Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Progressive Republican Challenge!!

One of the greatest issues in US politics today is that there is no accountability in the debates between members of congress and the RNC and DNC. The sunday shows like Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation are no longer real discussions about government, strategy and ideology. Instead they, like the rest of the political exchange, have disintegrated into an exchange of talking points left unchallenged by non-partisan analysis. It is with these thoughts in mind that I read the College Republican's Viewpoint response to Progressive Day held on Notre Dame's campus Tuesday, September 28.

While I know Josh Varanelli, the new President of the College Republicans, and have a lot of respect for the direction he wants to take the College Republicans at Notre Dame, I cannot let the words of his club's leadership in Why we wore red for Progressive Day go unchallenged.

Excerpt from the posts read,
Indeed, social justice, the environment, an equitable and sustainable society, human dignity, and the American Dream aren't what Republicans are looking to destroy. Quite to the contrary, the ideals embodied in yesterday's event, vague as they may be, constitute nothing that the Republican Party opposes. 
If the ideals being promoted by College Democrats comprise Progressivism, please let the College Republicans into the movement. If that seems at all unfitting, perhaps Progressivism should be explained further. 
To be clear, the posters advertising Progressive Day included the following ideals:
Social Justice and environmental harmony, an equal and sustainable society, based on tolerance and respect for human dignity that demands access to the American dream for ALL.
Before I write a critique of their column, I am challenging the members of the College Republicans and the authors of the September 29th column titled, Why we wore red for Progressive Day, to post 10 pieces of legislation authored, or co-sponsored by a Republican from the US or Indiana Congress in the last two years that live up to the ideals described in the advertisement from above.  (you can post them one by one or all together)

As you may know, I am no longer serving in any formal role with the College Democrats and I mean it sincerely that I am searching for issues where the parties, especially young members of the parties can find agreement.  I am a progressive who will usually vote Democratic, not the other way around.  Please Notre Dame Republicans, take this opportunity to provide evidence of how the people you are working to elect will legislate the ideals of progressivism.  Prove my skepticism wrong.

To participate in this discussion, and provide examples of progressive legislation put forth by Republicans, simply write comments on this post.  Thank you!


Bill said...

I think it's an interesting sign of the times when a facebook event can ask this question: "Do you ever feel like you're the only progressive student on campus?" and the response we get is:

"Thus, there seems to be some perception of an anti-progressive machine on Notre Dame's campus, one that stifles the freedom of students to speak their "progressive" minds."

It's actually interesting point that they make. Why should anyone feel that way? Is ND really a place where progressive students aren't free to speak their minds?

It's 2010, College Democrats are the club of the year, and a really well-organized group with huge membership and exposure. Other progressive groups like PSA also get a lot of attention. The student body voted Democratically in 2008. There are at least two officially sanctioned student groups that that are fighting for the environment. A rally for gay rights on campus was extremely well attended. Also, the student body was largely supportive of a pro-choice Democratic president speaking at graduation and receiving an honorary degree.

When I came to ND in 2005 I really did feel like "the only progressive on campus". Five years later, with all the progress that's been made, I really don't think there's any excuse for anyone feeling that way anymore.

Eileen said...

Your argument perfectly illustrates the point of Progressive Day - to prove you should NOT be afraid to speak your mind and that progressives are not alone, but in fact a significant portion of ND's population.

Sarah Furman said...

Does anyone else feel like "progressive" day has done little besides fuel partisan fighting? Really, what was the point? What is the point?

I really could care less about someone's party- both are corrupt and corporate.

If you really want to fight for labor justice or peace or to restructure society or something that matters, then it is likely you'll find serious flaws in both parties, eliminating the need to champion one and slander the other.

Aly said...

Bill, while I definitely agree with what you're saying and I have learned it's okay to be progressive on campus, I also know that when I first arrived at this school I still felt awkward being in the minority.

To this day, when I say I'm a democrat, I still get the occasional "Oh, you're one of those". No, we shouldn't be afraid to speak up. But I can see why some people would be, especially those who feel great pressure to fit in.

In general, I keep fairly quiet about my politics (relative to other College Dems at least), and I would have to admit part of that is an environment I feel less than comfortable in. I'm proud of what I stand for, but after a while the occasional comment or mockery can get to you. This event wasn't simply for those who are already strong progressives, but those who are still struggling with the idea that it's okay.

Tim Ryan said...

Hi Sarah!

The point was, it started a dialogue. Plenty of Republicans came to the rally. I had a lovely chat with Josh, CRepubs President, yesterday, and that would not have happened without the events that occurred on Tuesday. Don't mistake debate for fighting.

As for the flaws in either party, well yeah, of course. But I prefer to work within the system. I'm a pragmatist (although likely, in your view, a cynic. That wouldn't be too far off either.)

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in a precise definition of "progressive" or "liberal" and an explanation of how it's different from modern American conservatism. I think words like "social justice" and "equality" can be overly vague. Probably almost everyone believes in these concepts to some degree.

Moreover, I think of modern American conservatives as being fairly liberal in the 17th/18th/19th century sense and fairly progressive as well (in the sense of pushing for "progress" and embracing modernity, technological change, social reform, etc.)

In some cases I disagree with liberals because they seem not progressive enough in some sense (e.g. many oppose nuclear power) or because they don't believe enough in equality and social justice (e.g. the abortion issue).

I have a tendency to think that many ideological differences are not based on coherent philosophical views, but rather are based on identity politics. E.g. "I'm an educated, young, urban man/woman and this what people like me believe..." Or "I'm an Evangelical from the heartland and this is how we think..."

What's the theory (in precise language) behind these liberal policies?

(This is a serious post, not tongue-in-cheek.)

Anonymous said...

By "these liberal policies", I mean the agenda you would like to push for, from A to Z.

Bill said...

I don't really understand your insistence on some sort of formal definition of what a "progressive" is. If you want an answer that goes beyond vague ideals, then maybe you should try asking a different question. I'm concerned that "Progressive Day" has gotten into some murky territory by linking progressivism to the modern Democratic Party, but (since we're already going down that road) if you really want an itemized list of public policy proposals, perhaps you should check out the Democrats' official platform? If you're looking for a theory behind liberal policies, are you sure you're looking hard enough? I know you've read books on the subject. Is this even an honest intellectual exercise or are you just taunting people to try to score some cheap political point? Forgive my skepticism, but since I know you have the answers easily available to you I have a hard time believing that your inquiry is being made in good faith.

If you ask people what it means to be a progressive, you'll likely get different answers from different people, especially when you ask more in detail about how they want to implement their ideals. This is a good thing, so long as different progressive's ideas don't conflict with one another often enough to make the entire label meaningless.

I also think that your "identity politics" argument has a limited amount of usefulness. If we use your two examples, you should be lumped into the "I'm an educated, young, urban man/woman and this what people like me believe..." category. Since you tend to lean more conservative than progressive/liberal that would make you an anomaly. Am I to presume that as an anomaly in your own paradigm that your personal political beliefs are somehow above the fray? Are you implying that you and people of a similar age and socioeconomic status who share your political beliefs have necessarily more informed opinions, while the rest of us are simply striving to fulfill societal expectations?

It strikes me as more than a little arrogant to assume that just because someone disagrees with you that their political ideologies are "not based on coherent philosophical views". I know that Chris and the rest of the writers here aren't self-declared "progressives" because it's "trendy". The identity politics argument can really only apply to casual voters and people who don't spend much time thinking about politics. It would be very unusual for someone to reach this level of political involvement without once reflecting on what their own guiding philosophy is.

Anonymous said...

I ask because it's a topic I'm interested in. Although I tend to vote for one of the two parties, I am somewhat skeptical of the merits of both of the parties. I have difficulty mustering enthusiasm for many politicians or many proposed policies. So, when I meet people who are much more enthusiastic, it can be interesting to learn from them.

I could probably do research on these topics and find intellectuals who will describe modern liberals as Rawlsian or utilitarian or technocratic or whatever. But I'm skeptical that Rawls has actually ever made many people enthusiastic about anything. It would be nice to hear from people who are not professional theorists.

The identity politics idea can certainly be taken too far, but I think it can be of some use. My views have probably been influenced by identity politics to a significant degree.

This is a topic that keeps coming up in my mind: what's really the difference between the average committed liberal and the average committed conservative. Sometimes there's a large gap (e.g. conservatives are often very far from, say, hippies). But when I used to watch debates between Jonah Goldberg and Peter Beinart, I sometimes wondered what the heck they ultimately disagreed on. Goldberg is quite skeptical of activist government, while Beinart tends to favor it. But it's not always clear why this is the case or that they actually have radically different goals or values or knowledge.


Bill said...

I would say, more so than simply identity politics, that simply the whole of one's life experiences can determine how you look at the world: politics as well as everything else. It's psychology as much as anything. If you really wanted to expand on the identity politics you could argue that what people believe is really the result of coexisting competing identities that people have.

As far as the average committed liberal versus the average committed conservative you need to take into account the background of these people. You'll find significant differences between, say, the activist left and right, to the point where you can wonder how two such different mindsets could possibly exist on the same planet. These are also the people that often feel alienated from the entire process, sometimes to the extent that they may very well vote third party, or not vote at all.

Compare that to the professional political left and right, and you'll notice that their disagreements stem less from ideology or even policy and more resemble the disagreement between fans of sports franchises. I sometimes wonder if televised debates between such people only exist to entertain people and convince them that the two major parties are all that different.

In my view, I think there is easily as much or more disagreement between members of the same party or ideological divide as there is among members of different parties.