Before I was able to get a copy of the City Paper today, I saw this item at Post Politics about the possibility of a Progressive caucus in Metro Council. As it was pointed out in the City Paper article that the Post is referencing, local officials don't affiliate by party. So what is the grouping principle or dividing line between progressives and conservatives?
The City Paper's Nate Rau points out: Oftentimes on local issues, the word progressive becomes synonymous with pro-neighborhood. To that end, some of the voices calling for Nashville progressives to organize have been those outside of Council with pro-neighborhood sympathies.
The article indicates that Councilman Jerry Maynard and others have a desire to get back to a more "traditional" progressive agenda of affordable housing and environmental concerns. Neighborhood interests, after all, don't always translate into progressive causes or candidates. In 2007, the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund endorsed Carolyn Baldwin Tucker for Vice Mayor. Every GLBT person who has lived in Nashville since 2003 knows where she stands on our issues. Similarly they said "Beware" of the following candidates: Jerry Maynard (whom they endorsed) and Ronnie Steine. I'm not knocking their process. They exist to protect neighborhoods, not to enact some broad progressive agenda. I'm just saying the neighborhood test is insufficient to establish or revoke one's progressive credentials. There are plenty of progressives who support business, development, and property rights. And social conservatives can find plenty of reasons to back a neighborhood agenda.
While not showing an interest in being part of a caucus, Councilman Steine considers himself a progressive, but his careful approach to social issues seems warranted:
“Issues like abortion and prayer in school and gay marriage, those are for the state Legislature or Congress to address,” Steine said. “Frankly I think one of the issues with the previous Councils was they spent too much time on memorializing resolutions that didn’t accomplish anything and it divided the Council.
“For me it’s a constant struggle, because [social issues] obviously mean something,” Steine said. “I think progress is in the eye of the beholder and you have to address it almost issue by issue. It’s more in terms of who wants to move the city forward and who likes the status quo.”
And with a Council of 40, I think that means gradual progress because consensus building is so important. A move to the Left too far and too fast is likely to inspire even more ballot initiatives like Councilman Crafton's English-only measure. We need a progressive wind in Metro Council, but one that blows gently forward, one that gives people the feel that they're moving mostly at their own pace. But moving, nonetheless.