Progressive Vs. Conservative
The Struggle To Understand The Differences
I'm nothing if not persistent in my effort to define the visions that these two political groups appear to use as guidance in both their approach to government and to attracting voters to their vision. And, I'll try once more. As I've said in the past, there are very few "new" ideas in the world. Most of what I'm going to say here has been said before and I'm merely trying to make it as understandable as possible.
Since I am a Progressive, I'll begin by trying to define that vision. Here is a general description of what I believe that vision embraces. As Progressives, we believe in the basic guarantees of freedom in the Constitution. Those include, but are not limited to, speech, press, association, and religion. Inherent in that statement is the promise of human dignity, safe keeping, and the pursuit of success as each of us defines that term for ourselves.
Human dignity includes many things, but mainly we are referring to, a decent, safe, place to live and work, enough food to eat, quality medical care, including preventative, reproductive, and mental health care, control over one's own body, Clean air, clean water, and a stable climate.
We Progressives believe in access to quality education that enables everyone to fully develop their interests, skills, and talents, and a level playing field for all workers. The power of large corporations must be balanced by laws that protect the right of workers to negotiate collectively, that prohibit employers suppressing competition for labor, and that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. We believe in a simple, fair income tax system that taxes investment gains as much or more than working people's wages, and that does not provide special tax breaks for wealthy and middle-income people. And, we believe in access to affordable child care and elder care. Without such access, it is impossible to pursue economic success.
Liberals, Progressives, whatever label you prefer, have a basic distrust of business and the people with a lot of money doing the right things. We have seen time and again how money creeps into politics, influencing decisions in favor of the landed and wealthy classes. And historically, we have been well justified in our suspicions. Over our history, those in charge, those running commerce and industry with the aid of paid-off politicians, and those in power who typically came from money gave us; slavery, indentured servants, low wages, no benefits, child labor, no women's rights, limited voting rights, Jim Crow Era, dangerous working conditions, no healthcare, no retirement programs, police brutality, red-lining, no labor unions, 70-hour work weeks with no overtime, sexual and racial discrimination, no vacations, and no sick leave.
It's been a 200-year struggle to correct many of those inequities. Little or none of that would have been implemented voluntarily by big business if workers hadn't organized and, yes, used our legal system to challenge the inequities brought about mainly by the greed of those with money and power. One of the Conservative gripes is that if laws are passed that we don't like, we take to the courts to challenge them. Of course we do, and they do the same damn thing.
Now, a perspective on the Conservatives point of view. From The Heritage Foundation, a bastion of conservatism, we get these statements regarding the Conservative vision for America; "What can I do for myself, my family, my community, and my fellow citizens?" "Parents, not the zip code they live in, should choose the school that is best for their child. We all need health care, but we don't all need the same kind or same amount. And while people should be free to live as they choose, no one should be forced to endorse or celebrate those choices if it violates their religious beliefs." "Whatever one may think about the wisdom of hiking the minimum wage, banning plastic straws, or removing controversial historical monuments, conservatives believe voters closest to the issues should be the ones making such decisions for their communities-not lawmakers in Washington or a panel of judges fives states away." "To sum it up, conservatives believe in individual rights, not special rights. Conservatives believe in allowing Texas to be Texas and Vermont to be Vermont. And conservatives believe we the people can vote with our feet about where we want to live and what laws we want to live under."
The Conservative argument sounds much like "Hurray for me and the hell with the rest of you." In their "vision" you'll find more text meant to degrade progressive views than providing a vision for the future. I have a couple of links at the bottom of this piece where you can read this for yourself. They are pushing a "religious" agenda while insisting big government should butt out. These are the same people who have screamed "states rights" on Roe v Wade, but are now promoting a federal ban on abortion. They are only opposed to federal law when it suits them.
In digging around for some ideas for this piece, I came across some quotes from a book by George Lakoff, titled, "Whose Freedom?: The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea." ""Progressive freedom is dynamic freedom. Freedom is realized not just in stasis, or at a single moment in history, but in its expansion over a long time," Lakoff writes. "You cannot look only at the Founding Fathers and stop there. If you do, it sounds as if they were hypocrites: They talked liberty but permitted slavery; they talked democracy but allowed only white male property owners to vote. But from a dynamic progressive perspective, the great ideas were expandable freedoms."
"What makes them 'conservatives' is not that they want to conserve the achievements of those who fought to deepen American democracy. It's the reverse: They want to go back to before these progressive freedoms were established. That is why they harp so much on narrow so-called originalist readings of the Constitution - on its letter, not its spirit - on "activist judges" rather than an inherently activist population."
This originalist approach belies everything the founders intended. Even before the U.S. Constitution was created, its framers understood that it would have to be amended to confront future challenges and adapt and grow alongside the new nation. In creating the amendment process for what would become the permanent U.S. Constitution, the framers made constitutional reform easier-but not too easy. The first ten amendments to the Constitution were approved in 1791, just four years after it was adopted. The 11th was adopted in 1795, the 12th in 1804, the 13th in 1865, the 14th in 1868, the 15th in 1870, the 16th & 17th in 1913, the 18th in 1919, the 19th in 1920, the 20th & 21st in 1933, the 22nd in 1951, the 23rd in 1961, the 24th in 1964, the 25th in 1967, the 26th in 1971, and the 27th in 1992.
Clearly, the Constitution was not perfect as originally written, and the founders understood it would not only need some revision, but most likely constant revision as society and the world changed. The constitutional originalists are akin to ancient religions that believe in sacrificing animals to the gods.
From Anand Giridharadas: "There is a primordial American tradition going back to the Founders of being freedom-obsessed, even though we are a country founded on slavery and genocide, being freedom-obsessed to the point that we're always so afraid of the government coming for us that we're blind to other types of threats, whether it's a virus, whether it's bank malfeasance, climate change, what have you."
One of the heated debates we keep having is between the federal government and the states. It seems clear to me, but let me offer another quote I found, and again can't attribute it because it's lost in my browser history somewhere: "The federal government passes laws that address issues of national concern pursuant to powers specifically listed in the Constitution. As sovereign entities, states remain free to regulate matters that don't extend beyond their borders using appropriate legislation."
There is the basic answer to the debate about state's rights. If your law extends to or affects people outside the borders of your state, then it can become a matter of federal law. The opening sentence in that statement is, "The federal government passes laws that address issues of national concern". That means things like our foreign policy, national security, and managing epidemics. Surely, no one would argue that each state should have its own foreign policy or national security apparatus independent of the federal government. Can you imagine 50 different foreign policies running this country?
It seems to me that we need to look at several things. What do we mean when we say we want the best for our country? Our country is only a country because people live, work, love, and die here. Antarctica is a continent, but it's not a country without people. If people are what make a country, then our primary focus at all levels of government should be on the people, not on resources, or corporations with the exception that those are made up of people. We should want to give everyone the greatest possible chance to be successful and happy.
We are not talking about a give-away society, we're talking about an achievement society that ensures everyone has an equal chance to achieve and succeed. The first twenty years of every child's life is critical and will, to a large degree, determine how successful they are and what they return to society. With that in mind, every child should have access to equal education be it private or public. Every child needs good nutrition to ensure they can perform at their highest level. They need housing and healthcare. Access to these basic needs on the path to success should not depend on their economic status. Their passage from elementary to middle and high school and on to college all depends on them achieving a level of scholarship that allows them to matriculate.
Part of that challenge is economic for those in the lower ranges of income. We must see to it that child care, day care, and the cost of education is guaranteed. This is an investment in our future. Capitalists can understand this concept. When you buy a building, a piece of equipment, you look at its potential to return your money. We're talking about investing in the future of our nation by producing the brightest generation of young people in history.
In 2022, we're going to have over 15 million students attending high school. We should have a national goal to graduate everyone of them and send them on to college. Imagine 15 million bright and brilliant young people to join our government, become captains of industry, and to lead us in the fields of science, medicine, and technology.
I think I've just described the difference between Progressives and Conservatives. Progressives want to move our nation and the world forward in as many ways as we can. Conservatives seem to want to stagnate in the past and are resistant to change and progress.
Some of the sites I used for my arguments: