I can't help but think that a higher minimum wage might sound good to people toiling for pennies, or that a massive public-works program might appeal to the unemployed. So would an expansion of Obamacare that covers everybody as a matter of course....Organize a movement around these issues; make them ubiquitous; then let's see how well gerrymandering protects those Republican stegosaurs.
Apologists may immediately cite their favorite Democratic pol or progressive talker who does advocate for some or all of these things, but Frank is convinced that "Democrats aren't really interested in such an effort." He seems to suspect that most Democrats are technocratic deficit-hawks who may be more compassionate than Republicans but don't really identify with, or even trust, the people whose votes they need to reunite the government under their control. He almost seems to concede a truth to the case Republicans make against liberal cultural elitists ("the model for progressives today is academia"), even though he's always denounced (and still does) their argument (however truthful it may be) as a distraction from working people's real interests. He accuses Democrats, in short, of simply waiting for Republican voters to die, since they're convinced (so Frank supposes) that they can never change those people's minds. Although he doesn't raise the point in this column, it may also be true that liberals have simply heard too many Republican and conservative arguments, and being liberals have taken some to heart. Many Democrats may now sincerely believe that we can't make the sort of promises to people Frank calls for, much less deliver on them. They may remain the more compassionate party, for all the good that does them, but they may have given up on the old ideal of an easier life for everyone, whether it is "earned" or not. They definitely seem to have given up on the idea that poor people have a moral right to demand an easier life, believing instead, I suspect, that the Market is the ultimate judge of what we can expect, if not the divine force Republicans and libertarians worship. How progressive, finally, can anyone be who no longer believes in demanding a better, easier life constantly? How much progress would we have made since the 19th century if people didn't believe that an easier life -- more pay for fewer hours, social security, etc. -- was their due as human beings? Every step on that way, reactionaries protested that such demands were not sustainable; their descendants think themselves confirmed in their historic skepticism. If today's progressives don't have the same faith in progress, how progressive are they, really? If someone can renew that faith in progress understood as an easier life for all, Frank may be right to believe that no amount of gerrymandering could stand against it. But he's probably also right to believe that today's "progressive" politicians can renew the faith.