John Halpin

John Halpin is a senior fellow and co-director of the Progressive Studies Program at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

Recent Articles

Progressivism Goes Mainstream

New research on ideology refutes the conservative myth that America is a "center right" nation.

Election night in Chicago's Grant Park. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama's stimulus package, his joint address to Congress, and his 2010 budget have sent conservatives into fits of indignation over the supposed radicalism of the new president's agenda. Dusting off red-scare rhetoric from the early years of Franklin Roosevelt's presidency, Minority Leader John Boehner declared Obama's initiatives on energy, health care, and education to be "one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment." At the Conservative Political Action Conference held at the end of February, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina implored the young activists to "take to the streets to stop America's slide into socialism." Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee added, "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but the Union of American Socialist Republics is being born!" National Review , taking a slightly more measured tone in confronting the specter of collectivist tyranny, asked historians and other academics, "Is Ayn Rand freshly...

The Politics of Definition, Part IV

Editor's Note: And finally, the fourth and last installment, in which the authors describe the politics of definition and explain in detail how they believe Democrats and progressives must secure the common good. -- Michael Tomasky If mobilization and inoculation on their own are insufficient strategies for building majority power, what is a better answer? We offer a framework called the politics of definition . Our guiding strategic goal is to erase the “identity gap” as the first step to shoring up significant weaknesses among the electorate and starting the process of advancing a clear, concise agenda that appeals to voters across the spectrum. This approach is designed to simultaneously strengthen the progressive base and make improvements among key targets such as white working-class voters, Catholics, married women, and emerging suburban voters. The politics of definition rests on the empirical and social reality that both passion and pragmatism must be employed to string...

The Politics of Definition, Part III

Editor's Note: In Part I , the authors discussed the general nature of the dilemma facing progressives and Democrats today, with special attention to the “identity gap,” and then went on to analyze demographic and voting data showing progressive strengths. In Part II , they analyzed the data showing progressive weaknesses. With Part III, the authors begin to move toward the more prescriptive parts of their paper. They begin with critiques of the two current and common types of advice given to Democrats and progressives: from the left, to mobilize the base; from the center, the need to reach the median voter—and to show active disdain for the base. This is where it really starts to get interesting! -- Michael Tomasky The portrait of the progressive coalition's strengths and weaknesses laid out in parts I and II is enlightening. The progressive coalition clearly has tremendous potential strength -- in many ways, it is a sleeping giant, containing as it does so many large and rising...

The Politics of Definition, Part II

Editor's Note: This is the second installment of this important paper, which describes the precise nature of the dilemma faced by progressives and Democrats today and offers new solutions for the way forward. In Part I, posted last week, the authors described the basic problem facing progressives and the Democratic Party -- the “identity gap” faced within many specific voter groups -- and then surveyed electoral areas of Democratic and progressive strength. Here, in Part II, they discuss and analyze areas of Democratic and progressive weakness. Parts III and IV will lay out the authors' recommendations for the future, and will appear later this week. -- Michael Tomasky Building Blocks of a Progressive Majority: Weaknesses The White Working Class The key weakness of the progressive coalition can be summarized easily: very weak support among white working class voters (defined here as whites without a four-year college degree). These voters, who are overwhelmingly of moderate to low...

The Politics of Definition

Editor's Note: Earlier this year, John Halpin of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Ruy Teixeira of CAP and the Century Foundation (and co-author of The Emerging Democratic Majority) undertook research on the state of the Democratic Party and progressive politics in America. Their chief concern: To get to the bottom of the question of why so many Americans don't have a firm sense of what progressives and the Democratic Party stand for today. The result of their efforts is this paper, The Politics of Definition: The Real Third Way. The paper can be read in part as a 2006 answer to The Politics of Evasion, the landmark 1989 study by William Galston and Elaine Kamarck, which described a more centrist politics and helped lay the groundwork for Bill Clinton's ascendancy (and which they updated last year in The Politics of Polarization). Today, Halpin and Teixeira take a different view, and this work represents the authors' definitive attempt to burrow into the available data...