Liberal? No Progressive !

The GOP reaction to President Obama’s inauguration speech was certainly predictable.  Most spent time misidentifying the context and relying upon tried and true rhetoric like a “liberal agenda awaits us”.  Hmmm.

It is often useful to read the actual text before deciding whether your favorite politician has drawn the correct conclusion or just the “right” one.  The President’s speech is certainly in the “progressive” mode but since it does not contain prescriptive language on how to achieve aspirational goals, it should not be labeled liberal.

Here are a few examples

The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few, or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people. Entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. And for more than 200 years we have. Through blood drawn by lash, and blood drawn by sword, we noted that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half slave, and half free.

Are there political leaders who propose rewriting history and affirming the justness of half slave, half free?

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.

Are there those who think the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is a good prescription for economic growth?  Where will the money come to provide government services?  Oops.  Did I just break into jail?

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work hard or learn more, reach higher.

These words sound pretty aspirational to me.  I see no path nor means to achieve.  Rather I see an appeal to common sense and call to action.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.

The call is clear, the methods are not.  Do some politicians think these choices will be easy?

We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative.

Once again, does anyone prescribe that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security should be abolished simply because the country can’t afford these safety net programs?  In no way, however, do these words rule out any modifications to how these programs are funded, how one qualifies, or what one gets in benefits.  Rather it is the aspiration that all Americans should be willing to help since no one knows when they might be in a situation needing help.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.

This is common sense.  It also smacks right into those who present the case that our taxes can pay for war but not for health care or old age subsidies.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.

There can be nothing more aspirational albeit progressive.  One need only look back on history and the evolution of personal freedom and recognition for all.  Society changes slowly but once change is in motion, the landing point is assured.  Of course, future societies will likely want further change that reflects the times they live in.

Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.

Common sense again rings true.  This is a progressive idea with basis in both American history and principles of economic growth.

For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.

A call to action.  Conservative history was not built upon absolutism or spectacles or name calling.  Conservative history rest soundly upon principle, political dialog, and the use of reason.

Republicans can justly point out other aspirations they feel were omitted.  They can also see certain issues as more urgent than others.   But the GOP’s greatest opportunity lies in how these aspiration might take shape and come into being.  Continuing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without proper funding is to doom them.  Failing to recognize all citizens, gays, immigrants, and women is to head towards a country of division, a country less strong than it could be.  Investing in education and the infrastructure are worthy objectives but where will the money come from?  Simply borrowing and increasing the debt would seem not the proper path.

Where does the GOP stand?

The President skillfully set the stage where the GOP can step forward and propose fiscally sound steps.  The GOP can push for less robust steps but ones the country is willing to afford.  The President’s speech is really a tremendous opportunity for conservatives to help shape a progressive, inclusive agenda.

Will the call be heard?

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One Comment on “Liberal? No Progressive !”

  1. J. Palmer Says:

    Good analysis. It is funny how some folks criticize the President for “hollow rhetoric” but also get outraged at the perceived damage his rhetoric causes. It has to be one or other: powerful or powerless.

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