Considering the relative powerlessness of political progressives (i.e., those on “the Left“), it’s obvious that such individuals are in it for the love of principle. As compared to the lure of power and money, the struggle for rights, social welfare, true democracy, true freedom, humaneness, and other ideals/values is a noble sentiment. The goals of social activism are also usually superior to conserving the status quo and bolstering institutional power. It has never been easy; from securing a fair wage to voting rights to being free of conscription to breaking the shackles that enslaved, progressives have not had much power on their side. Power concedes nothing without a demand…. Frederick Douglass wrote. He knew a thing or two about the subject, as he was a truly educated former slave. Albert Einstein lionized those who strive for what is fair and right when he wrote: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Yet, despite the challenges, most of the accomplishments that we believe “make America great” came from struggle, organization, and a high-minded striving for “our better angels.” Many progressive individuals sacrificed greatly to make America something less than a fascist and laissez-faire dystopia.
We are heirs of a great movement, the Progressive movement, which began late in the 19th century and remade the American experience piece by piece until it peaked in the last third of the 20th century…. its aim was to keep blood pumping through the veins of democracy when others were ready to call in the mortician. Progressives exalted and extended the original American Revolution.
As I think about the full-court press that those who identify as progressive had to face in the 2016 election, it just makes me shake my head and feel both very humbled and impressed by what the people were able to accomplish. Also, a bit of pessimism and hopelessness. About as far back as Homo sapiens go, those who valued traits such as fairness, social justice, peace, tranquility, modesty, love, and gratitude have had short shrift. Jesus found this out when he tried to teach the Romans about organizing, loving the other, and finding peace within (and without) based on a relationship with God. He also ran up against the “moneychangers” in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. They didn’t appreciate his criticisms and his claim that he came to “bring the sword.” In this case, it was the individual and the so-called “enlightened few” against those who held power and desperately clung to the status quo.
It is sometimes difficult for progressives to understand just how inherently threatening our message can be to those whose sense of identity depends on clinging to their position in the collapsing hierarchy of power and privilege.
Libertarian Ron Paul writes: “Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors in drug cases to seek the maximum penalty authorized by federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Sessions’ order represents a setback to the progress made toward restoring compassion and common sense to the sentencing process over the past few years. His action also guarantees that many nonviolent drug law offenders will continue spending more time in prison than murderers.” Often “liberals” and libertarians don’t agree on things political (especially in the realm of fiscal/financial), but socially there is common ground: both groups look with suspicion and active distrust on social conservatives (Pat Roberston and Rush Limbaugh, for example) and neoconservatives (Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, for example) whose agendas they consider expensive, hypocritical, ill-advised, anti-liberty, and just plain Biblical.
The main threat to democracy comes not from the extreme left, but from the extreme right, which is able to buy huge sections of the press and radio and wages a constant campaign to smear and discredit every progressive and humanitarian measure.
The one aspect of fiscal conservatism the libertarians and the progressives see eye to eye on is the repugnance of corruption and oligarchy. Conservatives per se are somewhat less intolerant of what the Republican Party has become since it really began to make pacts with big money/corporate interests, and therefore, America has become a more plutocratic nation. Check Richard Wolff out for more on these issues. David D’Amato adds some context: “…the U.S. economic power is increasingly gathered in the hands of a savvy few, adept at using government power to attain private advantage. The reader may, at this juncture, be somewhat surprised, for our analysis and diagnosis of the problems inherent in America’s corporate economy seem the stuff of the political left. And, indeed, there is considerable overlap between leftist—socialist or communist—class analysis and that of classical liberals, because the former adopted many of the theories earlier developed by the latter.”
I would hope that these people who are worth hundreds of millions of dollars will look around them and say: ‘There is something more important in life than the richest people becoming richer when we have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. Maybe they will understand that they are Americans, part of a great nation which is in trouble today. Maybe they have to go back to the Bible, or whatever they believe in, and understand there is virtue in sharing, in reaching out; that you can’t get it all.’ ~ Bernie Sanders
One question is whether progressive individuals support “big government.” They get tarred and feathered by many on the Right for wanting to utilize a responsive and responsible government to institute good laws, create positive social change, and protect the weak. However, what about conservatives? Which political force in government started the “war on drugs” and built many prisons for much of our population? Which president cut taxes and then greatly increased spending on wars? It is (arguably) a mantra of the political Right in modern America to weaken social programs and transfer the responsibility for providing social goods for citizens to the “private sector” – namely, corporations. Preferably corporations which supply money to think tanks and political candidates intent on turning back the clock and reversing social progress (more on “starving the beast” later). Think of the moves to make voting more difficult and Trump’s plan to slash the corporate tax to a minescule amount of revenue. Some of our corporations don’t even pay tax, in part because of the chicanery they engage in (think: offshore tax shelters).
Ruth Conniff sets the record straight: “The goal, in Grover Norquist’s memorable phrase, is to ‘get the federal government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.’ These starving and drowning metaphors should give Americans pause as we look at New Orleans. The real human cost of the dismantling of civil society has been on graphic display there.” Yes, Norquist really said that – and he finds that defensible. We are light years away from the social democracies of Europe, such as Germany, France, and the Scandinavian countries. They actually find government helpful because they crafted a system that is better at responding to their needs. Iceland not only elected a female president, they are serious about political corruption. It’s not rocket science; it’s just that there are powers arrayed in opposition to social and, apparently, fiscal progress. True, Trump may be, as conservative luminary Andrew Sullivan puts it, “off his rocker,” but he is just running the same plays planned and executed by the Right for decades now – just a bit off-script and unhinged.
One thing that I learned in working on [my] book is that the left always fails. Each left flared up for ten or fifteen years and then left something behind. It fails because it’s a long-term project; you have to look at it over a long sweep of history. …they won a terrific triumph of ideas—of anti-racism, of anti-sexism, of equality for disabled people, equality for overweight people, for sick people. This is all the legacy of the 1960s. … Once [abolitionists] saw the end of slavery, they dissolved. They didn’t realize they had to continue the struggle. ~ Eli Zaretsky
I don’t think I even need to get into Europe in the time of the Holy Roman Empire, the Church’s ascendancy, feudalism and Lords and knights, the War of the Roses, and the persecution of Galileo; this would be pedantic because it is so obvious. Briefly, though, take one simple look at Europeans plundering the “New World” for gold, slaves, and spices using God, guns, and germs and it should be plain to see. Though there was momentum through time when smallpox was given to the large and thriving population of Native Americans, or when the modern corporation was invented (as far as I know, the English created the Dutch East-India Company based on a capitalistic structure for the first time), one would be wise to question whether or not this was truly forward progress, or if it was literally anti-progressive.
Solve people’s personal problems – or even just try to – and they will march with you. That’s the key to an enriched progressive movement.
Though there is a sense that the “founding fathers” of the United States of America had some progressive goals in mind – which is in some sense true – primarily they were seeking freedom from a government they felt was onerous and totalitarian. Is this truly virtuous – like, getting your face on the $10 bill virtuous? Any living creature from the roach on up will attempt to secure its own freedom and get its own needs met. It is questionable to claim that the founding fathers were driven by ideals such as fraternity, economic justice, independence, and the natural rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was what was sold to the colonists, but the lie is put to that when one thinks of the fact that colonial America was very stratified by social class, non-egalitarian, and based on mercantilism/enrichment. Yes, the king was not being nice to his loyal subjects, but if America was being progressive, would it not have allowed women to vote, Africans to be free, and democracy to flourish?
Sixty years after his death we should be raising a toast to F.D.R. and his progressive ideas. And we should take the opportunity to ask: How in the world did we allow ourselves to get from there to here?
No, history indicates that the founders were upper-class and merchant class white men of means who wanted to secure for themselves and their families (and compatriots) the unlimited ability to grow as an independent nation (which necessarily included disenfranchising the native population and importing/enslaving millions of Africans). Progressive? No, not really. I think it could better be described as “proto-capitalism,” or “proto-conservatism.” If you think about it, slavery is the ultimate in power – it’s where the dark side of self-aggrandizement and the ugly aspects of conservatism meet. It is: “Now that I have a good thing going with my slaves and my mansion and my guns and my income, I want to conserve that and prevent its usurpation or diminution by any means necessary.” Progressive would be to free slaves, give every individual a vote, and provide a fair wage for labor. It is doing unto the other as you would have done unto you.
“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally” ~ Abraham Lincoln.
One aspect of progressivism that is criticized is the quest for equality. Conservatives sometimes feel that though the status quo is not necessarily ideal, to use (pretty much necessarily) the government to make sweeping or arbitrary social changes (e.g., affirmative action as a way to equalize the statuses of African Americans and the white majority) is not morally right. Or that it doesn’t function right: unintended consequences are inadvertently created. I have a conservative friend who noted that: “Equal is unfair. Human beings are not equal, and an effort to make them so means being unjust to all. Whoever has power should not be able to force equality according to their ideal – be they government officials, politicians, protestors, etc.”
Members of the left, along with the far larger number of squishy “progressives,” have grossly failed to live up to their responsibility to think; rather, they are merely reacting, substituting tired slogans for thought.
He has a reluctance to see protesting as legitimate; it is as though he views it as a substitute for more legitimate and righteous citizen behavior. Though riots can be violent and counterproductive, I would assert that organizing and demonstrating is a fundamental and virtually inviolable right, tactic, and outlet. I think government and Fox News portrayed protesters in a bad light. Remember “Occupy Wall Street” and how whatever aspects of it were anything less than noble were emphasized? I maintain that with unions on the ropes, and newspapers waning in influence and authenticity, the ability to take to the streets to “afflict the comfortable,” as Finley Peter Dunne artfully said, is perhaps the one thing standing between whatever power the people still have and all-out tyranny, corporatism, and whatever Orwellian dystopia the powers that be have in mind (government and/or corporations).
Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war.
I don’t think the term “mob rule” is a fair characterization of what the left-libertarians have in mind for the best way to govern, and I don’t think that if the people were empowered in a legitimate way that a “mob mentality” would uniformly or necessarily prevail. Frankly, we have tried oligarchy and plutocracy for the longest time; why continue to believe that the people being disempowered is any more dangerous than what the powerful few have wrought? Since Plato, people have been arguing about proper government, but I don’t think there can be an argument that a) people don’t have sufficient power and b) the few who have wielded power have done a good job of painting us into a corner. Don’t believe that? Imagine Donald Trump with nuclear codes. If that doesn’t frighten you, I don’t know what else to say to make my point. Sociology and critical educational theory show some vivid examples of how society has an interest in keeping people uneducated, fragmented, competitive, downtrodden, depressed, and hopeless. It is pernicious to poorly educate children, as we do here in South Carolina, and then point to them and say, “You want THEM to govern? They don’t even know how to read.” It’s an endless flow chart that always features oligarchy.
Don’t believe that? Imagine Donald Trump with nuclear codes. If that doesn’t frighten you, I don’t know what else to say to make my point. Sociology and critical educational theory show some vivid examples of how society has an interest in keeping people uneducated, fragmented, competitive, downtrodden, depressed, and hopeless. It is pernicious to poorly educate children, as we do here in South Carolina, and then point to them and say, “You want THEM to govern? They don’t even know how to read.” It’s an endless flow chart that always features oligarchy.
The American Heritage Dictionary (Fourth Edition), defines “liberal” in this way: “Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behaviors of others; broad-minded.” I’ve always seen it as an ethos in which possibility gets way out in front of reality and takes a flying leap.
Texas has a strong progressive populist tradition. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at the years since 1994, when George Bush became governor. It’s now the state the Urban Institute has ranked the worst of all 50 for its level of inequality among children.
When they turn the pages of historyWhen these days have passed long agoWill they read of us with sadnessFor the seeds that we let grow? ~ Neil Peart
Conservatism does have some merit. Take a look at the following quotations and you can see that, though they are not progressive, they are defensible and even high-minded (in certain ways). I think there is a conservative impulse when one puts money away for the future rather than spending it on oneself (or charitable giving), or thinking thrice about instituting a new social program that costs a lot of money and may or may not work (enter outcome research, but that is a tangent). Here is what Wikipedia indicates about Andrew Sullivan’s politics: “[He] describes himself as a conservative and is the author of The Conservative Soul. He has supported a number of traditional libertarian positions, favoring limited government and opposing interventionist measures such as affirmative action. However, on a number of controversial public issues, including same-sex marriage, Social Security, progressive taxation, anti-discrimination laws, the Affordable Care Act, the United States government’s use of torture, and capital punishment, he has taken positions not typically shared by conservatives in the United States. In July 2012, Sullivan said that ‘the catastrophe of the Bush-Cheney years … all but exploded the logic of neo-conservatism and its domestic partner-in-crime, supply-side economics.’” Here are a few of his quotes – and my replies:
…the first goal of conservative politics is not virtue, or education, or liberty, or the integration of a divine or eternal truth into every rule and regulation. It is much more basic than that. It is security. Without such security, it is impossible to have the peace necessary to cultivate virtue, apart from the virtue of courage. ~ Andrew Sullivan
Does he mean security against foreign powers and terrorist factions, or against domestic political opponents? That is not far-fetched to ask. Consider this piece from The Week: “A New Jersey congressman targeted a local political activist by sending a letter to her boss, forcing her to resign. Saily Avalenda, a bank executive was called on the carpet for her work for a progressive activist group, which U.S. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen described as ‘an organized force’ that threatened ‘national security.’ Wow, progressives looking for positive change and laudable values are a threat to national security? That is anti-progressive, and frankly, could (should?) be considered anti-American.
She still has one vote, as do you. She is governed by the same laws as you are. Fools and sages, old and young, male and female, gay and straight, beautiful and ugly, moral and unprincipled, strong and weak: as human beings, we are vastly different. But as citizens, the conservative argues, we are utterly indistinguishable from each other. ~ Andrew Sullivan
That contention is charitable to the point of being foolish. I know he isn’t writing about virtually any time in America’s past (and therefore, few if any societies in the last 10,000 years). I don’t even know if he can fairly be writing about modern America. He is British, and Britain is more or less socially democratic in its political structure, so perhaps he is touting a glorious egalitarianism that has moved from theory (fantasy?) to practice in Europe. Or, he is obfuscating the truth.
In the modern world, in other words, conservatism often means repealing laws, abolishing unnecessary institutions, getting rid of needless government departments in order to let people make their own choices as much as possible. A free market is critical to this, but not because it somehow succeeds in creating wealth. ~ Andrew Sullivan
Does Mr. Sullivan distinguish this kind of conservatism from the social wrecking ball that is Donald Trump? How are “unnecessary institutions” distinguished from the valuable ones? Frankly, I have witnessed some assertive onslaughts against American institutions by conservative politicians for the last 35 years. Think of this: Texas man-child Rick Perry couldn’t name one of the cabinet positions he was in favor of abolishing when he was on stage debating Trump. Fast-forward: Trump appoints him to the very department he forgot the name of. You can’t make this shit up, as they say. I wish it were a terribly rare example of crony capitalism, but alas, just read the history of America. In fairness, I will refer the reader to see a different perspective on “liberalism” and crony capitalism and free market capitalism here. Allow me to quote David D’Amato, no pun intended, liberally:
“In American political discourse, those on the side of the sick, poor, and underprivileged tend to favor more federal government intervention and involvement across the board; they see government as accountable to the people, an instrument rather like a charity, through which a community helps those of its members who find themselves in dire straits. Their account of the free-market economy sees it as a pitiless world divided between winners and losers, wherein the winners are unfeeling corporations that put profits over people, devoted only to their false idol, the almighty dollar. In this story, the free market, at least in its purer forms, is fundamentally irreconcilable with the common good. And it’s actually quite easy to understand why the free market’s detractors believe, almost always in complete good faith, such easily debunked myths about it. They are confusing the free market with something like its opposite, today’s gamed and rigged, government-dominated economic system, wrongly represented as and believed to be a true free-market economic system (by friends and foes alike, it must be noted).”
So, how does this Orwellian nightmare of leadership differ from “starve the beast” tactics to “reduce the size of government” by conservative politicians? This is a nefarious strategy whereby Congresspersons withhold adequate and desired funding from government agencies (e.g., the Department of Veterans Affairs) for the purpose of reducing public expenditure, thereby making the agency or social service perform dysfunctionally and unsatisfactorily, thereby leading to public support for the privatizing of the agency’s functions. This serves to provide “pork” to powerful constituents in their district and reduce taxation. Talk about bad faith and selfish motives!
A conservative will also eschew any grand notions of history or great crusades. He would never state that his goal is to end tyranny on Earth or other such utopian fantasies. ~ Andrew Sullivan
So, he is against Reagan and Bush and Bush intervening myopically and impulsively in other countries around the world in pursuit of power, goods, money, and hegemony? Got it. I will give him the credit that in his book, he tries to distinguish between the good kind of conservatism and its ugly siblings: fundamentalism and neo-conservatism. Reviewer Ben Martin writes: “…Sullivan lays out his definition of a conservative in the classic, almost old-fashioned sense of the word, and how it differs from the radical fundamentalism that passes for ‘conservatism’ in American politics today.” Let’s be clear that we are thus not talking about virtually any major American conservative politician from like Nixon on. Martin continues: “He begins with an exploration of fundamentalism: its reliance on certainty of belief, rigid enforcement of rules, and the notion of the State as a force for pushing its citizens in an allegedly ideal direction. He then pivots to conservatism and its defining characteristics as he sees them: curiosity, doubt, skepticism, acceptance of human fallibility, and the notion of the State as minimalist guarantor of security and the individual citizen’s ability to pursue his or her own happiness.”
The conservatives’ tactic of making the word liberal seem as though it should be one of the seven words you can’t say on the broadcast media has been brilliant.
Okay, so a more benign and freedom-granting version. Okay. I think progressives would agree to have a more amicable relationship with conservatives if the latter didn’t create think tanks to develop reactionary and anti-progressive inroads into social and economic progress (scant though they may be) and foment rabid religious forces such as the Moral Majority. Progressives often will characterize the Right as not only authoritarian, heartless, and regressive, but political cheaters. I grant you, “liberal” politicians get involved in gerrymandering, “pork,” wars, and “big money contributions,” but those folks are more like Clinton-style, realpolitik, self-serving, corporate-funded scalawags than legitimate progressive proponents. If you want politicians in that vein, try Paul Wellstone, Bernie Sanders, and Dennis Kucinich. Representative theorists would be Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, Barbara Ehrenreich, Arlie Hochschild, Matthew Rothschild, and Ralph Nader.
Turning back the clock to an era of greater deference or aristocratic order or religious authority is an impossibility for conservatives who grasp the complexity of human society. And so contemporary conservatives accept this changed world and accommodate themselves to it. Maybe they will try and restrain some of its worst impulses, or seize new opportunities for growth and development. But they will start from where they are.
Turning back the clock? What progressive and honorable person could justify that goal? I mean, it’s not only not moving forward, it’s moving backward. Conservatives who pine away for the 1950s (when everyone had a job who wanted one, and where “Leave it to Beaver” was on the black and white television, and we were relatively powerful in the geopolitical sense) should realize that they are also calling for theocracy, racism/Jim Crow/segregation, and gays in fear of ostracism, harassment, or discrimination. I get that there is something compelling about a time when things weren’t so challenging, but it is also worth remembering that it was conservatives who were responsible for busting unions, keeping minorities inferior, and creating a Frankenstein in the form of modern corporations. I suggest we work for progress going forward rather than try to recapitulate an era that was as bad as it was good for many. Unionization can be empowered today; women can be granted the Equal Rights Amendment today; education can receive the full funding it needs today; we can come off our war footing and stop selling more arms than any other country in the world.
What distinguishes a progressive is that you live according to your principles, and your consciousness is wrapped around the whole world, not just yourself.
Thus, the honor and legitimacy of conservatism quickly wanes when the attempt to preserve that which is good, worthy, and desirable mixes with power. As I said, one cannot both give African Americans their full rights and privileges while also preserving a fantasy existence that is more akin to apartheid South Africa and dual-class Sparta than it is an idyllic, by-gone era. By power, I mean the consolidated or institutional use of hard or soft force to enact a certain agenda which benefits one person or a select group of aligned individuals. The famous phrase “speak truth to power” is relevant, because “power” refers to individuals wielding it for a (usually selfish and sometimes nefarious) purpose; powerful interests would probably be a better term, actually.
That is to say that there is a difference between trying to preserve, maintain, and bolster the way that society is at a given time and place (conserving what is) versus using power to try to wrest social goods from other persons or groups for private or personal use (or a class or syndicate). It is the difference between having a collection of dolls that you love and attempt to preserve for the purpose of passing it on to your daughter someday, versus buying a local doll store to not only acquire more dolls, but to prevent others from having access to dolls as well. Clearly, when a CEO makes ten million dollars, there is less profit to be distributed to shareholders, put into research and development, and especially, to be paid to the laborers. As of this writing, the average CEO pay is 250 – even 400 – times the average worker in that company. Holy hell. That is not just conservatism, it is those in power garnering valuable resources for themselves at others’ expense. This is a moral issue.
Power is what explains the fact that upper class passengers made it off the sinking Titanic at a disproportionate rate (and in that zero-sum-game, many lower-class passengers met grim deaths in an unforgiving, dark sea). Power is feeding Christians (progressive minorities) to the lions. Power is sending a scapegoated minority to gas chambers. Power is why women make 75-80% of what men make for the same work. Power is Bill Cosby appearing on television to be “America’s favorite dad” while he raped women repeatedly. Power is Bernie Madoff convincing thousands that he had their best interests in mind.
Looking deeper into the phenomenon of power, on the two extremes you have Sister Helen Prejean and Bernie Madoff. Sister Prejean appears to me to be about as loving, dedicated, other-centered, and generous as a human can be. She was “only human,” yes, but please consider her as a personification and exponent of values that we would all consider “good” and “pure.” Bernie Madoff, on the other hand, was not just conservative or anti-progressive, he was demonstrably a selfish, manipulative and narcissistic man who enriched primarily himself and, to some degree, his family and co-conspirators. Probably diagnosable as a sociopath, he clearly demonstrated callousness, manipulativeness, selfishness, and a lack of remorse (and insight, it seems). True, Mother Teresa worked against a system to create her hospice and to be permitted by a powerful Catholic church to do her work, and Madoff was only a small part of a massive, complicated, and acquisitive system. And yes, many of Madoff’s clients could or should have seen the writing on the wall (i.e., were they being greedy to the point of ignorance, and therefore, have some small degree of culpability). But in general, Mother Teresa demonstrated goodness by self-sacrifice meant to help others and Madoff demonstrated evil – he literally took Elie Wiesel’s savings. If you come back toward the middle of the spectrum a bit, it is evident that Madoff sought power for power’s sake, whereas Sister Prejean lived a frugal and simple lifestyle so as to further the best interests of others – those who have no power and zero social capital. The death row inmates are nearly bereft of merit, and certainly nothing can be gained of a selfish nature by ministering to them. Two contemporaneous individuals who viewed power about as differently as two people can.
Judge a nation by its poorest ten percent. Not just the 10% with the fewest dollars — but the ten percent suffering the worst health. The ten percent suffering the worst addictions. The ten percent who are lonely, afraid, or persecuted. Progressive values help those ten percent who are suffering the most. My values are progressive values.
I began by trying to demonstrate that progressives, despite the odds being stacked against them by those possessing more power and those with conservative mindsets (often the same individuals), much that is good has been achieved in prior centuries. By highlighting Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and Andrew Sullivan, and placing conservatism in a historical context, I attempted to illustrate that the ideology/philosophy, though somewhat laudable in theory/principle, has many glaring weaknesses when mixed with power. The spawn of the philosophy mixed with the phenomenon are fundamentalists and neoconservatives. Concrete examples of the dark union include wars that reek of imperialism and hegemony, and drowning government [namely, ourselves] in a bathtub.
It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them – the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.
Ruth Conniff brilliantly demonstrated how Hurricane Katrina literally drowned many citizens due to ineptitude or malice (e.g., the “beast” of government having been “starved” of needed resources, legitimacy, and leadership). Conflict theory is a sociological theory begun with Karl Marx that can elucidate some of the nature and the consequences of political progressivism arrayed against political conservatism. In fact, America has never really been consistently or substantially progressive, and it has been against great odds that progressive patriots have thrown themselves against the barbed wire of entrenched and institutionalized power – in a laudable and honorable attempt to bring to life the ideals of the American experiment. That contention is arguable, though, since noted intellectual Eli Zaretsky sees America as a beacon of hope with an honorable past (my words):
In fact, the United States was on the left of world politics. It was known as the poor man’s country, as the advocate of democracy and liberty in a world still dominated by kings. These principles of self-government and liberty and equality are all what I mean by the left.
I believe that despite America’s potential, much life, liberty, and happiness has been spent and spilt in prior centuries across the globe, and there are some very disconcerting and ominous signs that the dark side of conservatism never sleeps when it comes to the United States. Though conservatism has some merit, it is progressivism that heralds values which are superior because of the greater morality, open-mindedness, and inclusiveness.
Feel free to use the Wisdom Archive to identify more compelling quotes on this or any subject!
Cartoon credit: Mark Hurwitt