Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You Say Progressive, I Say Progressive… Let’s Call the Whole Thing Politics

I’ve had my head buried in books lately; an unfortunate side-effect of living and learning here at ND. That means as far as Progressive Day goes my story ends with a blue shirt, bits of speeches, and some really good free pizza. However, sometime in the past few hours, I slowly emerged from my cocoon of academia and stumbled onto this very website.

As I read through the posts in an attempt to regain some semblance of knowledge of the outside world, I was struck by a post from our own Chris Rhodenbaugh. The post was in response to a viewpoint article composed by the ND College Republicans (Why we wore red for Progressive Day). I then read both the article and the post, but what really intrigued me were the comments on Chris’ post.

The comments continued the debate about how progressivism relates to political parties. The question that most interested me most among those raised was “what's really the difference between the average committed liberal and the average committed conservative?”I’m no expert, but I’d like to offer my opinion: The real difference is in how they get things done.
I’d like to start with an example. I’m too inexperienced to comment on party relations here at Notre Dame, but back in high school I was a member of the Young Democrats club and friends with a prominent member of the Young Republicans club. This friend, Dan, was different than the majority of his club’s members in that he was a “committed conservative”; His conservatism was based on research and genuine political beliefs, rather than simply what his parents thought. He put a lot of thought into his politics and was one of the smarter students in our senior class (Consequently, he was harder to debate against than some Young Republicans).

Dan and I would talk after every debate between our clubs, and, though we disagreed, we could always find some common ground. Generally, we differed on how to approach issues like the economy, healthcare, etc. and we agreed on the end results. For example, everyone would like to see a full economic recovery. Republicans want to go about this through private and corporate enterprise; whereas Democrats would prefer if the government took a lead in the recovery (this example is very simplified). Republicans believe that private interests will help the economy in the most efficient way, and Democrats believe government involvement is the only way to ensure the recovery benefits all Americans. Similarly, a Republican who opposes abortion believes the practice negatively affects the American people, as does a Democrat who opposes capital punishment. We all want the best for America, but that doesn’t mean we agree about what laws and policies are necessary.

I definitely prefer the Democratic Party’s approach to political issues; in my opinion their ideals show more empathy and tolerance (heart) and help Americans more effectively. I can, however, at least respect a commitment to conservatism because I believe that Republicans intend to help the American people, even if they approach it the wrong way.

In closing, I am not surprised that the College Republicans claimed to support progressivism. I doubt a republican would say that things like “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” are bad. However, the Republican method of governance and politics is much less conducive to these progressive ideals than the Democratic method. I don’t think a Republican would be betraying his or her party as a progressive, but I do think that he or she would have a hard time working for these ideals within the framework of Republican methods of legislation and governance. I believe this is what Chris was getting at: Republicans believe these are good things to pursue, but do nothing to pursue them.

The difference between Democrats and Republicans is in how they get things done, and Progressivism is something that Democrats get done.


Bill said...

If I were to pretend to be a Republican for a second, I would say it's less a case of Republicans doing nothing to pursue those ideals, and more the case that they believe that government intervention is the wrong approach to achieve them, and that people (and corporations)left to their own devices can more effectively work toward the overall public good with less government interference.

Tim Ryan said...

Funny how a crippling recession, a catastrophic oil spill, and an on-going mass extinction aren't enough evidence to convince them otherwise.

Bill said...

I guess they could argue that we could still have EVEN LESS regulation and government than we have now. Hell, we haven't tried anarchy yet, so we can't say for sure whether that will work.

Collins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bill said...

"Great topic here. Now let me talk about something random and unrelated"

No thanks, spam-guy.

Funniest Girl said...

The truth is the republicans leading the party don't really have the beliefs that they spew pre-campaign. They imposed more "socialist" legislation in the Bush era than had been done in years. They are just promoting freedom, independence, and small government to gain popularity. The government will keep growing regardless of the party in charge now. Economics and national security problems have grown to be too big for them to let the people handle it.