Opinion: A progressive Democratic Project 2025, part 2

President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 7, 2023. 

President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 7, 2023.  J. Scott Applewhite/ AP


Published: 04-01-2024 6:00 AM

Jonathan P. Baird lives in Wilmot.

In my last My Turn, I outlined a progressive Democratic agenda that differentiates sharply from what the Republicans are selling. The Democrats are a big tent and I write with the recognition that some Democrats, likely quite a few, will not share this perspective. My earlier piece did not address a number of critical issues so this piece continues the argument deepening what a progressive Democratic project should be about.

Democrats oppose economic inequality while Republicans are wedded to the interests of the 1%. The richest families in the U.S. have experienced far greater gains in wealth than other families in recent decades. The richest 1% of households averaged 104 times as much income as the bottom 20% in 2020 according to the Congressional Budget Office. Income and wealth inequality have returned to Gilded Age levels. Democrats favor a far more equitable distribution of income and wealth that would dramatically lessen poverty. Poverty is morally unacceptable in a country as wealthy as America. Changes in the tax code and its enforcement could dramatically improve life for the bottom 80% monetarily. With so many billionaires and millionaires, a wealth tax is an idea whose time has come.

Homelessness and our housing crisis deserve immediate attention. Democrats favor a housing policy that refocuses attention on our lack of adequate affordable housing. Rents have skyrocketed and for many home ownership has become an impossible dream. Far too many are homeless and too many blame the homeless for this predicament. Instead of blaming the homeless and criminalizing homelessness, Democrats recognize that housing policy must evolve to help a wide swath of people who are struggling to afford the cost of housing. Rent control in some locales, expanded federally subsidized housing and the building of more housing for low and middle-income people are important public policies that Democrats support.

Democrats support campaign finance reform and disclosure laws that force the exposure of dark money. Several Supreme Court decisions, including Citizens United, have led to political campaigns awash in unlimited often dark money. The law has given the super-rich an unfair advantage allowing them to buy or heavily influence elections. Even worse, we cannot find out who is behind secret mega-donations. Democrats believe in transparency and public financing of elections to promote the fairest outcomes.

It is time to expand the number of Supreme Court justices. The Supreme Court started with six justices. Under President Adams, it went down to five. President Jefferson restored a sixth seat and added one justice. President Jackson added two seats. Later during the Civil War, the court increased to ten and then shrank back to nine justices where it has remained since 1869. It is constitutional to change the number of justices. In light of Republican gamesmanship, we are stuck with an ethically challenged, out-of-touch Court. Republicans have packed the present Court which appears to be owned by billionaires. Democrats support Congress expanding the number of justices to make the Court more representative of the American people. For those progressives who belittle the differences between our two parties, I would point to the importance of which party has the opportunity to make court appointments. Contrast Ketanji Brown Jackson with Gorsuch, Kavanaugh or Coney Barrett.

Democrats support a ceasefire and an immediate end to the Israel/Gaza war. This war is a humanitarian catastrophe with an absolutely horrible loss of life. Although the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 was a war crime, Israel’s response has been a drastic overreaction. Democrats support an end to hostilities, release of hostages and an infusion of massive humanitarian aid to prevent starvation and disease.

American foreign policy needs much more reliance on diplomacy and much less on war, militarism, and feeding the military-industrial complex. Democrats favor significant cuts to the military budget and a far less interventionist foreign policy. After both the pointless wars in Vietnam and Iraq, Democrats support a thorough reassessment of our goals of empire. Americans have been repeatedly misled into war. We must insist in the strongest fashion that nuclear war never be fought. There would be no winners.

Democrats oppose racism and white supremacy and believe in a de-segregated society. Whether it is school re-segregation or residential segregation, America has been moving backward. Democrats acknowledge that America was founded on our two biggest national sins: slavery and genocide of Native Americans. Democrats are committed to an honest recognition of these sins along with an action agenda to address them. Republicans pretend phony colorblindness. Their attacks on critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion programs are a thinly veiled retreat back to white supremacy.

Hate is un-American. Whether it is against trans people, other LGBTQ people, Jews, Muslims, African Americans or Latinos, the hate being spewed by MAGA Republicans is disgusting. Democrats support tolerance and understanding toward all minorities. Scapegoating a group is all too reminiscent of white supremacist hate groups who have played too prominent a role in the American past as reflected in lynchings.

Democrats are committed to science and intellectual honesty unlike the Republicans who have become the party of the Big Lie, conspiracy theories and misinformation. Whether the issue is climate change or the efficacy of vaccines, America cannot retreat into a world of lies. Intellectual dishonesty can only lead to disaster. If Republicans cannot even accept the fact that Biden won in 2020, you have to wonder what other facts they won’t accept. Being unable to accept facts and inventing your own world is a recipe for a nightmare.

Numerous observers have commented on the vital importance of the 2024 electoral race. Democrats have a potentially powerful agenda. People who think there is no difference between the parties are living in a state of delusion. While there is certainly internal division among Democrats, at least they are fighting over progressive steps and the best way to achieve them.

About the Republicans, I am reminded of a quote from James Baldwin: “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”

2024 promises to be fascinating.