This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger
This blog talks a lot about political labels, for good reason. They have real meaning, when they are used correctly, and are a good way to analyze political philosophy. However they are mis-used so much in American political discourse, especially by people who know as much about liberalism and conservatism as fish know about auto racing, that I want to set out a scheme for separating the schools of political thought.
I’m thinking of something like a billboard of all of the great ideological politicians in American history, from the far-left to the far-right. Norman Thomas the great former Socialist Party presidential candidate would represent the Socialists. President Lyndon Johnson would represent the Progressives. President Thomas Jefferson or two-time Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie, who was actually to the left of President Franklin Roosevelt on civil liberties, individual freedom and civil rights, or President John Kennedy could represent the Liberals.
Mr. Conservative himself, Senator Barry Goldwater, could represent the conservatives. Of course, Ron Paul could represent the Libertarians and Ross Perot, the Independents, people who are not far enough left or right to be Democrats or Republicans, or sufficiently conscious, politically, to know where they are.
It’s interesting to see how these labels play out in the real world. New York City is an interesting political laboratory. It is stereotyped as one of the most the leftist cities in America. People who live there will tell you that it’s a very far-left, big government, high-taxing, nanny city where jumbo soda and junk food bans can get passed without politicians having to worry about losing their jobs. How else could someone as far to the left as Bill De Blasio be elected mayor?
New York City has moved to the left of FDR’s progressive New York toward a socialist utopia where government is responsible for improving people’s lives instead of the people having the freedom to do so for themselves, when provided the necessary opportunities by government. Progressives abhor a government that tries to run people’s lives for them.
Real Progressives believe that government must provide or protect certain services and legal rights that are necessary for fully civilized life, e.g., public safety, civil liberties, public health, health care, education, public transportation, physical infrastructure, economic support for the unable, etc.
Government should not be involved in the management of the lives of individuals who are capable of succeeding on their own. This philosophy precludes government involvement in religion and personal decision-making across the board that doesn’t involve individuals hurting innocent people. Like medical decision making, i.e., religious observances, the voluntary ending of life for the infirm elderly, termination of unwanted pregnancy, etc.