Leftists Need to Reclaim the Progressive Label.

The word has been hijacked, so let’s take it back.

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Photo via Nancy Pelosi on Instagram

The word progressive used to mean something.

It used to mean standing for progress, fighting for and enacting policies that would actually benefit the majority over the few. It meant taking bold action, and being unafraid of political consequence because the policies and principles mattered more. It’s a label that was shunned and dismissed as fringe, radical, or unrealistic. It used to mean something until it was hijacked by the very people who dismiss everything it actually stands for.

As a progressive, all too often it feels as though we’re screaming at the top of our lungs, just hoping someone will finally listen and pay attention, only to have those who are in a position of power turn a blind eye to our views. So it goes without saying that seeing those who have done nothing but ignore and dismiss us claim the term they once mocked.

If Nancy Pelosi and other centrists feels that progressive ideas and policy proposals are too unrealistic and the people who propose them are unelectable, then why, WHY are they suddenly calling themselves one? If our ideas are so fringe, then why claim the label that supports them? A simple question with a very simple answer: she wants the positive associations with the term and the advantages of riding on the coattails of genuine progressives like Ocasio-Cortez, without doing any of the actual work. Either that, or they’re trying to minimize the effects of that word and consume what it means entirely. I’m not sure which is worse, but let’s be honest. It’s probably a little bit of both.

Washington D.C. pushes the narrative that Pelosi a progressive, and a master legislator. Why? What has she done to earn either of those titles? When has she ever actually fought for anything?

For centrists, nothing is really about principle. Instead, it’s all about political calculations and power. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for example, didn’t come out in support of marriage equality until it was politically savvy and popular to do so. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t feel that’s leadership at all. Progressives are at the forefront of change, and standing for what’s right regardless. Case in point: Bernie Sanders and his position on Medicare for All.

I truly believe we would not be having the debate and fight for Medicare for All on the national level if it weren’t for Bernie Sanders. He stood by his position, and sold it to the people. That is what a leader does. Meanwhile Pelosi, who has also decided to claim the progressive label, has actually sent her aides to assure the health insurance companies that it will never come to pass. I have to admit, claiming a label and then turning around to actively work against what it stands for requires a whole lot of nerve.

“Progressive” is ours to reclaim. We can take it back to a place where it actually meant something, and referred to an ideology that truly centers around the fight for average Americans. I am not interested in equating politicians like Nancy Pelosi with someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They both might have the D in front of their name, but the progressive ideology is what makes them fundamentally different. The Democratic Party is no monolith, and I’m not going to pretend that it is.

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Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at LaurenMartinchek@gmail.com or Twitter @xlauren_mx

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