Barack Obama, Neo-Progressive?

In a recent issue of the LRC, David Eaves and Taylor Owen, two of the best young thinkers in Canada right now, have a piece called “Progressivism’s End” in which they make the following argument: The old style of post-New Deal progressive politics has become stale and outdated, but continues to be defended by a new “conservative” Boomer class that resists innovation and reform even when it hinders progressive outcomes.  But Barack Obama represents a “neo-progressivism” that combines Creative Class values of pro-market innovation and lifestyle libertarianism with an enlightened and open-minded approach to political institutions and programmes. 

Unlike Clinton, who merely “triangulated” the old fights betweeen progressives and conservatives, neo-progressives have moved beyond those old battlefronts. In particular, it allows Obama to make two shifts:

First, he can create space to constructively discuss issues generally considered out of bounds, whether on the left (such as homophobia within the black church) or the right (such as racial injustice in America).

Second, a focus on progressive outcomes enables Obama to step out of the confines of Democratic orthodoxy and draw on workable ideas from across the political spectrum.

I don’t agree with everything in this piece; I’m not even sure I agree with the assumptions that motivate the article. But it has given me a lot to think about, and it is well worth reading and thinking about. 

There have been a lot of complaints in the comments under a lot of my blog entries and those of my colleagues that there’s too much attention paid to the fluff and the polls and the horserace, and some have demanded discussion of meatier issues. (I dispute that as well — the magazine is full of meaty stuff, and I’m still waiting for my blog entry on Senate reform to catch fire….). 

Regardless, here’s your chance. Eaves and Owen have given you PLENTY to think and talk about. Comments are open, but only to those who have taken the time to read the paper. It’s the honour system of course, but  I know you’re all honourable people.