It’s difficult in modern politics for those of one ideological persuasion to adequately describe and comprehend what the other side believes on its own terms. Progressives correctly scoff at right-wing notions that they are trying to pursue some undefined “European socialist” agenda and force the federal government into every aspect of American economic and social life. Progressives see themselves engaging in pragmatic uses of both governmental and private actions to solve concrete problems such as poverty, the lack of health care, or climate change. Progressives want to achieve greater liberty, equality, and opportunity for all people in a manner that acknowledges actual inequalities in social life and takes appropriate steps, within democratic and constitutional limits, to redress these inequities.
Conversely, conservatives rightly recoil at liberal depictions of conservatism as little more than an elaborate justification for greed, moral self-righteousness, economic privilege, and inequality. Conservatives see themselves advancing ideas about limited government and citizenship where individuals and families are the center-piece of social life and economic activity revolves around market interactions with little interference by outside forces. They believe a decentralized and limited government is more consistent with human nature and produces better economic outcomes.
Obviously, there’s more to each of these political traditions than described here. And it’s certainly fair for ideological proponents to question one another about their motivations, theories, core values, and policies.
But given the mutual confusion that often arises in ideological discussions, it is refreshing as a progressive to read Tod Lindberg’s astute article, Left 3.0, in the final issue of the Hoover Institution’s Policy Review.
Our guest blogger is John Halpin, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and the co-director and creator of the Progressive Studies Program at CAP.