By Mike Rhodes
Do you consider yourself on the left or a liberal? A progressive or a neo-liberal? Or do all of these mean the same thing? As a founding member of the Central Valley Progressive Political Action Committee (CVPPAC), I have been asked many times, by people with the best of intentions and some who were hostile, what we mean by progressive?
The best way to answer that question is to talk about core values. Progressives believe that a better world is possible— one where people more equitably share the earth’s resources, do not destroy the planet we live on and where each of us can reach our full potential.
What does that mean in practical terms and how would policy be affected if progressives had political power? Progressives support efforts for universal healthcare. We believe that access to medical services is a human right, not something only for the rich.
The recent effort by City Council Member Steve Brandau to criminalize the poor by passing an ordinance to prevent homeless people from sleeping on public or private property is a good illustration of the difference between conservatives and progressives. Brandau, a Tea Party member, thinks that by being cruel you are being kind. He promotes “tough love” as the solution to homelessness in Fresno. If you make homeless people’s lives a living hell, they will get into a program, leave town or die. Progressives, on the other hand, believe that homeless people should be treated with dignity and respect. We believe there should be safe and legal places where they can live. We understand that in order to end homelessness there needs to be more affordable housing, more jobs and adequate social services that can help our brothers and sisters out of homelessness.
Progressives do not support endless war, a patriarchal state or environmental degradation. We do support immigrant rights, reproductive choice and peace. Progressives might not agree on every detail of each issue, but the broad strokes of our core values are clear. We support a more inclusive, democratic and transparent approach to local, state, national and international politics.
While the terms left and liberal are older terms that would be generally accepted as defining a progressive today, neo-liberal is something entirely different. Neo-liberal is used to define someone who supports an imperialist foreign policy that maintains an unjust social and economic system. Neo-liberals would support trade agreements such as NAFTA, encourage wars of aggression (like in Iraq and Afghanistan) and promote a massive surveillance state at home (to discourage dissent). The right wing of the Democratic Party is generally associated with the neo-liberal agenda.
The CVPPAC is nonpartisan and is not under the control or direction of any political party. We are an independent organization that is working to build a movement to elect a progressive majority to governmental bodies in Fresno County and eventually the Central Valley. Although members do not agree on every issue, we do think that progressives should unite around an electoral strategy. Otherwise, we will not win political power.
If you consider yourself a progressive, you should join the CVPPAC and amplify your voice as we move forward to win political power. Winning political power will benefit all of our issues. Having a majority on the Fresno City Council would benefit the homeless, LGBTQ activists, groups supporting immigrant rights, people who want police accountability, those supporting a living wage, efforts to end slumlord housing, public transportation and environmental justice.
Together we win, divided we fall. I encourage you to join the CVPPAC for the benefit of all.
The next meeting of the CVPPAC will be Saturday, September 9, at 3:30 p.m. at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, located at 1584 N. Van Ness Ave.
For more information, contact:
IMPORTANT UPCOMING EVENTS
Community Organizer Training and Impacting Public Policy: A Primer
Sept. 8 (8 a.m.–5 p.m.) and Sept. 9 (8 a.m.–3 p.m.)
City of Tulare Library and City Council Chamber
475 N. M St., Tulare
(six scholarships are available from the CVPPAC)
Hanford Canvas for Justice
Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m.
September 16, 17, 23 and 24
Centennial Park Shelter A
1171 Hanford Aroma Rd., Hanford
Come and helps us work for universal healthcare, clean water and air, an end to mass deportations and fair wages for all.