Are progressives on the march?
Some days, it sure looks that way. From the European Union to the Americas, progressives – Liberals, Democrats, New Democrats, Liberal Democrats – increasingly seem to be pushing back the blue conservative tide.
It wasn’t always thus. Less than two years ago, I wrote a little book called Fight The Right. (It makes an excellent Christmas or Hanukkah present, by the way.) The subtitle of Fight The Right was “A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse.” And that was the book’s central theme – that conservatives, from Europe to the Americas, were increasingly winning elections.
A couple years ago, conservatives were on the ascendancy, for all sorts of reasons. They were better funded, thanks to their well-heeled big corporate backers. They were better organized than at any time in their history. The corporate, rightist media adored them. The politics and economics of the era seemed to favour them, too.
And – up here in the Great White North, at least – there was plenty of division and disunity on the left, and lots of splitting of the vote. The right was taking advantage of that, election after election, and coming up the middle to win.
Two years ago, there was a rising right-wing tide everywhere. From Rome to Riga, from Maine to Miami, from Whitehorse to Witless Bay, conservatives were the team to beat. Most of the European Union was governed by the right, with nearly all of the EU’s 28 member states being ruled by conservatives.
In Canada, conservative parties ruled the roost in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and of course nationally. There were (then popular) right-wing municipal bosses, like Rob Ford. And, down in the U.S., the Gallup poll was reporting that just about half of all Americans considered themselves conservative – or very conservative.
Only a tiny percentage of Americans – a miserable 20% – called themselves “liberal.”
Well, that was two years ago. Times are a-changin’, to quote the bard.
In the U.S., despite facing a Republican challenge financed with billions of dollars, Barack Obama came back with a convincing victory. In the European Union, many of those conservative leaders – in Italy, in France – are gone.
And, here in Canada, Conservatives can’t seem to chip away at the popularity of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Despite spending buckets of dough on attack ads, and despite lots of nasty politicking, Trudeau has maintained a healthy lead in the polls for many months. The NDP’s Tom Mulcair remains competitive, too.
And that’s just the temporal world. Even on the spiritual level, it seems like progressives are winning the day. A year ago this week, Francis became pope – and he immediately became the world’s most influential progressive leader, challenging the Roman Catholic Church’s orthodoxy on everything from capitalism to gay rights.
Pope Francis has been a revolutionary, in virtually every sense of the word. He has hammered the greedy excesses of capitalism in apostolic exhortations. He’s suspended bishops who are more into those who have bling, rather than those who were broke.
And, just recently, the pope was featured in glowing stories on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine – did you ever think you’d live long enough to see a pope on the cover of Rolling Stone?
Rumours of the left’s death were premature, to say the least. My own prediction of a right-wing hostile takeover wasn’t entirely accurate, either. The ideological pendulum – which had been careening off to the right – is now swinging back to the centre, and the left.
There’s all kinds of reasons for why that may be. Post-recession jitters have faded. Stimulus spending worked. Austerity measures are increasingly unpopular. Voters are just plain sick of conservative policies and politicians.
Whatever the reason, one thing can’t be disputed: progressives are getting competitive again, from the Vatican to the EU to the Americas.
And those on the right? Check your rear-view mirror.
That’s the lefties you see – and we’re getting closer.