The Democratic Promise, a Strong People, and an Open Nation: The Philosophy Behind the Progressive Alternative

I just posted my first major essay to, our new initiative to restore the integrity and broaden the vision of the Democratic Party.  It regards the philosophy behind the progressive alternative, examining the ideas of the democratic promisestrong people, and an open world. Here’s an excerpt:

That is what it means to have faith in the democratic promise, in the constructive genius of ordinary men and women. Unlike fundamentalists, we start from a place of political uncertainty. Unlike conservatives, we believe institutional evolution can lead us down bad paths and thus believe present ideas from living humans for institutional reform and replacement are worth considering. Unlike technocrats, we believe those ideas are not the providence of a small set of centralized experts, but rather should be harvested from every ordinary citizen.

This constructive genius has been called creative intelligence by secular thinkers like John Dewey. It has been called divine Grace that works through each of us by religious thinkers. InFalse Necessity, philosopher Roberto Unger describes it as follows:

The infinity of the mind is the model for our relation to all the social and cultural worlds we build and inhabit.  There is always more in us — more in each of us individually as well as more in all of us collectively — than there is in all of them put together, the past and present orders of society and culture.

This inexhaustibility is the most important fact about us.  It is inscribed in the plasticity that characterizes the human brain and makes us into language-speaking and culture-producing organisms.  Its deployment is the most important instrument of practical progress as well as of scientific discovery. (li-lii)

To the Progressive Alternative, our people’s living and constructive genius – our creative intelligence, our experience of divine Grace, the infinity of our mind, our inexhaustibility – is the great tool we have with which to face political uncertainty.

From this belief comes our political mission: to empower and equip this constructive genius of ordinary men and women, while restoring its political supremacy over non-living structures. Wise scripture, inherited institutions, and technical expertise should not be abolished, but they should be the servants, not the masters, of this constructive genius and its stewards, the living citizens and communities of today.

Read the full essay — “The Democratic Promise, a Strong People, and an Open Nation: The Philosophy Behind the Progressive Alternative”here.

Read the original Progressive Alternative intervention, the founding document of the Progressive Alternative initiative, here.


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