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Progressivism Defined

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The casual reader may not have a firm understanding of exactly where I am coming from on my blog, politically-speaking. I am sure after five minutes anyone could tell I am what the media terms a "liberal" (I hate the connotations of that word, but oh well.) After a little more spelunking one might even discover I call myself a progressive, and that I am a Democrat. These labels hardly define me. I thought I might take a little time to spell out exactly what I think about the current state of politics in America.

I can sum up my politics with one word- Progressive.

Primarily I think of myself as a progressive, in the vein of FDR or Teddy Roosevelt. That word gets thrown around a lot nowadays, but I don't think most folks really understand what it means or where it comes from. Let me try to define it for you and explain why I believe it is the right way for America.

I like this definition- it pretty much sums up how I view the term;

Progressivism historically advocates the advancement of workers' rights and social justice. The progressives were early proponents of anti-trust laws and the regulation of large corporations and monopolies, as well as government-funded environmentalism and the creation of National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.
Viewed from a certain perspective American politics can be seen as a waxing and waning of conservatism and progressivism. I'm sure a lot of History majors out there would argue with me on that, but that's how I see it. America has a pattern of allowing the rich to get horribly rich, thus tilting policy and law in their favor; the public then steps up every few decades to even the economic playing field with progressive reforms.

Progressive, to me, means for the people. It has been clear since the outset that the Bush administration is simply an oligarchy based on powerful corporate interests and old money. They have brazenly advocated policies that have skewed our system to favor the ultra-rich elite and corporations. Indeed, this kind of power grab has happened before, actually a few times. The cure for this kind of greed-based thinking is progressivism. The idea that the people are the real bosses in America, and the laws, tax code, and public policies should reflect that.

I fully repudiate the idea of laissez faire economics, also known alternately as trickle down, social darwinism, and supply-side. The basic idea in common here is lower taxes on the rich, allow them to get super wealthy, and the benefits will flow down to everyone else. This wonderful idea would work, except for one problem; the inherent greed of the wealthy. The benefits only trickle down if the corporate bigwigs and top 1% can unclench their fists and allow the money to flow. My contention has always been the greediest in society will end up at the top of the economic spectrum, and that greed will keep the wealth concentrated in a few, white-knuckled, elite hands.

As for other issues;

- I am pro-choice. I believe in the rights of all people under our Constitution, and taking a woman's right to choose away ends up mutilating women everywhere. History has shown that women without choices do actually have them- to have a baby or to choose the back-alley abortionist or the coat hanger. Religionists thinking their so-called "pro-life" morality trumps that horrible truth are delusional.

-I am against any form of torture by our government. Waterboarding, approved by Mephistophel- ahem, I mean Vice-President Cheney, was the reason we convicted American servicemen in Vietnam, for f*ck's sake! If anyone thinks 9/11 changed our morality, or that being a little evil is OK because we were attacked, to me their morals, and most likely their intelligence, are suspect.

-The "War on Terror" is clearly an open-ended term invented to keep America in a constant war footing. This was calculated to give Bush the most power possible, as well as channel the maximum amount of cash to corporations, during the time when Americans' sense of civics was cloaked by the unknowable dread caused on September 11th, 2001. The real issue is the vestiges of Reagan's battle with Soviet-style communism using Arab/Muslim land as the battleground; we supported or armed most of the people who want to kill us today. Without changing our underlying policies there will be no peace- we have to find a way to support Israel and establish good relations with Muslim countries at the same time. That's tough enough, and the Iraq War is not helping. It is clear the administration is using war as a tool to enrich corporations at the expense of the American taxpayers. We need to withdraw and leave enough forces behind for counter-terror operations. The Iraqis must choose to organize and rule themselves, or not; we cannot force democracy on them. The President recently brought Vietnam into the argument after years of denying any similarities; it's funny that he should use a perfect example of how to conduct war poorly to justify continuing to poorly conduct a war.

-We endanger our civil liberties at our nation's peril; our strength has always been our freedoms, and taking them away only lessens us as a people. It certainly isn't helping the Bushittes nab any terror convictions. We should repeal the Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act, and the recently passed expansion of domestic wiretapping and surveillance immediately.

-The Federal government's job, in my opinion, is to do for states and the American people what they cannot do for themselves. As such we should enact some form of universal health care as soon as feasible. This would help employers as well as the average Joe. It is ridiculous that the most powerful country in the world still has citizens unable to afford simple health care.

-We need an Apollo project, directed by the President, to find a new path for America's energy policy. Fossil fuels are destroying our climate and fomenting war. I mean, it's 2007!! Where's the fusion reactors and robots I was promised?
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Mike Kuykendall is a progressive, patriotic veteran of the U.S. Air Force, fighting hard to save our democracy.
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