The Common Good
September-October 1998

A Progressive Future

by Bob Hulteen | September-October 1998

During every presidential election since George McGovern's failed bid in 1972, I have
argued that progressives could build a successful coalition and reassert authority.

During every presidential election since George McGovern's failed bid in 1972, I have argued that progressives could build a successful coalition and reassert authority. This conviction was based more on intuition than evidence; no common theme emerged to make a Tom Harkin, Jesse Jackson, or Jim Hightower administration inevitable. Still I could envision a victorious electoral strategy. With each loss, however, my youthful idealism took another hit.

Enter Theda Skocpol and Stanley Greenberg. This sociology professor and pollster, respectively, have reawakened the sleeping giant of optimism in me. They have edited a new book, The New Majority, in which they, and several others, offer a compelling case for a progressive future.

The unifying analysis of the book is that rising economic disparity will lead to an activist coalition of poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans. Greenberg, Skocpol, et al. (including William Julius Wilson, Jeff Faux, and Margaret Weir) use this analysis to lay out a framework and blueprint for the renewal of the Democratic Party.

This is not to say that they are uncritical of their party of choice. At times accurately severe in their assessment of President Clinton's policy failures, they still recognize opportunities he has created for a renewed progressive politics. Skocpol and Greenberg want to ensure that the Democratic Party not make mistakes old and more recent—that it be neither a party of political correctness nor a party barely distinguishable from the competition. The party's foundational values can be applied to present realities, both faithfully and effectively, according to these editors.

So, how about a Paul Wellstone bid in 2000? Where do I sign up?

The New Majority: Toward a Popular Progressive Politics. Edited by Stanley B. Greenberg and Theda Skocpol. Yale University Press, 1997.

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