Kind of a strange thing has happened and I haven't been seeing a lot of notice about it. Somewhere along the line, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party took over. Not only have they taken the party, but they've taken a pretty good chunk of America too. So brilliant has this takeover been, that the ideas they espouse are pretty much just mainstream ideas for an awfully big chunk of the country.
What got me thinking about this is a recent article in The Nation team-written by Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Danny Glover, and Barbara Ehrenreich. The article says that progressives should vote for Obama in this election because he's the one who has the best chance of getting a progressive agenda enacted.
Note, they did not say that he is the candidate with the most progressive agenda. They said he's the one most likely to get it done. We've been hearing for months that there's very little in the way of policy differences between Clinton and Obama. That's not because both of them are so moderate. It's because they've both staked out such progressive opinions.
Compare this state of affairs to the election even four years ago. Can you imagine in 2004 two candidates arguing over who would pull the most troops out of Iraq fastest? Can you imagine two candidates debating which universal health care system is best? The general policy assumptions are agreed upon - we need to leave Iraq, the government should create a universal health care system - now the debate (like the devil) is in the details. What a stunning transformation in such a short time frame.
The other development we're seeing is that one-time liberal ideas are just ideas now. Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, federal funding of education, increased attention to the environment. The list goes on. Each item on it was once considered the domain of the far left. Now they're just assumed to be platform pillars in both parties - even the Republicans.
Now, obviously some progressive ideas are more progressive than others. John McCain's vision is still strikingly different from Barack Obama's. But you've gotta admit, the general trend here is encouraging.