Can the Progressives Deliver a Plan or Even a Future?

  • National Newswatch

The headline isn't just some political or partisan question thrown out there as part of the everyday dialogue.  Across the world, democratic, progressive movements have their troubles.  Canada, a seeming bastion of security in an unsettled world, especially having just concluded an election, nevertheless contains enough disconcerting divisions to reckon the future as something uncertain.This wasn't the plan for progressives, who, having beaten back some of the more militant aspects of right-wing populism, were ready to move the West back into the fast lane.  It didn't pan out, and remnants of what they recently defeated are roaring back.Most familiar to us has been the refusal of the more militant Right in America to accept any mention or movement towards a progressive nirvana.  The recent talk and polling revealing the possibilities of Donald Trump regaining the presidency following Joe Biden's troubled tenure have introduced nightmares where once a honeymoon was purportedly in place.Some headlines speak of the difficulties for the progressives.   Only last week, the Washington Post noted that the Democratic progressive caucus is wrong on almost all  counts.  The New Statesman quotes Tony Blair expressing his concern that the Labour Party in Britain could soon die without radical change.  Politico sees that the rampant progressives in Biden's party could undermine any gains made by the moderate progressives.  Last month even Al Jazeera reminded the world that, “The Progressives are wrong.  The 'forever war' is not over.”A glance across the West is something of a turbulent exercise.   France, Greece, Germany, Britain, and numerous other nations in the EU have increasingly divided populations, significant debt loads, and troubling political orders.The well-respected Freedom House has spent the last year scanning the progressive nations as COVID slowly abates.  The future looks to be one of ongoing political, economic, and social turbulence.  Their latest report put it plainly:As a lethal pandemic, economic and physical insecurity, and violent conflict ravaged the world, democracy's defenders sustained heavy new losses in their struggle against authoritarian foes, shifting the international balance in favour of tyranny.Those believing the world had turned a corner away from extremism in the past year are coming against some complex realities on their progressive journeys.  Even in the recent Canadian election, the heightened anger of the Right that flirted with increasing violence gave many to reflect on what path this country might be heading down.  The ability to recapture the progressive momentum has run into strong headwinds, and no electoral victory seems to be without its deepening shadow side.Lay aside the opposing forces for the moment and consider those challenges that should be in the progressive wheelhouse since they have been priorities, they say, for decades.  It's clear that governing for the Centre and the Left just got a whole lot harder.What will the progressive leaders do about employment and underemployment?  COVID hasn't merely disrupted the economy, but those who make it function: workers.  These workers were fundamental to progressive ideology in the past but they are now increasingly underpaid, temporary, and self-employed.  It is hard to see the breakthrough in this area that Biden, Trudeau, or Johnson promised.While no one could argue that climate change is not gaining attention in Western nations, it is yet to be seen if any commitments made by progressive administrations will change the culture of modern consumerism.  Asking a generation of COVID survivors to sacrifice even more for a more sustainable future might not be as compelling as it sounds.Perhaps the greatest challenge facing progressives is their sheer diversity.  In everything from environmentalism to gender, anti-poverty, racial and indigenous challenges, progressive governments have a far greater range of policy files to engage with than in decades previous.  The progressives who gained electoral victories by casting a wide net now have to deliver on the promises to secure that support.  This political contract will become increasingly complicated, especially for Justin Trudeau.  All the recent talk of the Liberals partnering with the NDP might have something advantageous to it.All the progressive winners who called for change now have to bring it, and that's proving remarkably difficult.   Where is the equality promised?  The new and better workforce?  The new and more inclusive economy?  Various nations' citizens, including our own, permitted such practical dreams to drive voting choices.  Citizens of today are neither as loyal nor patient with political parties as in the past.  Unless progressive politics across the West finds a quicker way to deliver on its promises, more turbulence, not less, will be in our collective future.Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.