Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dearest College Republicans

Written in response to this Viewpoint from the College Republicans. Hopefully this will be in the Observer tomorrow.*

Your Viewpoint taking grievance at your perceived lack-of-inclusion during Tuesday’s Progressive Day would be admirable if it weren’t so laughable. Either you are truly committed to the progressive ideals of "social justice and environmental harmony, an equitable and sustainable society based on tolerance and a respect for human dignity that demands access to the American Dream for all" and simply don’t understand the political party you have chosen to align yourself with, or you truly believe in what the Republicans have done lately and you wrote an entirely insincere letter to the Observer. Given the actions and words of the Republican elite in the past decade, I see no other options.

Let’s go to South Carolina, where Republican Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer argued against government assistance for those at or below the poverty line, saying “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better.'' A more well-known Republican leader, former House Republican leader Tom Delay, has said that “People are unemployed because they want to be.” During the process that led to health-care reform, one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in decades, Texas Republican representative Randy Neugebauer decided to forgo civilized debate and instead yell “Baby killer!” on the House floor, poisoning the well on a bill that does not provide funding for abortions. During the worst environmental catastrophe in American history, Texas Republican representative Joe Barton, instead of standing by the interests of his country and his planet, actually apologized to BP for the government making them put aside funds to pay for the disaster they caused.

The Republican Party may have once been a haven for progressives. Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan (yes, even Reagan, to an extent) were all Republican presidents who pushed progressive ideals. But the last decade brought with it a shift in the party dynamics. Instead of pushing for civil rights, as Lincoln did, the modern Republican Party supports legislation like that which we have seen in Arizona. Instead of being a steward of the environment, as Roosevelt was, the modern Republican Party has turned a blind eye to our increasingly worrisome direction, instead choosing to protect the big business whose unsustainable practices are responsible for our current troubles. And when President Obama works diplomatically with Russia to try to reduce the amount of nuclear weapons in this world, as Reagan did, the modern Republican Party cries foul, choosing instead to wage a domestic campaign of fear against all outsiders. Nobody is claiming that conservatives cannot be progressive. If you were conservative and still wished to be noted as a progressive, all you had to do was put on some blue. But if you say that today’s Republican Party is a place for progressive values, you are either lying or not paying attention.

*Due to a miscommunication amongst the ranks, this column will not be the response in tomorrow's Viewpoint. Read this as my opinion only, not the official CDems position. I hope you enjoyed my rant. Have a lovely day.


Kirsten A. said...

While I wore blue on Progressive Day, I think you've made an error in judgement, Tim.

Today's viewpoint specifically stated: "A move like this not only presents human rights and equality goals as single-party issues (which they're not, at all), but it contributes to the demonization of Republicans both on and off campus."

The College Republican's thoughtful response focused not on single-party ideologies, but on the underlying issues that Progressive Day embodied. Ideologies that we, as progressives, should want others to ascribe to, no matter their party loyalty. It is a gross overstatement and a misreading of the viewpoint's message to bash the Republican party as a whole with anecdotal sound bytes.

To my understanding, Progressive Day is not about flaunting an exclusivity, but in welcoming critical, but constructive, dialogue. Open, not closed, minds toward making progress-- no matter which side of the party line those minds emerge from.

Tim Ryan said...

Noted and appreciated. While perhaps my knee-jerk reaction was overly critical, I think you may be giving the Republican Party as an organization (not necessarily the individuals within the party) a little too much credit if you expect and open-minded dialogue at this point. I was not criticizing anybody on an individual level, I was criticizing the organization as a whole, and the politicians that the organization has helped elect. I maintain that I see no room for progressive ideology in the current Republican Party, but that does not mean I think that it can never shift back to reason. I hope that it does.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that Republicans at ND are just a little butt-hurt that College Dems won 2010 Club of the Year and have a way bigger, more enthusiastic presence on campus.

BTW- since when can an entire club write an Observer Viewpoint?

Anonymous said...

"Rant" is correct.

I don't quite see the inconsistency between today's Republicans and the Republicans of old. Do the contemporary Republicans not believe in having any national parks? Do they believe in slavery? And if anything, TR was arguably more pro-big business than the current Republicans. He, like FDR, saw a lot of value in having very large businesses, regulated by the government. He thought some trusts were bad, but that others were good.

Without resorting to vague platitudes, hyperbole, or rants, what do you think the difference is between conservatism and progressivism?


Gordon Stanton said...


i think your examples of how modern Republicans are progressive seem quite out of place.

not moving backwards is not the same as moving forwards. slavery is not the status quo and hasn't been for a long time. Wanting to continue not having slavery isn't progressive, it's just natural.

What would be progressive is taking it one step forward, and recognizing that the poor people of our country are in a form of slavery (debt slavery) and deserve the same basic rights as everyone (healthcare)

not abolishing already established national parks is not progressive. the national parks have become an essential and natural part of our country. It would be progressive to extend the line of thinking into the future and finding more ways to limit the damage we do to the earth (cap and trade)

so the essential difference that your missing is this. to be progressive you can't just say, "look i didn't undo the good things we did 100 years ago" instead you have to say, "what great thing can we do". That doesn't necessarily exclude the Republican Party by it's definition, but I can't think of an example of something they've done that really fits that rhetoric.

Bill said...

The Republicans of old used to support an isolationist foreign policy with limited involvement in foreign adventures, and absolutely no nation-building. Off the top of my head, I'd say that's a pretty big difference with the modern party.

I also think that at various times throughout history the Republican Party used to be ok with government spending, even huge projects like the Interstate Highway System.

I'll refrain from answering your question about what the difference between conservatives and progressives are, since I assume you wanted to know what Tim's answer to that question is.

Tim Ryan said...

I believe I stated pretty clearly in my article that I don't necessarily see a disconnect between the broader concepts of conservativism and progressivism. The disconnect lies within the Republican Party, and I think Gordon did a good job of augmenting the explanation that can be found within my article.

Anonymous said...

I think the isolation was mainly an issue after WWI and ended in 1941. I don't think that really characterizes most of the the history of the party. I realize they haven't had 100% consistent foreign policy over time either, of course.

Also, Republicans in recent decades have tolerated or even voted for some pretty enormous spending projects. They don't exactly seem to be clamoring for the rollback of Medicare, which seems to be on its way to dwarfing any other program we've ever had.

I'm happy to hear your own answer to the question about differences.


Bill said...

I would suggest that the emerging Republican Party seems to be significantly more opposed to spending projects than they have in the past. I understand that can change if/when they become the incumbent party again.

I would say that the only consistent differences between the party platforms has been tax policies, and as a general trend (though this is a bit vague) the Democratic Party seems to be more open to domestic spending projects. The Democratic Party also seems to be more comfortable enforcing regulations on industry, and more open to the idea of introducing new regulations.

Also, an alliance between fundamentalist Christians and the Republican Party that has lasted for a few decades has put a wedge between the two parties on social issues, though that appears to be an subject that is waning in importance to them.

Another trend that can be noted for the past couple of decades has been the Republican strategy of identifying the Democratic Party as weak on defense or foreign policy. While both parties when in power seem to be comfortable engaging in military conflicts overseas, the result on the electorate has been for the Republican rank-and-file to skew more hawkish and the Democratic rank-and-file to skew more dovish.