Wednesday, January 19, 2011

1. What is a Conservative and What is a Progressive? Launch Post

What drives the topics on the Progressive-Conservative Blog is the urge to assault, in a civil way, some of the dearest perceptions of familiar issues.

And what better target than people’s perceptions of conservatives and progressives? It’s clear that conservatives are the more interesting case, because there is such a vast gulf between “self-declared conservatives” (today’s Republicans, essentially, with their fulminators such as Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh), and the “theoretical conservative” who consistently aligns with a more standard, dictionary definition of conservative.

Theoretical conservatives. At the Progressive-Conservative, the “theoretical conservative” wants to reduce risk to the nation. S/he is conservative in his/her approach to risk and wants to weigh every major relevant factor that contributes to risks to America’s national security, prosperity and individual rights. These risks are environmental, financial, economic, social, etc., not just military. Science, economics, psychology, history and international relations are all disciplines that the theoretical conservative exhaustively explores to find the right path to minimize risk to the nation.

Self-proclaimed conservatives. These real world conservatives do not show much interest in science, or psychology, or even economics, and have, therefore, forfeited the main tools to manage risk to America. Their energy is funneled to ideological stances on taxation, national defense and wedge issues where context never matters. The ‘conditional’ size of government is the defining issue for the self-proclaimed conservative—government can be big when it chooses to wage wars and/or provides subsidies to corporate activities, including the outsourcing of jobs. But government must be small when it is protecting the environment, providing for the poor and regulating the financial sector.

Progressives. In the current political scene, reality and theory are a lot closer together on the progressive side. What makes the progressives seem somewhat out of line with the theoretical or ideal progressive is that the U.S. has swung so far to the right side of the political spectrum, that even people considered moderate might be labeled progressive, or “liberal.” They could earn this label just by entertaining the possibility of cutting the defense budget or expanding the public sector role in health care. In theory, a progressive would earn that label not by recognizing a particular problem, such as climate change or the increase in the number of Americans without health insurance, but by preferring a public sector alternative to solve a problem.

In an ideal world, the one it would be nice to move closer to, the theoretical conservative and progressive produce a constructive, dynamic tension. Because they are both logical and honest, both sides recognize the same problems and argue only about competing solutions. Two people, one conservative the other progressive, look at the challenges facing America, in theory, should come up with pretty much the same Top 10 list of Issues, right?

To read more about this topic see NewsGuides™ Top 10 Issues 2011 (available at

Next post—What’s wrong with being an ideologue on taxes?