Thursday, September 9, 2010

Liberal or Progressive?

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government -- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."
Patrick Henry

Note: To fully appreciate this post you need to see the first comment to my post "Populism Through Patriotism or Progressivism?

Ah, now we are getting somewhere. You have given me some insight and some real meat to chew on. I love your analogy with the cats: great point and word picture to use. The first thing I need to do is give some definitions so you may better understand my points. The first two definitions I gathered from Wikipedia.

Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports minimal and gradual change in society. Historian Gregory Schneider finds a continuity in conservatism across the 20th century in terms of five powerful tendencies. The first is defense of tradition, dating from the Founding Fathers. Second is a commitment to preserve the rule of law, with an emphasis on the Constitution. Thirdly, conservatives uphold the Judeo-Christian traditions in the culture wars, opposing secularism. Fourthly, they uphold the principles of freedom, especially the right to bear arms and to conduct business without government regulation. Finally they support a free-market economic system based on capitalism, as opposed to a socialist economy directed by the national government. - Wikipedia

Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but most liberals support such fundamental ideas as constitutions, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights, capitalism, free trade, and the separation of church and state. These ideas are widely accepted, even by political groups that do not openly profess a liberal ideological orientation. Liberalism encompasses several intellectual trends and traditions, but the dominant variants are classical liberalism, which became popular in the 18th century, and social liberalism, which became popular in the 20th century. (Emphasis added, explained later) - Wikipedia

OK, by these definitions it is obvious we could easily agree on many points when it comes to keeping our American republic grounded and directed as it was originally intended. The definition on Conservatism nails where I am coming from. Without labeling you categorically with something to unintentionally pigeonhole you, I think it is fair to assume you agree more with liberalism and ideas of a Liberal. And with the points I emphasis in the definition above and a couple of others not listed (but we have discussed before, like natural or inalienable rights) there are areas we can have healthy disagreement upon as elements that fortify our government.

So where is our disconnect? We need to define progressivism. You seem to use the term interchangeably with liberalism.

“You offer me a choice between either patriotism or progressivism as though they were diametrically opposed.”

Yes, I did because my understanding / definition of progressivism is just that. Not liberalism, but progressivism. We have a neat definition of conservatism and liberalism but there is no single good one for progressivism. Wikipedia says a progressive is, “b : one believing in political change and especially social improvement by governmental action.” It is not as definitive as the other two quoted earlier, partly because it has been high-jacked to replace or augment liberal ideas and is a moving, changing target, still being defined and redefined by the media and both ends of the political spectrum. “Lefties” are not progressives and you may only be distorting your image of liberal ideals if you align yourself with them too closely. Here is another definition from The Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

3. (U. S. History) Of or pertaining to the Progressive party. [Webster 1913 Suppl.]
4. Favoring improvement, change, progress, or reform, especially in a political context; -- used of people. Contrasted with conservative.
Note: The term progressive is sometimes used to describe the views of a politician, where liberal might have been used at one time, in communities where the term liberal has come to connote extreme views. (Emphasis added) - The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

Those who claim to be progressives are best defined by their actions aligning with their rhetoric. Progressives have and are distorting liberal philosophies because their goals do not necessarily align with those defined as liberal above. I mentioned George B. Shaw because he is one pointed to as a “father” of progressive thought. There are more obvious choices, like those who later took the title; Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D Roosevelt. Notice there is no distinction between Republican or Democrat. Interesting you didn’t mention or object to a contemporary of these, John Dewy, whom I also quoted.

I’ll let one of these be an example of progressive thought and his career accomplishments show a pattern.

“Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence …The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us.” - Woodrow Wilson

“All that progressives ask or desire is permission—in an era when ‘development,’ ‘evolution,’ is the scientific word—to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.” - Woodrow Wilson

“In fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same. They both rest at bottom upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members. Men as communities are supreme over men as individuals.” (Emphasis added) - Woodrow Wilson

So, to further help I will use your analogy and some distinctions to help understand how I see the difference between a liberal and conservative. Let us just say that cats represent liberals and dogs represent conservatives (only for this example. I would never presume otherwise). We can all live with either, but do have a preference for one or the other. Whether you prefer a cat or a dog, either makes a good pet for the family and depending on the family one fits better than the other. But not all cats or canine are good for the family. It would be a disastrous idea to keep a hungry African Lion or a Dire Wolf as a family pet because chances are great either would destroy the family. If you haven’t already guessed, the African Lion is a liberal progressive and the Dire Wolf is a conservative fascist.

Woodrow Wilson could be called a liberal progressive. Some might try to label me a conservative fascist. I will react very belligerently to that statement. It is untrue because I in no way align myself with any kind of fascist ideas. Conservative, yes; fascist, not in the least. There may be conservative fascist (Hitler) but I’m not one of them. Woodrow Wilson easily lived up to the ideas of a liberal progressive but not all liberals would agree with many of his policies. But true progressives loves his ideas and wish to continue the path. That is what progressivism is all about; if possible quick, radical change. Quick might not be possible, but radical is desired.

This last president, what was his campaign slogan? Oh yea, change. Not enough questioned what kind of change when voting, but now they are asking. What change do we need? Wilson and Obama have much in common. You might believe, “Most lefties would hold up Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and Thomas Paine as our founders and role models. We revere the Constitution and hold the Bill of Rights as you do the Ten Commandments”, and I have no issues with it. But progressives have no such proclivity. They want to and need to destroy the republic to accomplish their goals. Some might disagree with this definition of a progressive and lean only to “progress” or “liberal secularism”, but if that is true then you might better stick with liberalism and distant yourself from progressivism.

"Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure (and) which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."
Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence