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Conservatism vs. Progressivism

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I recently had a discussion with a Republican friend of mine about what it means to be conservative and the nature of conservatism.  I held an opinion counter to his and so as you can imagine it was a very heated debate.  In the end he challenged my position and asked me to prove it beyond mere argumentation.  So I did just that and here is what I found.  Merriam-Webster (online) provided these definitions:


·         of or constituting a party of the United Kingdom advocating support of established institutions

·         tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions


·         disposition in politics to preserve what is established

·         a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change

·         the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change

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(Italics added)

The point I made and which these definitions so eloquently helped to support was that; with conservatism stressing and/or preferring to maintain things as they are (established, existing, traditional) it does not surprise me that groups or populations that have it good, that is, either already have achieved the level of prosperity they desire and/or are in a preferred class (in America that means: wealthy, white, male, Christian, heterosexual, etc.) with the social potential to achieve that prosperity in the future tend to be conservative.

On the other hand, groups or populations that do not have it good, that is, have not achieved the level of prosperity they desire and/or are in a non-preferred class (poor, minority, female, non-Christian, homosexual, etc.) lacking the social potential to achieve that prosperity in the future tend to be non-conservative or liberal.

With that said, being that the vast majority of Americans are in the latter class (have not achieved the level of prosperity they desire and lack the social potential to achieve it in the future) I would argue that "liberalism" or the preferred term "progressivism" holds the political principles that would most help America and the greatest number of citizens.  With our foundation of democracy and tradition of majority rule, these principles therefore should dictate the political course this country takes.

Unfortunately, along with the prosperity that comes with being in the preferred class also comes power and influence.  And as human nature so consistently shows people tend to vehemently defend what they have against any form of attack or change, even if the end result of that change is for the greater good.

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My name is Timothy Cavanaugh and I am an independent writer specializing in political, environmental and social justice issues. I regularly submit op-eds to various newspapers and blogs and I enjoy debating my positions with others when I get the (more...)

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