by Jason Frerichs
There any many different groups and labels for different types of Democrats. Some argue that liberal and progressive are interchangeable terms. I disagree. I think there is a difference between being a Liberal and being a Progressive. There are moderate Democrats who are comfortable in the mushy middle. There are Communists, Socialists, and Democratic Socialists who are also active Democrats because the two-party system makes it nearly impossible for 3rd parties to gain any traction. There are registered Democrats who will caucus and vote for Democrats but are more active in nonpartisan organizations like CCI, Indivisible, Democratic Socialist of America, Our Revolution, etc…There are #NeverHillary Democrats who are very active. There are #NeverBernie Democrats who are very active. It’s okay that there are differences because that is part of being a big-tent party. It’s okay that some people use different labels, however, we can and must work together. There are even a few conservative Democrats. They tend to be pro-life and very pro second amendment. While I would never support a conservative Democrat in a primary, I would hold my nose and vote for one over a Republican.
Disclaimer: the following definitions are those the author has come up with through his own personal thought and research. He does not claim to represent anyone else but himself with his definitions. Some people might take issue with differentiating the terms but I feel they are not interchangeable. In my opinion, a Liberal is someone who seeks social justice through the lens of the current system of capitalism. They feel the government can provide healthcare via Medicare and Medicaid. They feel tax dollars should provide the bare minimum to the least skilled and the disabled and that the government can incentivize the free market into providing added benefits beyond that. Progressives feel that capitalism should be reformed. A Progressive is someone who seeks change through the lens of Democratic Socialism. They feel the only way to fix the system of structural racism and white supremacy is to create a better system. My high school economics teacher was a former state senator named Dale Hibbs. I remember one of the first questions he asked us. He asked, “Can capitalism be responsible?” To a Progressive, the answer is no. There must be strong government control that channels excessive profits into the betterment of society, not a billionaire’s bank account.
So what does all this mean? It means that it’s okay to label yourself as different. We can still work together. What we must do is go back to our grassroots and once again become the party of the people. We must agree on the basics. I think we do. I think the majority of Democrats believe that healthcare is a human right. For the first time in party history, the majority of congressional Democrats support HR 676 the Expanded Medicare For All bill. The majority of Democrats believe in a $15/hr minimum wage. The majority of Democrats believe that public colleges and universities should be tuition free. The majority of Democrats believe that women’s rights are human rights and they SHOULD NOT be up for discussion. The majority of Democrats believe we living in a rigged economy and that it’s time for millionaires and billionaires to “pay their fair share.” These aren’t radical ideas. These aren’t part of the “fringe left.” They are ideas that the majority of Americans, not just Democrats, agree on.
Who cares if someone wants to call themselves a different label or is more in tune with an idea that isn’t capitalism? We already agree on so much that it shouldn’t matter if people label themselves differently. With only two major political parties, you’re going to get different subgroups who have slightly different goals and agendas. Let people call themselves what they want and don’t worry about it. You Democrat your way and I’ll Democrat my way. We’re bound to meet somewhere and I’ll work with anyone. I don’t care what label you define yourself as or who you caucused for.
Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus