In the race for governor, I’m the only true progressive
Driverless cars and AI threaten our jobs, future
OUR SUCCESS AS A DEMOCRACY depends on our ability to harness capitalism to establish a fair and sustainable society. Just over a century ago in the Progressive Era, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt fought the massive corporations and trusts of his time who were robbing families, destroying small businesses, and concentrating wealth at the top.
Today we have the same problems and we need the same solution: bold leadership to defend American values. We must lay out an inspiring future that pulls us forward, work with those companies who are trying to do the right thing, and fight to implement the will of the people rather than that of industries who care only about profits. Today Americans want to elect leaders who will do just that, including those who voted for Trump because he said he would fight corporate power.
The term “progressive” had been dormant for decades, but was revived in reaction to the Democratic Party’s unhealthy willingness to compromise with corporate interests in exchange for campaign contributions. It is now often used less as a true description and more as branding.
This is a terrible mistake. The term “progressive” must carry weight, power, and meaning. It is not something to be put on and taken off like a coat depending upon the political weather. As we look around the country, we see too many candidates who claim to be progressives but who fail to fully reflect its true commitments. We must remain loyal to the original meaning. In my own race for governor, I have opponents who I genuinely like as human beings and who have served the public with distinction. They support many good things, but they have not been willing to say that they are willing to battle those companies are who are distorting our democracy and blocking our progress.
I then ran Ceres, a national coalition that linked major pension funds to activists and engaged immense piles of capital to move our biggest industries toward justice and sustainability. I started the Global Reporting Initiative, a hugely powerful organization that has successfully pushed the biggest multinationals in the world to release hidden information about their impact on energy and water, labor and human rights, and gender and racial equity.
Progressives demand an end to inequality and injustice everywhere. For more than 15 years I fought the brutal apartheid system of South Africa. I traveled from the heights of Table Mountain in Cape Town to the depths of South Africa’s infernal gold mines, and demanded that institutions sell their stock in companies that happily benefited from that grotesque form of institutionalized racism. I literally wrote the book on the divestment movement. Since then I have diligently fought the same dark human prejudices here.
The bedrock value of progressives is equality. We believe in equal opportunity. We believe every child should have the opportunity to attend a good, local public school. We would never support a funding formula that discriminates against children on the basis of income, or a system in which children go to a school based upon a lottery entered by their parents. Progressives believe affordable housing is one of the building blocks of our freedom and our economy, and essential to economic justice. So is healthcare. When I still had hemophilia as a child, I was confined to a wheelchair for many years. My parents were terrified every day about losing our health insurance, just as many people today worry about losing theirs. That’s why progressives believe in single payer healthcare. It is not a slogan. It is a proposal to restructure a major piece of our economy. Indeed, the good health I enjoy today is partly thanks to the universal healthcare I received for a few years as a teenager while my parents worked in France. I have argued for decades that Americans deserve the same benefits and my loyalty to that commitment is built into my bones.
Progressives believe that climate change is an emergency, created and extended by the relentless lies of fossil fuel companies and the failure of government. More than 26 years ago – in 1992 – I organized the first large public meeting on climate change at the Boston Museum of Science. I created or led three of the largest and most effective corporate accountability organizations in the world, which was why Bill McKibben, in his endorsement of my campaign, honored me by saying that I have “changed the world economy”. I signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge the minute I saw it. I intend to reform our investor-owned utilities. I have never taken a dime from a fossil fuel company and I never will.
Progressives know that we are living in a moment of both great danger and great opportunity. We are witnessing the attempted destruction of the American republic by an unfit president who has become the tool of corporate power, the rise of inequality and hatred, and the emergence of new technologies that threaten to end jobs and the decent standard of living they provide. We believe that the power of the government must be used to address the problems that put our economic and personal security at risk, including emerging new technologies like driverless cars and artificial intelligence that threaten our jobs, privacy, and future.
A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt got it right when he said, “A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be either great or a democracy.” Progressives believe that capitalism must ultimately be used to support democracy. Today it is too often the reverse: our democracy has been rigged to support the aims of capitalism.
Bob Massie is a candidate in the Democratic primary for governor.