Oftentimes within the Democratic Party we hear analysts and commentators enthusiastically referring to "progressive" elected officials and or candidates. As a person of color who is committed to assuring that marginalized communities have access to and receive a fair share of the bounty of the richest nation in the world, I wonder what "progressive" truly means. My speculation is not only political but theological/religious as well. Is the "progressive" ethos enough? Does "progressive" simply mean that you are not a republican? Maybe it means that the progressive being referred to wants some form of immigration reform? As a Christian Pastor, I find it increasingly difficult to accept the purported meaning of being "progressive" to satisfy any criteria of what is considered to be humane and just.
My speculation led me to explore what "progressive" politicians and or democratic presidential candidates have in common? One common denominator seems to be a close association with Wall Street, including being recipients of generous campaign funding. At this point in time the only presidential candidate considered "progressive" that is not deeply indebted to Wall Street seems to be Bernie Sanders. As presidential candidate recently reminded us, we ALL know that when you take money from the wealthy you are beholden to them. Another common thread among "progressives" is exhibiting a spineless response to criminal justice reform and to ending police brutality against people of color. I say spineless because unless these elected officials and candidates are pushed strongly by activists, issues of police brutality towards people of color and the need for an overhaul of our criminal justice system would not receive attention in most "progressive" campaigns or administrations. Just this past week Hillary Clinton spoke of salvaging some parts of the death penalty. How can we justify killing any human being, let alone guaranteeing that these killings will not include the unintentional murder of innocents? Most people who face the death penalty are the poor. Is it not a tenet of being progressive to protect the poor? It seems not!
Perhaps I have incorrectly associated "progressive" with "radical." Jesus said, "I was in prison and you visited me." I have always found it fascinating that Jesus equated prisoners with the hungry, legitimizing their human value and need, along with those who are naked and thirsty. We have "progressive" Mayor De Blasio calling for higher bails for criminal defendants, and we can see that his choice of Police Commissioner Bratton seems to trump his opposition to the inhumane policies of stop and frisk that was a significant platform of his campaign. Bratton, after all was the architect of the "Broken Windows" policing policy that has become a tool of police abuse of people of color. De Blasio continues on, not only cooperating with, but planning housing developments in the Bronx, as well as massive waterfront developments in Sunset Park, Brooklyn that will displace working class families and business owners that have sustained these communities for decades. "Progressive" these days seems to indicate partnership with the forces of gentrification. With this type of progressive movement we are dire in need of a prophetic alternative that will seek the welfare of human beings, families and those most needy within our urban and rural communities.