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Progressive Values Stories: David Sirota On Values and Fairness

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 I attended and video taped a talk by David Sirota at the Wellstone Club in Oakland, California.  During the Q and A, I asked him about progressive values.  David mentioned  fairness as being the major progressive value.

Edwin:  My name is Edwin Rutsch, and I am working on a documentary about progressive values.  And there are arguments made out there by George Lakoff that say that conservatives have talked about their values, and articulated their values and have organized around their values.  And what progressives haven't done, is that they have not clearly articulated their values.  So what I'm wondering is, what you think about that discussion, and what do you feel progressive values are?

Answer:    That's a good question.  I have a number of thoughts.  One, what George Lakoff does is amazingly important for political candidates.  Learning how to talk about issues that imbues those issues with value and soul is absolutely important.  I do not think that that is a fundamental problem with the democratic party or the progressive movement – language.

Where I think the problem is that there is a debate about what we are for.  What the progressive movement is for.  What unifies the progressive movement.  You cannot be a movement if you can’t answer that question.  I bet most of us here think we can answer that question.  We’re for universal single payer health care, we’re for fair trade fair taxes, etc.  But that doesn’t unify the progressive movement, unfortunately, for a number of reasons, some of which I have talked about.  We have many people who act in the “progressive” name. We have a propaganda machine in Washington of people who have co-opted the word progressive to try to make it synonymous with the Democratic Party.  Now I hope that the word progressive one day really truly is synonymous with the Democratic Party.    But certainly it is not.

And most importantly, we have a divide over which issues are the centerpiece, are the glue that holds the progressive coalition together.  The litmus test issues.  So I think the problem is that we still have that debate. 

I think we can win it.  But to me the reason why we haven’t been more effective is that the debate continues to go on.

Edwin:  And what are those values?

Answer:  I think those values are economic fairness in a very general sense.  I would say that’s the major value.  Economic fairness means to me all the things I was talking about – fair trade, universal health care, humane bankruptcy laws, humane immigration laws, etc. etc. 

See the full 1 hour, 20 minute talk on Google Video at:
David Sirota: Wellstone Club, Nov 29, 2007,
"Putting Populist into Progressive"

 Some  Questions To Ponder:
 How would you define the word "Values" and "Principles"?
 How are "Values" and "Principles" different?
 What is personally the most important progressive value to you?
 Do you have a personal story or anecdote of how you learned some insight into this value?
 How does this progressive value differ from conservative values?
 How have conservative values failed?
Edwin Rutsch
What Are Progressive Values? Documentary Project
and Study Group


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Founder of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy. The Culture of Empathy website is a growing portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, (more...)
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