Where are the progressives in the US? What has become of them? We must consider these questions from a historical perspective to properly understand our current political bent toward far right policy and fascism. The attacks made on news media should be recognized as one of the primary culprits in the decline of the effectiveness of the left. The Fairness Doctrine, a policy which required the holders of broadcast licenses to present issues of public importance in a balanced manner, was eliminated in 1987. This allowed news media to present the public with news stories told from a single perspective.
Even as the news messages were being manipulated, they were also being consolidated under fewer corporate umbrellas, too. This was accomplished through the deregulation of media ownership in 1996 via the Telecommunications Act and the results were devastating to diversity in reporting. By 2006, six corporations controlled nearly everything the US public viewed and heard and these media giants were vertically organized to control every aspect of production all the way to her distribution of information.
Is a liberal media message actually being delivered from such predatory corporations? It would be far easier to discover a unicorn neighing from their microphones then to expect such an allowance to take place. The conflicts of interests between corporate media and progressive ideology abound: regulation, taxation, anti-capitalism and labor rights...to name a few; which would directly affect their continued economic domination and success. The very idea that a major liberal news media exists is a fantastically preposterous notion.
Progressive viewpoints are currently lacking in the US news media, but the attacks on left ideology stem further back in time.
The gains made by the left during The Progressive Era, alongside the US alliance with Russia during World War I generated fears among capitalists. The American people were becoming sympathetic, if not supportive, to the ideology of the far left. Through continued class struggles, which were spearheaded by radicalized leftist, living and working conditions were starting to improve for a wider portion of the American population. An emergent middle class was developing and a subtle form of economic democracy was taking shape, through the formation of strong workers unions. These gains for labor were a direct affront to capital and measures to undermine them were sorely needed.
World War II provided the capitalists with the perfect situation to undermine the gains made by left ideology and action during The Progressive Era. American corporations had profited off of their economic relationships with Germany during the war and afterward, two distinctive powers were structured. The Western world was led by the US and created NATO and the communist world was led by the Soviet Union which created the Eastern Bloc. Cold War policy was in full swing and anti-communist propaganda afforded US corporations and finance capital a two pronged attack upon the left: to rid itself of unwanted anti-capitalist sentiment among her citizenry and legitimize hegemony and empire as a means to protect her people.
The demonization of the left had begun and any viewpoints, outside of liberalism, were deemed Un-American and political parties or groups of the left: socialists, communists and anarchists were closely monitored and suppressed by the state and shunned by an unwitting public. Liberalism, which in truth is the political moderate ideology, was erected as progressive ideology and became the acceptable form of left political expression; the Democratic Party, her platform within the political arena and crown jewel.
Third party political representations, which more closely resembled the values of progressives and not those of liberals, were undercut through the electoral laws established over time and especially those developed in the past 60 years such as: registration fees, petition requirements and individual state ballot laws. These hurdles could be remedied by a simple national ballot access standard, but attempts to do so have so thus far failed to pass The House.
What does all of this mean for progressives and the country as a whole? Firstly, it means that our supposed “representative” democracy would, by default, come to be non-representative of an entire class of her people, effectively disenfranchising any political threat to the established powers and their means of economic domination over labor, via capitalism. It would effectively shut out all public debate about capitalism, hegemony, empire and class. Finally, it would render the left a fractured population of outsiders unable to effectively challenge the powers within Federal government, outside of their own direct organization, acts of civil disobedience and dissent.
While it is true that progressives are learning the hard lesson of sectarianism, duopoly and political exile, it is also true that many more are relearning the power of organization and solidarity. We must resist the urge to vote for lesser evil and be contented with the outcomes and instead redouble our efforts to reclaim local elections and create ports of refuge for progressive movements. This will grant us the needed protections and time necessary for a broader community root to be established; one which would become effectual for establishing meaningful change.