Editorial: Stagnation and the Stag Nation

By Michelle Lynn Kahn

Editor-in-Chief, CMC ’12

After being elected editor-in-chief of the Port Side this winter, I made two New Years Resolutions: one, I resolved to skyrocket the newsmagazine to 5C renown by laying out strategic plans for recruitment, training, and publicity; and two, overwhelmed by the “student health” theme of our October 2009 issue, I resolved to never again cover anything remotely related to sneezing, coughing, or swine flu. The latter failed – our cover story is a pro/con on the merits of the healthcare bill.

I really wish we could move onto something else, but so far, 2010 hasn’t been the most victorious year for progressives in this country. We have a president, for whom progressives overwhelmingly voted, whose first-year approval rating has plummeted more than that of any of his predecessors since the 1930s, when Gallup first began polling. We lost a Senate seat in a historically liberal state to a man whose Cosmo centerfold is even freer than his party’s ideal markets. Our planet keeps getting hotter – though not yet at Scott Brown levels – and the Copenhagen talks this December did little to cool it down. Hundreds of thousands died in Haiti, where prior poverty relief could have reduced the magnitude of the earthquake’s devastation. National marriage equality looks bleak. The TSA is turning into a Peeping Tom. CMC is about as socioeconomically diverse as a bowl of bran flakes, and so on.

While the healthcare bill may be the least of our concerns, placing it on the cover illustrates a much larger point: stagnation. Some policies progressives tend to support, like healthcare reform and the reduction of global greenhouse emissions, have largely remained stagnant in recent months. Others, like marriage equality, have seen waves of progress. Nonetheless, progress isn’t necessarily progressive. Progress is movement. Any value judgments of that movement depend on perspective, and progressivism is just one of many perspectives. Like sound waves, when waves of progress travel in opposite directions, they cancel each other out. The end result is frustration based both on the exhaustion of energy and resources and on the assumption that by not winning, we’ve lost. It is, to put it simply, a stagnant silence.

As progressive journalists, we want to be heard. That’s why we’ve chosen to focus this print edition on the more “depressing” trends of 2010. We want to keep these issues progressing toward our goals when others say they’re stagnant. We seek to break the silence of the defeated among our ranks, those who chose to sigh, “There went my agenda” when Massachusetts turned red and Democrats lost their filibuster-proof Senate majority.

I reject that attitude. I reject that progressivism necessitates a diehard espousal of left-wing political goals or a commitment to a particular party or administration. For me and for much of the Port Side staff, progressivism is an intellectual thought process. Our duty is to decipher each side of the debates in which we choose to engage, present our findings in a clear and reader-friendly way, and ultimately agree with one view or suggest a new or incorporative alternative. It’s a synthesis of two or more waves of progress, all progressing in conflicting directions. And no matter how many New Years Resolutions I have to break, we’ll keep pushing our waves of progress, especially when our opponents push back.

The Claremont Port Side is dedicated to providing the Claremont Colleges with contextualized, intelligent reports to advance debate among students and citizens. This is a progressive newsmagazine that offers pertinent information and thoughtful analysis on the issues confronting and challenging our world, our country, and our community.

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