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Lack of confidence.

An Illinois subscriber writes: "For the number of years I have subscribed to The Progressive, I have respected and admired your editorial policies. I am, however, dismayed at your attitude toward President Clinton. I am a lifelong progressive of the Democratic Left who concluded long ago that a political democracy with some form of economic socialism would be the most just form of government. But I have also learned over the years that a Radical Left refusing all compromise, insisting only on its own agenda, merely succeeds in attaining a purism in theoretical discourse, but is ineffective in practical reality.

"Clinton, I believe, is the most progressive President since the 1960s. He is sincerely attempting to deal with the issue of greater economic justice for the poor and lower middle class, and he has a specific, well-organized program for so doing. Given the entrenched economic conservatism of the privileged and powerful classes which he confronts, the odds for his success are hardly favorable. With a lack of support from the Left, he will very likely fail.

"My question, then, to editors of publications on the Left is, what do you accomplish? Your opposition simply assures another Reagan or Bush in the White House. The electorate of today are very readily swayed by the media. Plant a few seeds of doubt in their minds and the people who today strongly support Clinton will soon turn against him.

"Editors like you should seriously consider whether it is more important to maintain your unsullied principles in theory, or to deal with what is; to support a man in his real efforts to remedy the practical situation and regain an effective voice in our Government for the majority of the people, or to allow, by attrition, the forces of greed to continue in control."

Dear Friend:

I'm publishing your letter (somewhat abridged) and my response in this space because my mail includes, almost every day, correspondence from readers who share your disappointment with my lack of confidence in Bill Clinton.

Let me say, first of all, that you're absolutely right about my lack of confidence. I dislike Clinton. I mistrust his pseudo-populist rhetoric. I find his program, to the extent that he has actually disclosed any of it in specific terms, wholly inadequate. I believe that his Administration is likely to fail not because of a "lack of support from the Left" but because he has no intention or possibility of delivering on the promises that got him elected.

I say all this not on behalf of "editors of publications on the Left," all of whom are quite capable of speaking for themselves, nor even on behalf of all of my colleagues at The Progressive, some of whom are probably closer to your point of view than to mine. And to sample the divergent opinions of our regular contributors, see the contrast between Adolph Reed's perspective (Class Notes, Page 16), and Susan Douglas's (Pundit Watch, Page 35).

As a long-time subscriber, you surely know that The Progressive does not insist on "purism in theoretical discourse." Nor do I. But I must confess to you that--again, speaking personally--I am revolted by Clinton's abominable attitude toward capital punishment and by his heedless embrace of the interventionist Reagan/Bush foreign policy.

Whether Clinton will turn out to be "the most progressive President since the 1960s"--itself no great achievement, in my view--remains to be seen. But I will be astonished if he ever turns his back on the Democratic Party fat cats--yes, there are Democratic Party fat cats--who were instrumental in promoting his candidacy, who are now so prominently represented in his Administration, and whose agenda is in direct conflict with your goal and mine of "greater economic justice for the poor and lower middle class."

If that constitutes "purism," I don't know what to do about it short of abandoning all principle.

I'm sure you did not mean to suggest that I have an obligation not to state my honest convictions, lest by doing so I wind up "swaying" the electorate in a direction you find objectionable. Swaying the electorate--or, at least, attempting to--happens to be my line of work. But I wouldn't dream of attempting to dissuade you from expressing views diametrically opposed to mine.

You ask, "What do you accomplish?" Only what we've tried to accomplish since this magazine was founded eighty-four years ago: to promote an informed and rational discourse that will help us grope our way toward a peaceful, just, and free society. In that effort, we've rarely found it necessary to act as cheerleaders for one or another officeholder.
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Title Annotation:cynicism about Bill Clinton
Author:Knoll, Erwin
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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