In New York the other day, Bernie Sanders spoke truth: “We need a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party.”
He recognized that the Party’s approach has failed, and he called for an entirely “new direction,” with “new organizing” strategies and goals, and a “new vision.”
This new vision and direction called for by Sanders includes an expansion of basic entitlements, financial reforms, and a narrowing of the wealth gap. He advocates single payer health care, free college, and enlarging social security. He calls to address wealth inequality by collapsing the gulf between CEO and worker pay, and curbing the excesses of Wall St. He has a program for climate change and civil rights, and wants greater care for veterans.
The Democratic Alternative seconds all these proposals, but unlike Sanders, we take them as means, not ends. They are minimalist programs that can be employed to address some of the immediate needs of ordinary Americans. Unlike Sanders, however, we do couch the programs in the language of rights, for these particular programs are not our ideal. We are not wed to any particular institutional form or program. Rather, we advocate the use of any program that will open up greater economic and educational opportunities to people, that will democratize markets, expand civil engagement, and raise the temperature of politics. We do not want universal health care simply because the state ought to ensure coverage for all people as a basic human right, or because all other rich world countries do so; we want universal health care because it will alleviate people from both physical pain and worry so that they can pursue other tasks and live a greater life. We do not want social security or universal income simply in order to guarantee a greater share of wealth and comfort, but rather because it will free people to experiment and explore. We do not want free education as a means to address student debt, but rather to enable each individual to continue to improve his or her mind so as to resist uniformity and reproduction.
We want each man and women to be able to achieve full potential and live a greater life. In order to do so, we subordinate the goal of equality to the greater vision of empowering humanity. When this goal is combined with a commitment to structural change, then we have arrived at what it means to be a progressive!