But don't take my word for it. A history professor provided a comparison of American populism, left and right, in last weekend's New York Times, and he effectively articulates the limits of liberals that block progressive goals:
the left must realize that when progressives achieved success in the past, whether at organizing unions or fighting for equal rights, they seldom bet their future on politicians. They fashioned their own institutions — unions, women’s groups, community and immigrant centers and a witty, anti-authoritarian press — in which they spoke up for themselves and for the interests of wage-earning Americans.
Today, such institutions are either absent or reeling. With unions embattled and on the decline, working people of all races lack a sturdy vehicle to articulate and fight for the vision of a more egalitarian society. Liberal universities, Web sites and non-governmental organizations cater mostly to a professional middle class and are more skillful at promoting social causes like legalizing same-sex marriage and protecting the environment than demanding millions of new jobs that pay a living wage.
A reconnection with ordinary Americans is vital not just to defeating conservatives in 2012 and in elections to come. Without it, the left will remain unable to state clearly and passionately what a better country would look like and what it will take to get there. To paraphrase the labor martyr Joe Hill, the left should stop mourning its recent past and start organizing to change the future.
I've been told before that a local journalist once described me as "to-the-left-of-left". If the reporter said that to my face I would reply that there is not much left here to be left of. There is no popular movement for challenging the system. I may be "to-the-left-of-left" but it is meaningless relative to what passes for progressivism: fractured, reactive and desperate; dependent on party wonks and politicians who could take or leave movements or the interests of regular people.