The comments in a diary Bob wrote over at BlueMassGroup inspired me to do something dangerous - it begins with an M and ends with an A. It doesn't quite rhyme with Beta, but by its spelling some people would probably think it does. You guessed it, let's talk some meta!
Every once in a while, I like to write either a blog or a comment about the differences between liberalism and progressivism, in the American sense. Many people just don't seem to get it - or disagree. They say there's no difference between a liberal and a progressive, except that liberal has become a "dirty" word and liberals are trying to latch onto the term progressive. Progressive obviously can mean many things, but today's progressive movement is something altogether unique and a rising force in American politics.
So, what does progressivism mean? For starters, there are people who have been scared away from the term liberal and want to be called progressive, but that doesn't mean they're a part of the progressive movement. Progressivism, as a movement, had its early rise with the likes of Woodrow Wilson and Theodoore Roosevelt. Some of their ideas were good, like the people of each state should be able to elect their Senators (the 17th Amendment, in 1913). Other initiatives they pushed were actually, oddly enough, initiatives - the entire initiative process. If people want to know my opinion on the initiative process, just ask the residents of California. I'm not going to delve into details, but let's just say I don't view the early progressives as altogether successful. Many of the things they pushed weren't right and some of the good things they wanted, they didn't ultimately achieve. Eventually, they lost steam, power and the entire movement went under - or underground.
It wasn't until recently that progressives, as a whole, began to become loud advocates again. Many had been relatively silent, at least for the past few decades. Never mind being the base of the Democratic Party, a lot of progressives were just so fed up with everything that they didn't even vote. Reaganism seemed to kill American politics and there wasn't a whole lot we could do about it, accept maybe complain on the internet. Complaining on the internet became organizing as blogging and the netroots took over. Organizations like Moveon and politicians themselves have been able to take advantage over all the progressives who were hooked online and a new movement emerged, or so many people think and I would agree.
What is that movement? I'd like to say that this new rise of progressivism could be summed up in one phrase: the reality-based community. To me, the old progressives of the Woodrow Wilson era seemed to be similar to today's right wing in many ways: a lot of what they supported, they supported because it sounded good and logically made sense. However, what sounds good and is seemingly logical isn't always practical. Saying teenagers shouldn't get pregnant, so let's stop abortion to punish them hasn't exactly proven a winning idea. Liberalism, as an ideology, can be guilty of the same thing - except, what sounds good to them has a different tone. You know, they want to help people. So, here's a nifty, dumbed down version of how each ideology thinks. Keep in mind, even I would admit I'm making this overly simplistic.
Ryan: Welcome everyone to today's program. We're here, with this very exciting panel, to discuss some of the different points of view various ideologies share in America on certain topics. So, Mr. Conservative, Mr. Liberal and Mr. Progressive, what are your views on Iraq?
Mr. (Neo) Conservative: Errrr, yea. At the time, we all thought Eyeraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. We had to invade em because we couldn't trust Saddam Hussein. And, ah, look at what happened on 9/11! The world is a scary place and we need to be on our feet. Attack them there so they can't attack us here. Plus, ahhh, Democracy! We can give them Democracy and everything! We'll be greeted with flowers and as heroes. Yah! It'll spread throughout the entire Middle East and we really believe it, because we know our allies in Saudi Arabia are just dying for Democracy.
Ryan: Thanks, Mr. Conservative. Those are some interesting thoughts. What about you, Mr. Liberal?
Mr. Liberal: Why, first let me thank you, Ryan. It's really important to have an open and honest dialogue here, so we can talk about all of the ideas. Ideas are essential and there's nothing more important than talking about them. War is a terrible and tragic thing. We can't have war, unless directly provoked.
Ryan: Interesting commentary. Thanks. And you, Mr. Progressive?
Mr. Progressive: I do agree with my liberal counterpart, war is bad. We should only go to war when we're attacked or when our sovereignty is really threatened - as it was during World War Two, after Japan attacked us and all of our allies were losing the war in Europe. However, it goes beyond "war is bad." There were important facts that this administration ignored going into this war. For starters, we had inspectors in that country with unfettered access, looking for those weapons. We had no evidence to suggest they actually had any. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein was completely contained and no real threat to anyone in the region - and he had nothing to do with 9/11. In fact, al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were mortal enemies. Even more importantly, while Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, we didn't mind it when he was fighting a war against Iran. In fact, we helped him. We don't mind that the current President of Pakistan rules with an iron fist and got there through a military coup, he's our ally. We don't mind a lot of very bad regimes across the world, from China to Saudi Arabia. Why aren't the conservatives advocating regime change there?
What's more offensive than anything, however, is this notion that we could bring another country democracy - especially through war. No one in Iraq was asking for Jeffersonian Democracy, no one was pushing for it. A Democracy is the will of the people and it has to come from that very will. No one who studied the history of Iraq would have ever guessed that Iraq was poised for this new Democracy. If we were concerned with the people of Iraq, we would have tried to lessen their poverty - because, if we want a Democracy in Iraq, a starving, war-torn country in turmoil isn't going to produce it.
Ryan: Thanks for those thoughts, Mr. Progressive. What do you all think about illegal immigration? Three minutes guys.
Mr. Conservative: They broke the law! They're out of our country! Shut down the borders and stop the *cough*br*cough*own*cough* people from coming in, thank you very much.
Mr. Liberal: Obviously, the conditions in Mexico and in Latin America aren't very good. We need to let as many of them in as possible. Immigration is what our country was built on, we shouldn't be afraid of it. Diversity! It's America! See, I'm patriotic too!
Mr. Progressive: The simple fact of the matter is that there are about 12 million undocumented Americans in this country and no feasible way to get rid of them all, even if we wanted to. Sure, illegal immigration sounds bad and maybe they deserve to be sent home, but the simple matter is we need to create a policy that actually works. We're not going to be able to do that if we threaten deportation - and keep doing all these raids that are turning into human rights disasters. They'll go under, we'll never find them and meanwhile they're in danger of exploitation. The current situation is a mess and there are clear solutions to fixing it. Let's get to work.
Ryan: One last question, guys. Oranges or Apples? And why?
Mr. Conservative: Aww, what a sweet question. I love my farming. My Grand Pappy on the farm always used to say, "An Apple a Day Keeps the Dentist Away." Of course, he had dentures. Let me just say one more thing. Brush your teeth, kids and stay off drugs. Oh, and God loves America.
Mr. Liberal: Now, Ryan, how am I supposed to pick between those two lovely fruit? I love visiting the orchards in New England and in Florida. I just love them both.
Mr. Progressive: Um, okay. I wasn't exactly prepared for that question. Oranges, because they taste better. I'll eat an apple if it's fresh and in season.
Ryan: Thank you so much for participating today and pointing out some of the many differences in your points of view. It's important that every American have a basic understanding of what it means to be conservative, liberal and progressive in today's America.