In my Jan. 4 column [What conservatives stand for, Viewpoints], I summarized my understanding of what conservatives stand for, based on what I’ve been hearing for the past 30 years.

I also challenged conservatives and progressives alike to state what progressives stand for. The only conservative who gave it a shot was Jim Woulfe, a former River Forester who now lives in North Carolina. He simply inverted everything I wrote, assuming, I guess, that progressives believe the opposite of whatever conservatives believe [Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest? Viewpoints, Jan. 18]. Not a serious attempt at dialogue.

Meanwhile, Greg Mumm [The U.S. is a center-liberal country, Viewpoints, Jan. 11] and Bruce Broerman [A more realistic take on progressives, Viewpoints, Jan. 25] offered excellent summaries that conservatives (and progressives) would do well to read (at Progressives, as I said, need to be much more vocal during this election year about what we stand for so the undecided moderates and independents have a reasonable alternative to conservative extremism.

Here’s my (incomplete) list:

  • Government is not the problem. It is part of the problem and part of the solution.
  • The free market is not the solution. It is part of the problem and part of the solution.
  • Government can be overly bureaucratic, wasteful, and oppressive. Corporations can be overly bureaucratic, wasteful, and reckless. Both need to do better.
  • Government, at its best, checks and balances the brutal excesses of capitalism without strangling economic vitality. It can improve the quality of our lives.
  • Americans should never fear their government, never despise it and never feel dependent on it.
  • Government must do more when more is needed and less when less is required. When the free market cannot, or will not, address our problems, government must step in.
  • More effective government is possible. It requires only the political will.
  • It is self-defeating to keep voting for those who don’t believe in government and have no intention of trying to improve it. Informed citizens should elect only those who believe that government can be a force for good in people’s lives.
  • The first step to improving government is to change our system of legalized bribery, which allows the wealthy to exert disproportionate influence. Free speech and privileged speech are not the same. A corporation is not a person because a corporation has no soul. Campaign finance and lobbying reform are essential.
  • The greater the gap between the rich and the rest, the haves and have-nots, the weaker our country. The gap will never be eliminated, but we should always work to reduce it, and the rich, who have benefited the most, should pay their fair share. At the moment, they do not.
  • Limit the use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Reduce the number of votes needed to override it to 55. Gridlock prevents us from resolving our biggest challenges.
  • The budget deficit should only be reduced by a combination of budget cuts (that are not excessively severe) and revenue increases (that are not excessively burdensome).
  • The economy and the ecology are not mutually exclusive. They are inextricably linked. A healthy environment is essential to our health, welfare and economic security. We need to show respect for life planet-wide, not just life in the womb.
  • Affordable, accessible health care is a right, not a privilege. If the free market cannot create a workable system, government must lead the way.
  • Free market capitalism cannot be allowed to create a system of economic slavery where the majority of Americans are trapped in a prison of debt.
  • Rights + Responsibilities = A healthy citizenry. One without the other never works.
  • Abortion should be safe, legal and rare, as Bill Clinton said. Criminalizing abortion means women would have to surrender control over their own bodies. That will never be accepted. You can’t legislate morality. Abortion should be fought in the court of public opinion, not in the Supreme Court.
  • Regulating the possession of firearms is one of the best ways to show respect for life. Gun ownership should be allowed for recreational use only.
  • The military should only be called upon as a last resort — or for emergency humanitarian interventions. Never fight another pre-emptive war. Never engage in torture. Never fight two wars at the same time.
  • Never use terrorism as an excuse to violate citizens’ civil liberties.
  • The “original intent” of the framers of our Constitution is impossible to determine and should only be considered as one of many factors in court rulings.
  • Separation of church and state is the best way to guarantee religious freedom. No single religious tradition should monopolize the classrooms or the textbooks in our public schools.
  • Educating the poor poorly widens the damaging divide between the rich and the rest in this country. Don’t throw money at the problem. Invest wisely.
  • Same-sex marriage should be legalized. Tolerance always serves us best.
  • The tax code should be fair and must provide adequate revenue, which should be spent wisely and efficiently.
  • Collaboration and cooperation serve us better than rugged individualism. Protecting and promoting the dignity of the individual is the best way to protect and promote the common good. Protecting and promoting the common good is the best way to protect and promote the dignity of the individual. It works both ways. It only works both ways.
  • Change is necessary. We either progress or we regress. We can’t jog in place. Political gridlock must be unlocked.

There is so much more, of course, but this will do for a start.

Why “progressives” instead of “liberals”? They’re not synonyms. Thanks to the relentless poisoning of the latter over the last 30 years by conservative media, many people think of liberals as occupying an ideological extreme. Progressives, however, are pragmatic centrists (not to be confused with “moderates” and “independents”). They embrace the best of the past but insist on moving forward, making progress.

Because progress is what this country needs now more than anything else.

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