A recent New York Review of Books article sheds some light on conservatives today. The article helped me understand better how some of them want to return to a previous golden age and how some want to clear the slate in a revolutionary fervor to build a new city on the hill. I reject either as unreachable, a glorious past or a perfect future. It appears to be more than campaign rhetoric. Rather these express a differing world view.
I want to say here, more than ever I support President Obama as a highly intelligent person of excellent character who’s doing his best to address significant problems at home and abroad with a rabid opposition in the federal legislature that frustrates his efforts. For the Republican leader of the Senate to say that his party will do everything in its power to make sure Mr. Obama is a one-term president lays down both an insult and a challenge. Yes, the parties vie for ownership of elective office. But I cannot imagine the President saying he will do everything in his power to see the Senate minority leader lose his office. Respect they should have for each other, if not thoroughgoing comity, when they work on the nation’s issues. The rancorous partisanship, while not new in our history, can be dispiriting.
During the last administration I was constantly angry. I shouted at the television screen, I wrote my version of screed in emails to friends. And it made me feel lousy. When President Obama won office — I supported Mrs. Clinton in that campaign — I decided anger damaged me more than it accomplished anything. It certainly did not seem reasonable or even sensibly part of the campaign between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain. And then those town hall meetings happened when the Tea Party came into play and showed their own anger at … at what I don’t quite know.
I don’t buy this stuff about taking the country back. Taking back power, reopening the spigots of money through contracts, favoritism, and cozy legislation written by lobbyists I understand. In America, follow the money is almost always true. It seems to me that maybe my anger in the past had bred some of this anger in the present, and in that sense I’m responsible for the extremism that confronts the country in having the Republican Party move so far to the right. I keep hearing Mrs. Bachman saying over and again how important it is to defeat President Obama. Not agreeing with her does not make me angry, but closer to sad.
You asked, what is a progressive political sentiment? Respecting the individual, helping the person who’s down on his luck or has the cards stacked against him and her, looking to achieve a more equitable nation, opening the polling place to every citizen, turning toward thoughtful solutions to difficult problems, securing our country’s safety without foreclosing the nature of an open society — these are some of the things I want in our country’s culture.
I worry that our laws are written for special interests, that money has too great an influence on what we see and hear in the electronic media. I hope that “progressive” means both supporting science that is basic and applied, as well as respecting the many different interpretations of what the world is, how it got that way, and how one should best live life. I hope a progressive is open to different ideas and able to convey liberal views respectfully. A progressive should share more than take, think while listening, give the other guy the benefit of honest answer.
I don’t think about these things very often and so I’m sure I’ve painted a thin portrait. I know how many times I’ve shaken my head between downcast shoulders at what has transpired in our government’s actions in our name. Think of the recently ended war in Iraq and the one still waged in Afghanistan, and of the innocents on all sides felled by our decision to make war. That’s a real failure of will. Maybe these wars were existential necessities, and maybe they were choices made given the realities of the times.
People make their choices at the polling place, in the seats of legislatures and in executive offices. America is home to all of us; we’re all Americans. In addition to voting, letting the people who serve our interests know what our views are is an absolute responsibility that we must take seriously and act upon.