I can't stand talking to someone about politics, and hearing them label themselves as a liberal, conservative, or a moderate. Every time I hear that, I tell them I am a Son-of-Sam, socially liberal, fiscal conservative, pro-choice, anti-dog, pro-manslaughter, anti-death penalty, pro-insanity defense, anti-couples with big hair and large cars, former resident of Yonkers, New York. We have a club, you know. No dogs allowed.

Now that I have your attention, I want to make my point about how stupid it is to label ourselves in these broad terms. Imagine if, in our daily lives, we were always liberal or always conservative in our decision-making. For example, think about intervening in affairs with your friends, such as when one of them is in a bad relationship. Sometimes it is a good idea to confront them on it, and sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut and let them figure it out for themselves. Situations are different, and it is never a good idea to pursue one strategy all the time.

I'd rather pursue politics the way I pursue my everyday decisions - in a Progressive way. I want to make progress in my life, and consequently, I want the country to make progress as well. Progressivism doesn't imply an ideology; it implies setting goals and achieving them. It implies making choices that are the most positive, and that have the largest overall benefit. It implies thinking and growing, instead of just reacting and copying the decisions of others.

In the political realm, we have had excellent models of Progressivism throughout the history of the United States. Thomas Jefferson was Progressive in the way he created the ideals of Democracy, while promoting education, and developing new inventions. Teddy Roosevelt and FDR were Progressives in the way they promoted good government and planning for our future. Without TR, we wouldn't have the Panama Canal, our National Parks, and rights for laborers. Without FDR, we wouldn't have social security, unemployment insurance, or our money if the banks are ever forced to close.

Concisely stated, the goal of Progressivism is progress through pragmatism. In Progressivism, getting results is more important than how you achieve them. Today, we have real problems in this country that require real solutions, and can't just be solved through political rambling. For example, too many Americans pay too much for health care. They sit in traffic too long, and they waste too much gas. They can't afford to live in places where there is a good job market. Their children don't go to schools that provide a quality education.

Fortunately, modern policy studies have been able to develop innovative solutions for these problems with the help of better data collection methods and better technology. No longer do we have to rely on intuition to make policy, because we have better access to information, and great minds working on solutions all the time. The problem is when political influence and corporate money seep through to influence research, and limit the choices researchers have in coming up with the best solutions.

Rather than bastardized policy studies or corporate-funded research, we should look for solutions with proven results. What health policies actually increase access to health insurance, while providing people with quality health care services? What transportation policies actually reduce traffic congestion? What housing and land-use policies actually increase home-ownership? What educational policies actually raise test scores, improve teacher quality, reduce dropout rates, or enable more students to get college degrees? In other words, we need to focus on progress and on getting real results.

In essence, that is what Progressivism is to me - FINDING THE BEST SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM. That, and no talking dogs with homicidal tendencies.

Originally posted to DanfromRaisingKaine on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 05:52 PM PST.


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