Blog

Welcome to Progressive Fix!

By / 12.1.2009

I am pleased to announce the launch of Progressivefix.com, the place for independent-minded progressives and progressive-minded independents.

Here’s what you will find at our address: Lively political commentary informed by rigorous analysis and evidence. Inspired wonkery – a constant stream of bold ideas for solving big public problems. And a distinctly progressive point of view grounded in a spirit of radical pragmatism.

ProgressiveFix.com is the new face of an outfit that’s been around for two decades: the Progressive Policy Institute. Younger readers may not know that PPI was the main purveyor of policy innovations to Bill Clinton’s New Democrats – break-the-mold ideas that also migrated to Britain and other democratic countries around the world under the rubric of the “third way.”

Those ideas are now woven into America’s civic fabric: national service; a social policy that expects and rewards work; a “shared responsibility” model for universal health care now embraced by President Obama; performance-based and fiscally responsible government; a “second generation” of environmental policies that move beyond command-and-control regulation; public charter schools and accountability in education; and a tough-minded progressive internationalism that harnesses America’s strength to defend liberal democracy.

Getting Real About Governing

But that was then. What now?

PPI’s mission, modernizing progressive politics, hasn’t changed. What has is the political context in which we operate. At our founding in 1989, progressives were in the political wilderness. Now we’re in power. In fact, we may even be present at the creation of a new progressive majority in America — but only if we govern effectively.

Given our ultra-partisan, polarized and paralyzed politics, that won’t be easy. Taking our cue from Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, progressives must make our democracy work again. That’s different from winning elections. It requires tempering passion with pragmatism, expanding, not narrowing, our appeal to the electorate, and standing up to special interests, even on our own side.

In practical terms, President Obama has to manage a heterogeneous party that includes moderates and liberals, and even a significant smattering of conservatives. Republicans may march in lockstep — and have certainly suffered for it — but Democrats can’t afford to indulge demands for ideological purity.

We don’t have much use for the self-appointed political commissars who have commandeered the blogosphere and cable TV. You can sputter all you want against, say, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, but the fact is Ben Nelson is a Democrat in a state that’s comprised of people who might have different views than the average liberal blogger. If you think a Nebraska Democrat should always vote the same way as a Vermont Democrat, then you probably don’t know much about politics and even less about building a progressive majority.

We’re struck by a paradox: The web has given millions of Americans a new way to participate directly in political discourse. That’s great. At the same time, however, the online conversation often seems hobbled by a stifling intellectual conformity. People flock to sites that validate their political preconceptions and prejudices, rather than encourage them to think for themselves.

Enriching the Progressive Debate

That’s where P-Fix comes in. This will be an intellectual free-fire zone that expands the boundaries for what is “permissible” for progressives to think and debate. We won’t hunt for heretics, nor will we allow partisan cant to trump intellectual honesty. We are determined to be a force for counter-polarization. Our arguments will be addressed not just to committed liberals, but also to progressive independents and open-minded moderates who hold the balance of U.S. politics. Without them, progressives can’t govern or build a durable majority.

But our distaste for the doctrinaire doesn’t make us mushy moderates. P-Fix believes that our country’s founding ideals are deeply radical. The history of progressive reform in America is the story of recurrent cycles of political upheaval, as reformers seek to reconcile those ideals with new economic and social realities. We urgently need a new burst of such “creedal passion,” in Samuel Huntington’s phrase, to cope with a new set of challenges to America’s democratic experiment.

Unlike some on the left, who look to European social democracy for inspiration, we favor a homegrown progressivism steeped in the classically liberal precepts of the American creed: individualism; social egalitarianism; equal opportunity, not results, within a system of competitive enterprise; a healthy skepticism toward central authority; civic self-reliance; and the conviction that America must be a beacon of liberty and democracy in the world.

In more specific policy terms, look to P-Fix for concrete ideas about how progressives can put security first and nurture liberal democracy abroad; spur entrepreneurship and economic innovation, wherein lies America’s comparative advantage in global competition; rebuild the middle class by building a modern energy and transport infrastructure for our country; restore fiscal responsibility in Washington, so that we don’t mortgage America’s future to foreign lenders; radically redesign our public schools – the great equalizer in American life — around principles of choice, autonomy, rigorous standards and customized learning; and promote ideas for political reform and transparent government to repair the public’s trust in our democracy.

Finally, P-Fix isn’t just about us. It’s an online home for a wider community of people who generally share our outlook. We will aggregate the best in pragmatic-progressive thought and research, not just from our network of contributors but from like-minded think tanks and publications as well. On P-Fix, you’ll find a wide variety of intriguing and insightful content – blog posts, policy memos, reports, book reviews, discussions, and podcasts – from an eclectic collection of established names and rising stars in the progressive community.

More than anything, P-Fix is about you. Give us your reactions, your criticisms, your own best ideas. Send us a check! But let us hear from you.