On progressive liberalism, so far

In two posts yesterday (here and here), I tried to lay out what I thought the conservative movement was all about. I also said progressive liberals needed to watch out because, to my mind, they still don’t have a simple, easy-to-remember, easy-to-repeat message on what they stand for.

I don’t think I’ll reach a conclusion in this post, but here’s a first step. I’ll list what I think the progressive movement supports at this point. I’ll divide it into two groups:

Undoing the excesses of the conservative movement

  • Re-establishing the rule of law and checks and balances on power, both nationally and internationally
  • Re-establishing civil liberties protections
  • Ending the Iraq occupation
  • Encouraging diplomacy over militarism in foreign affairs
  • Turning away from the “war” model of fighting terrorists and extremists to a “police” model
  • Re-establishing the role for government in addressing social needs
  • Re-establishing “reality-based” policy making
  • Ensuring the separation of church and state

Moving toward a better future

  • Delivering on universal health care
  • Promoting equality of economic opportunity for all
  • Promoting equal rights for all
  • Addressing climate change and other environmental threats
  • Developing a sustainable energy policy that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and the regimes that have them
  • Promoting fiscal responsibility and getting rid of pork barrel spending
  • Getting money out of politics through strict campaign finance reform
  • Ensuring fair trade, instead of “free” trade
  • Promoting science and science literacy
  • Addressing media consolidation and other media issues

So where does this get me in making a relatively short, clear, compelling statement on what progressive liberalism stands for? Well, not far, I’m afraid. I have more research and work to do. Look for the results over time. I’ll say three things for now though.

We need messages that are effective at the kitchen table. They need to be simple, truthful, morally satisfying, and accurate, all the while supporting the liberal cause.

The excesses of the conservative movement have plowed a wide path for progressive liberalism to take advantage of, but there remain two nuts to crack: national security and economic policy. Progressives need to prove that they can be strong on national security without being militaristic. They also need to better explain how and why the economy should be managed differently, both in the U.S. and globally.

And last, we need to remember that electoral politics is important, but changing the cultural environment is even more important. I’m not a religious person, but I think that Jim Wallis of the liberal Christian organization Sojourners has a great way of putting it:

“I have this metaphor of politicians with their wet fingers up in the air seeing which way the wind’s blowing. We think that by changing one wet-fingered politician with another you change society. But King and Gandhi and the great leaders knew that you change society by changing the wind. Change the way the wind’s blowing and it’s amazing how many people come along.”

And a final word to conservatives (well, maybe not, but for now anyway…)

As a final word on my two posts yesterday regarding what the conservative movement stands for, I want to reach out to people who consider themselves conservatives in the old-fashioned, mainstream way.

Do not continue to go along with what the conservative movement has become. Do not just follow these people out of loyalty to party, through inertia, or through dedication to a single issue. Please look back over my posts and remember what you are enabling.

I’ve often said I don’t blame people for voting for George W. Bush in 2000. His whole “compassionate conservative” deal sure sounded good. Gore had his own problems at the time. Heck, I was gearing up to vote for John McCain back then. (I wouldn’t vote for him now since he’s sided with the armchair warrior caste in his party and since he sidled up to the religious extremists just to have a shot at being president.)

But by 2004, the writing was on the wall as to where the creeps in the Bush administration were going to take things. Don’t make the same mistake and continue to enable these people that are running your movement, your party, and your country off the rails.

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