“Progress is impossible without change. And those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw
The other day I was asked a question by a conservative friend that I often have dialogues with. “Gary, what does it mean to be a progressive?”
That appears as a simple question, but I knew that it was also a disguise for an editorial comment, so, I started my answer thusly: “Well…I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean, first. It doesn’t mean that I’m what I’ve heard you call a knee-jerk, tax and spend, liberal, who wants to hand everything away.”
That took the wind out of the sail that I knew he was tacking, and a half smile-half smirk came across his face. I continued: “What ‘progressive’ means is this- if something isn’t working, change it! Pro-gress from where we are.”
His eyes start to roll, but I was on sure footing.
“Progressive ideals don’t simply adhere to issues or solutions because they carry a label; they are a pragmatic process and rationale to create the greatest opportunity for people and for our communities to grow. They are a set of values that place people first.”
Values should play a vital role in politics, but I believe that many politicians confuse the term. They create a certain set of values to engineer support with a majority of constituents, but use a different criteria in private. Therein lies the fundamental flaw in modern government where we find ourselves misrepresented. Because there is one value that must stand before the rest: Truth.
Without “truth” as our preeminent value, all others become moot. What is a “value” if it’s not sincere? And what do politics accomplish if we are not in pursuit of truthful ideals?
Politics are, essentially, a perpetual debate over what are, and what are not, our “Rights” and the definition and protection of them. Whether it’s the right to bear arms, the right to celebrate our religious beliefs, the right to freedom of speech, the right to live and love as we choose and to have dominion over ourselves, we are connecting our rights with our values.
As Iowans I believe we are unique in that respect. We are a confluence of rural and urban sensibilities with an innate respect for personal rights. Often we baffle the rest of the country with our social progress within our ruggedly conservative nature. I moved back to Iowa 13 years ago to give my children that very sense of propriety and progressive spirit.
We live by our values, and what we value is respect for one another and a commitment to family. We value air, water and soil, and two of our greatest historical values are of education, and the well-being of our communities. Those values drive how we live and how we behave.
I continued with my friend. “Every policy idea should be preceded by serious and unrelenting questions:
Will this embrace the full spectrum of families by making them stronger and more secure?
Will this give our children the best education in the nation or will it diminish the teachers, resources and materials that will achieve that end?
Will our land and the people who work it flourish and grow? Or will they be stagnated by special interests?
And will our community, and the communities within them (veterans, entrepreneurs, students, senior citizens, the neglected, disadvantaged or infirmed), be made stronger and more economically vibrant?
Do we uphold our ethical standards?
This is what it means, to me, to be progressive and these are the values that compel me to run for the Iowa House of Representatives. I intend to give a strong voice to Iowa values that once put people first.”
My friend donated 50 bucks to the cause. 🙂