Gary Null and Richard Gale — Who are the True Progressives?
April 24, 2013
Gary Null in Progressives

Each day we hear right-wing pundits excoriating president Obama and the Democrats for being progressive. They ridicule progressivism as being socialist, for favoring the redistribution of wealth and resources, for challenging the bank-driven free market agenda, and for advocating stricter regulations on Wall Street and the multinational corporatocracy. They accuse progressives of embracing Big Government and a mindset of entitlement on steroids.

On the Left, the Right is equally mocked continuously. A perfect example was Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Persons” segment, which pilloried all conservatives as neocon Republicans. Any mention of support for a third party candidate, such as Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson or Gary Johnson, is vehemently attacked by the Democratic Left. It continues to rail against Ralph Nader for causing Al Gore and John Kerry to lose their elections against Bush.

Therefore, we feel it is necessary to revisit the issue of what defines a progressive. Amidst the battles waged between conservatives and neocons, such Hannity, O’Reilly, Limbaugh and Mark Levin, and struggles that pit Democrat vs. liberal vs. progressive, defining the agendas and ideologies that clearly identify these labels becomes muddled and confused.

Most Americans regard Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell and Ed Schultz, and programs and publications such as Democracy Now, The Nation and Mother Jones as representative of liberal idealism. Those persons representative of the Fox News Network, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute are viewed conservative ideologues. However, it is our belief that the vast majority of people who identify themselves as liberal progressives or conservative progressives are, in fact, neither.  Most of these individuals are either corporate Democrats or corporate Republicans.  They have their think tanks and major corporate and Wall Street sponsors.  For example, the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel, who describes herself as a progressive, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. No corporate Democrat is a genuine populist.


Certainly the pundits, both Left and Right, are unique personalities. They can be dynamic and even bombastic, such as Hannity and O’Reilly. They can be streetwise pragmatists such as Al Sharpton, or Washington insider intellectuals such as Lawrence O’Donnell.  But we should not mistake their uniqueness as an indication of independence from the corporate agenda.  These individuals are fully enmeshed in the multinational corporate program and must compromise their higher values, and are even required to do so, to serve the program’s needs.


For someone to identify his or herself as a progressive, a person must first break rank from corporate interests and become independent. They must next transcend their self-liberated sophistry in order to look upon people as human beings rather than objects of exploitation, irrespective of ideology, education, economic class, gender and race.  It was the progressive movement in the early part of the twentieth century that shifted national attention towards community, the restoration of stable neighborhoods, and social justice in the face of the big industrialists’ exploitation and mistreatment of workers and citizens. The difference is only that today it is not the moguls of manufacturing shattering the social fabric of cities and towns but the high rollers of the economic regime and industrial complexes such as Big Ag, the private military complex, the oil and gas industries, Big Pharm, Big Insurance, etc who are leading the assault.


In 2008, candidate Obama usurped the title progressive to distinguish himself from the bureaucratic Democrats in Washington. It was a winning strategy that earned him the support of many independents who were fed up with Washington’s duopoly. It is true that many of Obama’s promises chimed with the progressive platform. He gave guarantees to restore equality to Americans sinking under the weight of Wall Street and corporate lobbies’ influence. He promised to hold the crooks of finance accountable for fleecing the public. However, upon his arrival in the White House, Obama betrayed his pledges repeatedly.  A truly progressive president could never assign 57% of proposed discretionary spending to the military complex and then feed 20% of the crumbs to energy, the environment, health, education and housing combined. But this is what we find in Obama’s 2013 discretionary spending proposal.


Progressives look upon Clinton and Obama as one and the same. All we need to do is consider who has occupied the Clinton and Obama administrations: executives from Wall Street and Fortune 500 firms. Today more than ever, we see Obama moving towards the kind of cronyism that defined the Bush years, while leaving behind genuine progressive values altogether.


If we want to find the authentic American progressives today, we won’t discover them among those who voted for Obama in 2012. And they are certainly not found in the ranks of the GOP and Tea Party.  Those with the humanitarian conscience of a progressive acknowledge the importance of a third party to break the stalemate and ineptitude of Washington’s two-party dominance.  Therefore we find progressives among those who supported Rocky Anderson, Jill Stein and among some libertarians who embraced Gary Johnson.


Today the best of progressive minds are found among those who buttress great causes such as equality and human rights and who are willing to sacrifice themselves and risk being arrested.  We must look at the words and actions of Chris Hedges, Robert Parry, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, Glen Ford, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Cornell West, Paul Craig Roberts, Bill McKibben and others to find the true progressives. They are not financially supported by the corporate elite nor accommodated in our soulless media. Theirs is a struggle to have their voices brought to Americans. It is a prophetic voice with a long national history that calls upon truth against power. They are excluded from mainstream forums that debate ideas, principles and universal ethics that concern all people.  The following is a list of values, initiatives and policy actions that we believe holds true for most progressive minds in the Obama era.


Climate Change and Energy


Freedom and Democracy



America’s Wars and the Military


The Federal Government


American Society




Healthcare and Medicine


Agriculture and Food


The Economy


The Security State


Human Rights


Foreign Affairs


For a moment, imagine what the US could become if these ideas and actions became part of our national dialogue.  Consider how much we could achieve by addressing the issues facing us today free of the influence of depraved corporatists and with an eye towards America’s higher values. Until America adopts a progressive agenda we will remain captive to a false Left-Right paradigm driven by greed and fascism.

Article originally appeared on The Gary Null Blog (
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