Why I'm A Progressive, Like Obama, And Not A "Liberal"

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Columnist says President Obama is a progressive, not liberal, and there's big difference

[Beneath The Spin]

The reason I make a distinction between the two is because liberals and conservatives tend to be ideologues, so they're merely different sides of the same coin. Ideologues give ideology priority over truth, so when they find truth to be in conflict with they're ideology, they try to contort the truth into a configuration that fits more comfortably into their preconceived view of reality. Thus, ideologues are not thinkers; they’re feelers, and as a result, more often than not, they're also bitterly reactionary.

On the other hand, while progressives tend to hold a liberal perspective, progressives are not ideologues. Progressives give truth priority over ideology, and believe in following truth wherever it leads and regardless to whose ox it gores. Then on those occasions when we find that truth is in conflict with our preconceived beliefs, we modify our beliefs, not truth, because by definition, truth is in the best interest of humanity, regardless to what it reveals. Because truth, much like physical pain, tells us what issues need to be addressed and modified.

That’s why President Obama is the best possible person to have heading our government during these perilous times. He’s a thinker, and not prone to strike out recklessly in response to his emotions. He’s also willing to do the right thing, and when what’s right is not the most popular thing to do, he’s willing to take the hit.

President Obama understands that the appropriate attitude for a progressive to bring to every discussion is a firmness of thought, and an open mind to divergent ideas. Because a progressive, by definition, should have the intellectual capacity to recognize that one can neither scream, nor insult, one's way to a solution to any problem. Thus, what should always set a progressive apart from all others is an affinity for humanity, an independence of thought, and a fierce determination to remain a seeker of truth above all else, regardless to where that truth may lead.

But ironically, those are the very values for which Obama is most severely criticized. The reason for that is, those values no longer seem to be held among many who define themselves as progressives today. Many contemporary 'progressives' tend to possess the very same rigidity of thought, and mean-spirited, knee-jerk adherence to ideology that the progressive movement was created to combat. So the response that many of these people bring to even the slightest divergence from their rigid ideological beliefs can only be described as one of radical reactionism.

That concerns me greatly, because while conservatives and today's so-called progressives remain completely divergent in their views toward governance, in terms of intellectual disposition they've become different sides of the same coin. I've often heard it stated that the regimented intolerance of reactionary conservatism is reminiscent of Nazi Germany. That may, or may not be true (I tend to believe it is, and it’s becoming more so with every day that passes). But if it is, it must also be acknowledged that the intolerant regimentation of many contemporary radical 'progressives' represent the USSR at best.

Many modern progressives have allowed themselves to become infected with the exact same kind of intellectual rigidity that we previously associated with the radical conservative mind-set. In fact, many who define themselves as progressives today could very accurately be called latter-day conservatives. They have a slightly updated set of values, but their rigidity and rabid defense of those values will surely morph into the completely closed-minded conservatism of tomorrow.

A perfect example of the above can be found in the fact that I used to routinely write for the Daily KOS, that is, until I wrote an article that asked the simple question, "What is the Difference Between Zionism and Racism?" That was about four years ago, and I’ve been banned from writing for the site every since that time.

Then when I contacted them, twice, for an explanation, all I heard in return were crickets. That is exactly the response that I would expect to get from a radical conservative website, and it is exactly contrary to what I expected to be confronted with from a site that professes to be progressive. A site that labels itself progressive is expected to be dedicated to seeking truth, whatever that truth is, not be so protective of its point of view that it becomes just another ideological echo chamber. If you're philosophy on any issue is valid, it should be able to stand up to scrutiny. But if it can't stand up to truth, then a change is warranted.

That's the primary reason that the conservatives' reckless campaign of rampant disinformation is winning the battle over reasoned and logical thought. So many contemporary progressives have taken on the conservative mind-set of anger before contemplation, and reaction over reason, that there's no one left who's actually thinking. Everyone is simply reacting through anger, ignorance, and disinformation. That's an environment in which the Republican Party thrives, since as any thinking person would recognize, radical conservatism is reactionary by definition. So as Mark Twain said, they drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience.

Progressives cannot out-scream the Republican Party, and we shouldn't try. The disinformation that's currently being disseminated by the GOP must be met with facts, a well thought-out plan of action, integrity, and character. Progressives must not only be prepared to demonstrate that the conservative philosophy of hanging on to flawed values of the past prevents society from moving forward, but that character, and integrity counts.

The American people are not stupid. They desperately want these qualities in their governance, but the current progressive movement is not giving them a viable alternative. Regardless to what our intent, in many cases, we're acting with just as much thoughtless anger, reckless abandon, and self-service as the Republican Party.

The problem is, we have not coalesced into a solid front with a clear and viable agenda. We've divided ourselves into so many factions with so many different agendas that the people no longer know what we represent. And the reason for that is that too many of us really don't know what it means to be progressives ourselves. Instead of bringing a clear and definable philosophy of common sense to EVERY issue, regarding EVERY constituency, we’ve degenerated into a ragtag group of special interests who, in many cases, are fighting against one another. Even as many of us are demanding racial justice, some of those very same people are perfectly content to support a bigoted philosophy toward women, gays, undocumented workers, and other minorities.

So how can so-called liberals expect those Americans who are undecided to distinguish between our character, and the character of Rush Limbaugh? The fact is, they can’t. What they see is our team against the other team, with very few distinctions in terms of character between the two. Try telling a radical feminist that the nation would benefit from having more women remain in the home. You’d have to wear a flack jacket even to broach the subject. It would be the equivalent trying to advocate an Equal Rights Amendment at the Republican National Convention. But these are issues that desperately need to be discussed, and no assumptions should be made about your attitude toward women by simply broaching the subject.

Too many of us fail to understand that the primary goal of the progressive movement was to create a viable democracy that serve, respect, and honor ALL of the people. But due to the destruction of our educational system, the corrupting influence of Republican governance over the past thirty years, and an irresponsible media, our ideals and what we represent as a people is only a rumor up for debate for an entire generation of Americans.

So, many young people of the left who consider themselves progressives don’t really know what being a progressive actually entails. They know that their political orientation is liberal, but what they don't know is, there's a vast difference between being simply liberal, and being a progressive. So again, many of these young people approach our democracy like it's a sporting event - our team against their team. Period.

What they fail to realize is that the progressive movement is much more than just a synonym for left-wing liberalism. Progressives have always served as America's philosophers, intellectuals, and the nation's conscience. Thus, true progressives don't see conservatives as the enemy. They understand that both liberals, and conservatives, play an important role in our society - at least, responsible liberals and conservatives. Progressives recognize that both philosophies are necessary in order to maintain a balanced America. And we clearly understand that while there's a burning need for a Martin Luther King to remind America of its humanity, there is also a need for a Gen. MacArthur to ensure our security.

Thus, the progressive movement is not so much a political ideology as it is a philosophical attitude towards human behavior. A true progressive, as oppose to an ideologue of any stripe, will always give truth, logical thought, and the interest of humanity priority over ideology. And regardless to how much he or she may admire any politician, he will always hold that politician accountable for truth, justice, and his fidelity to mankind.

 

For more by Eric L. Wattree see wattree.blogspot.comEwattree@Gmail.com 

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