Saturday, July 09, 2011

Progressivism: Not Your Grandpappy’s Movement. Or Is It?

I find myself admiring a person like Carolyn Crain. A woman who has the guts to stand up before city council and county commissioners and give them a piece of her mind. And, she has no problem poking a stick into the hornets’ nest of leftists in Clark County by expressing her mind and calling them out.

She has at least twice now drawn the attention of the Columbian’s acerbic editorial page editor John Laird understudy, Stephanie Rice HERE and HERE. But, she really stirred the hornets’ nest with a letter to the editor, Disappointed with representation wherein she concluded, “Last time I checked the progressive movement was a warm and fuzzy word used by the Communist Party here in the USA.”

Her letter drew a few negative comments from those who disagreed with her view and spawned a rebuttal letter, Progressives move nation forward that really lit off a couple leftist hornets’ taking exception to other comments on today’s Progressive movement and quotations from former president Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican who is credited with launching the Progressive movement.

Much like the anti-war left did a few years ago when they embraced former Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower and one sentence he spoke in a farewell address as President, Roosevelt has been thrown at conservatives several times also by leftist due to his Progressive policies over a century ago.

Leftist claiming to also be Progressive are real quick to deny they adhere to either Socialist or Communist policies, pointing to the dictionary definition of both and ignoring the blending of political views together.

It also leaves us conservatives a bit confused as we find Socialists and Communists claiming to be Progressives. A quick web search turns up the Progressive Labor Party entreating us to “Join the Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party.”

Several today do not recall the days when the Communist Movement was known for highjacking the term Democratic and using it in many titles for front organizations. Even nations under communism often identified themselves as “Democratic” or “of the People.” People’s Republic of China,

We saw the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or in German, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) that was solidly under the thumb of the Communist Soviet Union until it collapsed.

If we look at the dictionary definition of communism, though, just like when Progressives and Socialists do we see that the Soviet style of Communism isn’t what was practiced either. But, what of Progressives and Socialists? Do they blend into?

Bringing out that Teddy Roosevelt spoke against Socialism in an 1897 article seemed to give one commenter a bit of angst who claims Progressivism isn’t Socialism and quoting Roosevelt’s words against Socialism is quoting him out of context.

Again, what is a conservative to think?

A recent article appearing in the Harvard Political Review on the recent stand-off in Madison, Wisconsin. Explaining that the unions and Socialist involved didn’t do enough, the author tells us at one point, “despite the lack of an American socialist movement, socialists continue to work within the existing political system and still shape the progressive movement.”

After explaining how “Since socialists retain very little political representation, activists seek other ways to organize for workers’ rights,” the author also says, “socialists advance their cause by bringing their worldviews into other progressive campaigns.”

As I was told when quoting Teddy Roosevelt, that is only one person. So, what about others?

The American Socialist Party, in their article A History of Socialism claims, “The rapid spread of socialism was known as the Progressive Era, which is commonly considered to be a time from the late 1890s through World War I. Socialism during the Progressive Era was rapidly embraced by countless people.”

Moving on to a more conservative article, tells us about another side of the early Progressive Movement in “Progressive History 101 (Minus All that Uncomfortable Racism, Sexism, and Support for Eugenics)

Today’s Progressives say they stand for “Fair wages, fair markets, health security, retirement security, equal justice…for all.” Sounds reasonable and what we should all be for, right? But, as is always the case, the devil is in the details. The stand is eerily similar to what history has confirmed at the Growth of the Bolshevik Party in the Russian Revolution.

Another look shows us how Vladimir Lenin and The Bolsheviks grew out of the Social Democrats of the time and spread the message of “Peace, bread and land” to convince workers to join and follow them in forming the Soviet Union.

History tells us how poorly the average worker faired under that regime.

Conservatives want a fair playing field, everyone having the opportunity to fail or succeed. That is the only way to succeed; taking the risk to fail and many do fail. But often out of failure comes success.

Progressives want a fair outcome, removing failure as an option. If no risk of failure, where is the incentive to succeed? Large corporations that they wish to dismantle and redistribute their wealth were often started as a garage idea, an idea formulated in someone basement. They had the dream, the desire to build, the plan and risked everything they had to manufacture, sell and promote the idea. Look at Microsoft for an example.

After years of struggling to build a company, why would an employee who came along years later, invested nothing in the way of risk or sweat to get the company off the ground, now be entitled to an equal share? A fair wage is reasonable, but who defines what is fair? The left? Unions, who want more money themselves?

Is it fair that an employer be forced to pay a higher wage to someone who wasted the free education our property taxes pay for and who partied instead of studying, dropped out and never exerted themselves to learn a viable skill?

And, retirement security? Isn’t that what Teddy Roosevelt’s nephew Franklin started when he was President during the Great Depression with Social Security? What happened to it? We’ve paid into it all of our lives and now hear it will be broke soon. Was it not the spendthrift government that dipped into those funds repeatedly for other purposes and to pay out to many who paid nothing in to it?

And what about health security? Are we not seeing more and more of that as government restriction are passed on our foods? Is it security for bureaucrats to determine whether or not we eat certain foods, smoke a cigar, ride a bicycle or motorcycle without a helmet, drive the car of our choice or even drive period? Do you really want elites who claim they know better than you determining what you may or may not do? Is that fair?

Along with Progressives cry of redistribution of other people’s wealth and making health care affordable, why is it you never hear of confiscating the wealth of doctors as we do in regards to CEO’s? Could it be because there would be no reliable doctors as who would want to invest the years of schooling it takes and the expense of Medical School and then not be allowed to earn more than some bureaucratic panel determines you can?

I am reminded of a Psychologist I knew several years ago who expressed fairness as, “life itself isn’t fair. If it were, we humans could poop on pigeons.”

Is it fair to want that small percentage of citizens who pay over half of all receipts to the treasury, while others pay nothing to pay even more, over half of what they make? Do they not realize those wealthy individuals also fund charitable organizations such as St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Target House, Ronald McDonald House and such where low-income children are treated for major disease free? For this effort, they are told they don’t “pay their fair share.”

Progressives idea of “moving forward” would cause such charitable causes as these to close, placing people on government health care, which would mean long waits, reduced care and likely the death of a small child suffering from cancer. Low-income people would have nowhere to turn.

That is not my idea of moving forward. It sounds more backwards to me.

I don’t know that any of this actually makes Sharon Wylie a Communist as Carolyn claimed. Perhaps Ms. Wylie is just another one who was blindly sucked into the movement by the glib sounding expressions, refusing to see the harm that similar movements brought to people throughout history when tried.

I do know she advocates policies tried by Communist nations that have failed repeatedly.

However, don’t blame conservatives for seeing Progressives/Socialists/Communists in the same light when you all blend together in what you advocate an apparently, can’t seem to decide amongst yourselves just what you are.

Just as those who long suffered under the brutal thumb of Soviet Communism discovered, sooner or later all of those feel good emotions must be replaced by reality.

For me, that is rejection of leftist policies that promote fairness by making things unfair.

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