly, many pro-life libertarians will argue that the state should respect the bodily integrity of every adult, unless that adult happens to be a pregnant woman.  Then suddenly, they are fine with the long arm of the state reaching right up into her womb.  

Being inconsistant does not make one a bad person, but it can make one a hypocrite.  No matter how well meaning and generous and thoughtful and kind someone is, it doesn't mean they aren't hypocritical about some aspect of their beliefs.

Finally, I would say that this statement goes too far in your assertion of the absolute.

there is similarly no truth to the rumor that anti-abortion people do not care about women.

While it is true that many (perhaps most even) pro-life people do care about women, there are is a significant group that don't give a rats rear about women and really have no concern for the very real trauma their policies will inflict on real living women.  

[ Parent ]
I never imply, (2.00 / 1)
If I have something to say I've already said it. Keeps things simpler that way. ;~)

I never assume the worst of people, certainly not the worst of you or anyone here. It's just so rarely true to begin with, and it doesn't lead to Happy Places.

Sure, I know that many folks are inconsistent (I am...), and the visible front-end of activist groups are often unreasonable. An anti-abortion group blew up a clinic on our street in Toronto (Dr. Morgentaller). I have no sympathy for wingnuts, but the broader groups they represent are usually not well represented by them.

I don't know any hunters who do it for the fun of killing something, anti-abortion people who hate women, pro-choice folks who hate babies... I'm sure those people exist, but I know they are always the vocal minority and always folks who just have their own personal problems or they wouldn't be like that.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."


[ Parent ]
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