10 Great Things About America That Drive Conservatives and the Religious Right Insane

by Rob Boston, AlterNet, May 15, 2011

Religious Right groups and their frequent allies in the Tea Party talk a good line about respecting American values, but much would change if they had their way. They seek not to restore our country to some Golden Age (that never existed anyway) but to recreate it – in their own fundamentalist image.

An America rebuilt along Religious Right lines would be a very different place. And to get there, the theocrats among us first have to tear down some features of American life – some of which are longstanding. Here are ten things about the United States that drive Religious Right groups crazy:

1. Our history debunks Religious Right mythology: American history stands as a rebuke to the Religious Right. America’s founders established a secular government with freedom of religion and its necessary corollary, separation of church and state, built into the First Amendment. A “Christian nation” was not what the founders sought. How do we know this? They said so. Think about it: If an officially Christian nation had been the intent of the founders, the Constitution would prominently include that concept. It doesn’t.

And those Religious Right claims that separation of church and state is a myth? They’re a crock. As James Madison put it, “Strongly guarded…is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States.” Madison ought to know. He’s considered the Father of the Constitution and was one of the primary drafters of the First Amendment.

2. We support science: While polls show some confusion over issues like evolution, most Americans are big fans of science and are quick to rally around the latest medical breakthroughs and cutting-edge technology. Many religious people in America long ago reconciled their faith with modern science. But the Religious Right remains stubbornly insistent that any science that conflicts with its literalist interpretation of the Bible must go.

Religious Right activists hate science because it casts doubt on their narrow worldview – a worldview that teaches that all answers are found in a rigidly fundamentalist interpretation of an ancient religious text. To the Religious Right, evolution and the Bible can’t co-exist. They refuse to read the scriptures in a metaphorical or symbolic context. Since, to the Religious Right, evolution undercuts the Bible, evolution should not be taught in public schools.

3. America has a tradition of tolerance: Yes, we’ve fallen short of complete tolerance from time to time, but at the end of the day, most Americans believe in treating their fellow citizens decently, even if they have different religious or philosophical beliefs. But to the Religious Right, tolerance is entrance ramp on the highway to hell.

The idea that religions should strive to get along is dangerously close to the idea that all religions are on equal footing. This is bad, so says the Religious Right, because it leads people into “error” – that is, an embrace of any religion that’s not fundamentalist Christianity. Tolerance is ridiculed because it dares to suggest that a Unitarian, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu, Pagan or atheist might have an equal claim on truth alongside a fundamentalist.

4. We have a secular government: To the theocrats of the right, secular government, secularism and secular anything is the bogeyman of the moment. If you doubt it, just listen to some of our leading politicians (assuming you have the stomach for it). To most people, it just makes sense for government to remain neutral on theological disputes – remember the Middle Ages? To the Religious Right, such neutrality equals hostility toward religion and a “war” against Christianity.

Ironically, there is one place where the Religious Right backs secular government: Muslim nations. Those should be secular, of course – but only as a prelude to adopting fundamentalist Christianity.

5. The U.S. Constitution has endured: The Religious Right and the Tea Party claim to revere our basic governing document, the Constitution. So why do they treat it like a first draft? Just consider the list of amendments they’d like to add: pro-school prayer, anti-abortion, “parental rights,” fetal personhood, “traditional marriage,” the list goes on.

Why does the Religious Right distrust our founders? Maybe because the founders weren’t fundamentalists, and they dared to believe that the Bible could speak metaphorically yet still contain wisdom and insight. Consider this quote by Thomas Jefferson (from a letter to Benjamin Rush, May 21, 1803): “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.”

6. The nation has a legacy of freedom of religion: To the Religious Right, “religious freedom” means the right to use their religion to run other people’s lives. When it comes to groups they don’t like, ideas like liberty and freedom suddenly evaporate.

Consider the controversy over the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan and efforts to block construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Normally, once religious groups comply with local zoning laws, get the necessary permits and so on, they can build houses of worship where they please. Yet Brian Fischer, a columnist with the American Family Association, argued recently that the Constitution grants religious freedom rights only to Christians and said we can legally shut down mosques. Where does this appear in the Constitution? It doesn’t. Fischer made it up.

7. Americans support reproductive rights: The ability to control your own body when it comes to reproduction is the ability to control your own destiny. It’s a big no-no to the Religious Right. God is supposed to control your destiny. Who are you to interfere with His plans? Although most people think of this issue in terms of abortion, it’s worthwhile to look a little deeper. Increasingly, access to birth control is on the chopping block as well. (See attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and bills in the state laws granting pharmacists a right to refuse to fill prescriptions for the pill.)

Throughout recorded history, religious prudes have been obsessed with sex lives of others. They clearly have issues. There’s just something kind of icky about it.

8. Gay people live here: Where to begin? Not only will gay people not stay in the closet or become straight, now they want to get married! You can be sure that Bible Belt fundamentalists, who have the highest divorce rate in the nation, aren’t going to stand for that assault on the sacred institution of marriage.

The bile the Religious Right spews toward gays is unfathomable. You have to call it what it is: Hate. And as polls show increasing numbers of Americans backing same-sex marriage, it’s only going to get worse.

9. Most kids go to public schools: These godless hotbeds of secular humanism actually receive tax funding! They’re known to teach evolution, and some even dare to talk about how they human reproductive system works in Biology class. Since not everyone has the time for home-schooling, it’s best to distribute vouchers, says the Religious Right.

Here’s Tim LaHaye, author of the popular series of apocalyptic potboilers “Left Behind” on public education: “I have a pet concern, and I think it is the concern of everyone in this room; and that is we are being destroyed in America by the public school systems of our country. And it was Abraham Lincoln who said, essentially, let me educate the children of this generation and they will be the political leaders of the next generation. And, folks, we have let the enemy come in and take over the greatest school system in the history of the world.” (So, Tim, what do you really think?)

10. We fund NPR and PBS: Sure, the Religious Right and the Tea Party said they wanted to cut off funding to public broadcasting to save a few bucks, but in reality, they just don’t like the elitist, left-wingery of “All Things Considered” and “Masterpiece Theatre.” Snobs listen to and watch that stuff!

Don’t even get them started on the Muppets. Bert and Ernie have a suspiciously close relationship. ‘Nuff said.

Of course, there are many other things the Religious Right dislikes about our country – consider women’s rights, for example. For all of their flag waving, some supporters of the Religious Right just don’t sound too happy to be here. I doubt they plan to leave soon, so we can expect they’ll keep working to change our nation. Be warned – this list is just a start.

Rob Boston is the assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which publishes Church and State magazine.

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/150946/

Robert Gates on the GOP’s Breakdown and Failure at “The Basic Functions of Government” By Steve Benen

Washington Monthly, October 15, 2011

Excerpt
 
Robert Gates, a respected elder statesman of the political establishment, recently delivered some provocative remarks on the health, of lack thereof, of the American political system. Brian Beutler had a good item on this the other day, noting the increasing frequency with which prominent voices, not prone to hyperbole or alarmism, are raising awkward questions.
The GOP’s hyper-partisan turn after Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 meant 112th Congress was destined to test the limits of dysfunctional governance. But it also happened to coincide with a moment in history when the country needed the government to do better than the bare minimum. Instead, it’s done less. And that’s shaken people who’ve spent their careers steering the ship of state.
“I do believe that we are now in uncharted waters when it comes to the dysfunction in our political system — and it is no longer a joking matter,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience two weeks ago at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where he received the Liberty Medal for national service. “It appears that as a result of several long-building, polarizing trends in American politics and culture, we have lost the ability to execute even the basic functions of government much less solve the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. Thus, I am more concerned than I have ever been about the state of American governance.”

Full text

 Robert Gates, a respected elder statesman of the political establishment, recently delivered some provocative remarks on the health, of lack thereof, of the American political system. Brian Beutler had a good item on this the other day, noting the increasing frequency with which prominent voices, not prone to hyperbole or alarmism, are raising awkward questions. 

The GOP’s hyper-partisan turn after Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 meant 112th Congress was destined to test the limits of dysfunctional governance. But it also happened to coincide with a moment in history when the country needed the government to do better than the bare minimum. Instead, it’s done less. And that’s shaken people who’ve spent their careers steering the ship of state.

 

“I do believe that we are now in uncharted waters when it comes to the dysfunction in our political system — and it is no longer a joking matter,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience two weeks ago at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where he received the Liberty Medal for national service. “It appears that as a result of several long-building, polarizing trends in American politics and culture, we have lost the ability to execute even the basic functions of government much less solve the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. Thus, I am more concerned than I have ever been about the state of American governance.”

 

James Fallows noted the same remarks, emphasizing Gates’ demeanor. “I specifically recognize how carefully he has always chosen his public words,” Fallows wrote. “For such a person to say plainly that the American government has lost its basic ability to function, and that he is more concerned than he has ever been about this issue is … well, it’s worth more notice than it’s received so far.”

 

I often think of a column E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote a while back, in which he asked, “Can a nation remain a superpower if its internal politics are incorrigibly stupid?”

 

I’m a chronic optimist about America. But we are letting stupid politics, irrational ideas on fiscal policy and an antiquated political structure undermine our power.

 

We need a new conservatism in our country that is worthy of the name. We need liberals willing to speak out on the threat our daft politics poses to our influence in the world. We need moderates who do more than stick their fingers in the wind to calculate the halfway point between two political poles.

 

And, yes, we need to reform a Senate that has become an embarrassment to our democratic claims.

 

And, I’d argue, we need well-intentioned Republicans who care about the national interest to realize something has gone fundamentally wrong with their party, and to work to help bring back.

 

Dionne wrote that column, by the way, in July 2010. There’s ample evidence conditions have deteriorated since and the incorrigible stupidity is more pronounced. Some have even begun suggesting it’s part of a larger effort on the part of the radicalized right to deliberately undermine confidence in America’s public institutions and create conditions in which voters give up on government altogether.

 

If the public considers this unacceptable, they’re going to have to say so.

 

This week, in the midst of a jobs crisis and intense public demand for congressional action, killed a credible jobs bill for no apparent reason. Most Americans support the American Jobs Act’s provisions; it enjoys strong support from economists; it includes ideas from both parties; and the CBO found it will even lower the deficit over the next decade.

 

And despite all of this, literally every Republican in the Senate — including the alleged “moderates” — not only rejected the popular jobs bill, they refused to even let the chamber vote on it at all. This happened, at least in part, because GOP officials didn’t want to “give [Obama] a win.”

As Gates put it, “It is no longer a joking matter.” 

 © 2011 All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews//

On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits by Wray Herbert

Huffington Post, 8/22/2012 

Scientific meetings are not usually confrontational events, so it was notable when University of Virginia psychological scientist Jonathan Haidt roiled his colleagues at the 2011 gathering of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Addressing an audience of more than 1,000, the bestselling author of The Righteous Mind asked all those who considered themselves politically conservative to raise their hands. Three hands went up. He then described two other attempts he had recently made to locate conservative social psychologists. He had searched the Internet for “conservative social psychologist,” and he had asked a small sample of social psychologists to name just one ideologically conservative colleague. These efforts together had turned up a single conservative social psychologist.

These small, informal efforts have big implications. They point to a “statistically impossible lack of diversity” in the field, Haidt has since argued, a worrisome situation that almost certainly fosters discrimination against both colleagues and students and, what’s more, may be skewing the entire research enterprise. Haidt is advocating remedies to reach a quota of 10-percent conservatives in social psychology by 2020.

Haidt’s message hit home with many of his colleagues, among them Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers of Tilburg University, who describe the 2011 event in a new paper, to be published soon in Perspectives on Psychological Science. Inbar and Lammers decided to add some rigor to Haidt’s provocative but anecdotal findings, which they did in two anonymous, online surveys of personality and social psychologists. They wanted, first, to verify the widespread impression of a pervasive liberal bias in the field, but they wanted to drill down even further, asking: Are there really no conservative social psychologists, or are they just well hidden? Are some liberal on social issues, but perhaps more moderate, or even conservative, on economic questions, or foreign policy issues? And if they are deliberately hiding their politics and values, why?

Inbar and Lammers drew their sample from the membership of the Society for Personality and Social psychology, the same scientific group that Haidt addressed in 2011. They contacted all members on the mailing list and got nearly 800 responses.

The findings clearly confirm the field’s liberal bias, but they hold some surprises, as well. For example, although only 6 percent described themselves as conservative “overall,” there was much more diversity than anecdotal evidence suggests. Inbar and Lammers found an overwhelming liberal majority when it comes to social issues, but only when it comes to social issues. On economic issues, nearly one in five is a self-described moderate, and slightly fewer put themselves to the right of moderate. Similarly, on foreign policy questions, nearly a third of respondents called themselves either moderate or conservative. In short, there is much more ideological diversity among these scientists than generally thought.

So why are only three out of 1,000 raising their hands when asked? Apparently, it’s because conservative social psychologists perceive the field as hostile to their values. And it’s not just perception. The more conservative respondents were, the more they had personally experienced an intellectually unfriendly climate. Importantly, self-defined liberals do not see this — or believe it. The hostility is invisible to those who don’t run into it themselves.

It gets worse. Inbar and Lammers also asked respondents to assess their willingness to discriminate against conservatives. Would they be more likely to reject a paper or a grant application that showed a politically conservative perspective? Would they be reluctant to invite a conservative colleague to a symposium? Would they favor a liberal job candidate over a conservative candidate? The disturbing answer to all these questions was yes, and the more liberal the respondents, the more likely they were to discriminate against conservatives in all these areas. So it appears that the well-hidden minority of conservatives have good reason to stay hidden.

The irony of these findings is not lost on Inbar and Lammers, nor on the several colleagues who have written commentaries to accompany the Perspectives article. If social tolerance and fairness are liberal values, most social psychologists would plead guilty to that bias, so it’s embarrassing to uncover intolerance of a different kind in one’s own backyard. What’s more, psychological scientists are supposedly the experts on cognitive biases, including harmful ones, yet here they are displaying just such skewed judgments and decisions. Several of the commentaries raise serious questions about how ideology might be shaping the issues and questions that social psychologists choose for exploration — and the ones they are blind to, or deliberately reject as uninteresting or taboo.

Why is social psychology so politically skewed, and what’s to be done about it? It may be true, as some of the commentaries state, that the field attracts a certain kind of inquiring and open mind that tends to embrace liberal values, and that conservative self-select out of the field. But this, most commentators agree, does not change the fact that pervasive liberal bias is unhealthy for the field, and for intellectual inquiry generally.

Perhaps even more alarming is what Richard Redding, of Chapman University’s School of Law, labels “prejudice and discrimination, straight up” — that is, the deliberate discrimination against conservative thinkers is not subtle, unconscious, or inconsequential but real and harmful and in need of remedy. That remedy may be the kind of affirmative action that Haidt and others are now endorsing, or it may be something more measured. In any case, the Perspectives article and commentaries suggest that the time may be right for some self-examination in the field.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/conservative-psychologists_b_1818538.html

RNC to Open With Politician Who “Should Be in Jail” by Greg Palast

Truthout | News Analysis, August 27, 2012

Robert F Kennedy Jr. looks over Tim Griffin’s caging emails. (Photo via Greg Pallast)”Tim Griffin should be in jail.” That’s the conclusion of civil rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. after going through the evidence I asked him to review.

But Griffin’s not in jail: he’s in Congress. And Tuesday, he’ll be the first Congressman the Republicans have chosen to bring to their convention podium.

Predictably, I haven’t seen one US press report noting that in 2007, Griffin resigned from the Justice Department in disgrace, ahead of what could have been (should have been), his indictment.

Kennedy thought a couple of other characters should join Griffin in the lockup: first, Griffin’s boss, the man whom George W. Bush gave the nickname, “Turdblossom”: Karl Rove.

And there’s yet another odiferous blossom, Griffin’s assistant at the time of the crime: Matt Rhoades. Rhoades isn’t in jail either. He’s the campaign director of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

(Note: This story is based on the investigations in Palast’s new book, “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps” – with a forward by Kennedy and comics by Ted Rall.)

Kennedy had gone over the highly confidential emails we’d gotten from inside Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington. (How we got our hands on private emails from the top dogs in the Republican campaign, well, that’s another story. I can say, they were sent directly from the computer of Griffin. Rove, a computer expert, is careful not to have his own.)

“What they did was absolutely illegal – and they knew it and they did it anyway,” Kennedy told me.
What they did was called voter “caging.” The RNC sent letters by the thousands to soldiers, first class, marked, “DO NOT FORWARD.” When the letters were returned undelivered, the Republicans planned to use these “caged” envelopes as evidence the voters were “fraudulent” – then challenge their ballot.

A soldier mailing in his or her vote from Iraq would have that ballot disqualified – and the soldier wouldn’t even know it.

That’s not just sick, it’s a crime, a violation of the Voting Rights Act drafted by Kennedy’s late father. And it was a crime because of whom the RNC caging crew attacked: not just any soldiers, but soldiers of color.

Running a vote-challenge operation based on racial profiling is a go-to-jail felony.

And after the soldiers, the “Turdblossom” gang targeted students at traditionally black schools (away on summer break), homeless men and a few precincts of Jewish voters. In other words, anyone whose politics was Blue-ish.

Look for yourself. Here is one Griffin “caging” list, targeting the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.
(go to source for image – Caging lists from GOP emails that Palast uncovered in 2004.)
The emails were dated August 2004, just before the presidential election. “Caging” would cost Bush’s opponent John Kerry more than one state. At the time, Rove was senior counselor to the president, Griffin head of “Research” at the RNC and his gofer Rhoades director of Opposition (read “Smear”) Research.

But they did more. Rove and Griffin were up to their necks in the firing of federal prosecutors. One, the US attorney for New Mexico, David Iglesias, told me the two illegal acts were tied together: Captain Iglesias (he’s a Naval JAG), himself a Republican, said he was fired because he refused to go along with RNC demands that he arrest innocent citizens on fake charges of fraudulent registration. Iglesias was horrified at this Soviet-style tactic. “I thought I was a Jedi warrior, but it turns out I was with the Sith Lords.”

So, Rove had Bush fire him and seven other prosecutors, including Bud Cummins, US attorney for Arkansas. In his place, Bush appointed … Tim Griffin.

Things Go Better With Kochs

Griffin won’t talk to me, nor will Rove nor Romney’s man Rhoades about the racial caging game and the related firing of federal prosecutors.

But never mind: I have his personal emails and the testimony of Captain Iglesias. And that was enough, in 2007, for BBC to put the “caging” evidence and the real story of the prosecutor firing on the air.

By the next morning, Griffin resigned his post at US attorney for Arkansas. He was in tears.

But Tim’s tears were soon wiped away – by the Koch brothers. In 2010, Koch interests dumped $167,183 into Griffin’s campaign for Congress. For $167,183, your average Congressman will wash your car – with their tongue.

Tim won the Little Rock seat, and here he is in Tampa. Despite the fact that he’s an unknown freshman from an unswing state, he’s been given the extraordinary honor of speaking for the entire Republican Congressional delegation.

And now you know why: In Congress, he’s Rove-bot No. 1, owned and operated by Koch Industries.

Why would the Kochs do this for the disgraced Griffin? Answer: It’s what Griffin does for them.

Among other favors, Griffin is the top cheerleader in the House for the XL pipeline – whose approval is vital to the billionaire Kochs making more billions.

But wait! The Kochs don’t own the XL pipe nor the Canadian tar sands from which it comes. So, why do they care?

Well, that’s another story, in another chapter, “XXXL Pipeline” in “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal the Election in 9 Easy Steps,” out September 18. Author’s proceeds from the book go to the not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund for reporting on voter protection issues, which has partnered with Truthout to bring you these investigative findings – and the comic book inside by Ted Rall.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.  Greg Palast
Greg Palast’s investigative reports are broadcast by BBC Television’s Newsnight. His new book is Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps (7 Stories Press/Palast Investigative Fund).
http://truth-out.org/news/item/11158-rnc-opens-with-politician-who-should-be-in-jail

Idealism, Conscience And The Spiritual Left by William Horden

Huffington Post, March 1, 2010

 Excerpt

…Spiritual Left did not, of course, originate with the 60s….it dates back at least to 1838, when Emerson and other Transcendentalists began their quest for a path “away from the old ‘religions of authority’ into a new ‘religion of the spirit.’”…sought a first-hand experience of the divine grounded in nature and community rather than institutionalized dogma. Rooted deep in the grain of American culture, the Spirtual Left has long acted as the progressive conscience of the nation, championing as it did from its very beginning unpopular causes like abolition and women’s rights…
While many in the Spiritual Left are politically active, many others eschew direct participation in the Political Left because it remains locked in a destructive cycle of conflict with the Political Right…
Amorphous and anti-authoritarian, the Spiritual Left is perhaps best defined as a borderless association of leaders. Free thinkers and independent seekers of spirituality beyond dogma, its members engage in–and disengage from–political activism as a matter of personal conviction, not ordained groupthink…The Political Left will need to return to the moral high ground of progressive American thought and give voice to the American conscience of compassion if it is to recapture the imagination and heart of its spiritual counterpart. It has to want to change the world for the better, not just get elected… 

Full Text

 

I stroll back to 1973 occasionally and loiter in the rain-soaked parking lot to play out that conversation with the professor again. But things have changed. He quit drinking. I quit smoking. The pub is now a sushi bar. The war on terror gnaws at our freedom.
The moon, though, still glimmers in a puddle as it always has, reflecting the timeless ideals of people of every culture seeking the way of an enlightened government.

 

“Read not the Times, read the Eternities.” Henry David Thoreau

“Damn it, you had them,” the professor slurred drunkenly, grabbing my shirt sleeve to steady himself. “You had them on the ropes and you let them go,” he accused, his voice dripping bitter betrayal.
I met his gaze like a receptive student. It was hardly my first inebriated prof, after all.
“Damn you,” he muttered with finality, pushing me away and turning back toward the pub, shaking his head resignedly.
It was 1973 and I knew what he meant. Whatever the 60s were, they were over. And whatever promise they may have held for deep and lasting political change had evaporated like a forgotten dream.
I knew what he meant but he had mistaken me for someone else. I was the right age and looked the part, I suppose. But his stereotype of a generation was distorted by a glaring blind spot: many of us had already exchanged the social activism of the Political Left for the inner activism of the Spiritual Left.
The asphalt smelled of rain. The moon glimmered in a puddle. I lingered there in the parking lot a few minutes more, shrugged, flicked my cigarette into the moon, and strolled off toward 2010.
If I had known they were going to do this, I would have become a shoemaker–Albert Einstein, after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima
The Spiritual Left did not, of course, originate with the 60s. According to Dr. Leigh Schmidt, it dates back at least to 1838, when Emerson and other Transcendentalists began their quest for a path “away from the old ‘religions of authority’ into a new ‘religion of the spirit.’”
From Transcendentalism through Reform Jew and Progressive Quakers, New Thought leaders, and proponents of Eastern philosophies, people like Emerson, Thoreau, Walt Whitman, William James, and Sarah Farmer sought a first-hand experience of the divine grounded in nature and community rather than institutionalized dogma.
Rooted deep in the grain of American culture, the Spirtual Left has long acted as the progressive conscience of the nation, championing as it did from its very beginning unpopular causes like abolition and women’s rights.
The rise of the fundamentalist Religious Right in recent decades, and its support of the Political Right, argues Rabbi Michael Lerner, has created a right-wing mind-set that worships its own power, ignoring the groans of the poor, the oppressed and the disenfranchised, conducting business as usual as if no one were hurting and there were no groans. The Political Left, too, earns Lerner’s criticism for its lack of moral courage and political savvy to stand by its ideals and resist a culture of authoritarianism in both church and state.
Because it lacks dogma and an authoritarian structure, the values–and even the membership–of the Spiritual Left is more difficult to chart than those of the Religious Right. With apologies ahead of time for excluding anyone, I will add here to those mentioned elsewhere: liberal Christian denominations not adhering to fundamentalism, such as Quakers, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian Universalists; liberal practitioners among Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and other religious communities; traditional Eastern philosophies such as Taoism; metaphysical and New Age schools of thought; and, indigenous spiritualities based on the sacredness of nature, such as those found among native peoples in the Americas.
Among the values that these diverse traditions appear to agree on, we can probably safely name these: progressive social change; egalitarian social justice; manifest tolerance of differences between individuals and cultures; an end to poverty, hunger, and violence; and, preventing further degradation of the environment and further loss of plant and animal habitat.

What is the new mythology to be, the mythology of this unified earth as of one harmonious being?–Joseph Campbell

While many in the Spiritual Left are politically active, many others eschew direct participation in the Political Left because it remains locked in a destructive cycle of conflict with the Political Right. Destructive in the sense that conflict has become institutionalized in a way that seems complicit in the greater divide-and-conquer culture war tearing the nation apart. But not just destructive–unproductive, too, in the sense that real-world problems and solutions are no longer identified and addressed. Combatants in this conflict have come to react to one another instead of the common dilemmas we face together.
One of the perennial truths, common to many ancient wisdom traditions, held as axiomatic by the Spiritual Left from its inception is the interdependent unity of nature, humanity and spirit. For this reason, feelings and actions that contribute to division and fail to alleviate suffering are considered not just detrimental to others but to one’s own inner being, as well.

TheGreat Wayis not difficult for those who have no preferences–Third Zen Patriarch

Although it is expressed in various ways, another principle informing many spiritual traditions is the axiom that we cannot proceed through the changing circumstances of life by holding to precedents and preconceptions–rather, we must respond to circumstances as we would administer medicine to a specific individual’s illness. We would not, for instance, prescribe the same remedy or dose for an 80-year old and an eight-month old, even if they had the same illness. We cannot, in other words, rely on pat formulas for curing our ailments–we must start over each moment, willing to think in completely new ways and try completely new solutions. This model of enlightened response to circumstances, based on treating the present without being unduly influenced by past experience, requires that we both practice forgiveness for the wrongs done to us even as we seek to right the wrongs we have done to others. Such a practice of clearing our hearts of anger, resentment, and revenge even as we clear our conscience of guilt, shame, and remorse allows us to honor the past by fulfilling the dream of our ancestors that we live in a world of uninterrupted peace and prospering.
This ancient metaphor of administering medicine to the illness carries with it the admonition to act proactively to prevent illness in the first place and ensure the uninterrupted well-being of the community at large. It’s not enough to govern by crisis management–we have to see problems coming and head them off to the benefit of all.

God has no religion–Mahatma Gandhi

One last example of the mind-set of the Spiritual Left: We are a world of nearly seven billion peers. None is intrinsically more deserving than another. Profound harm and resentment is born from the disrespect and dishonor heaped upon the weak and poor by the strong and rich.
Those who are more fortunate and do not share with those less fortunate cannot imagine the two-fold suffering to which they contribute, for not only do the less fortunate first suffer from their circumstances but they subsequently suffer from the sense that they are unworthy of aid from the more fortunate.
Idealistic as it may sound, to those in the Spiritual Left there is no longer any excuse for perpetuating a way of life that ignores the suffering of our peers worldwide. Not profit nor stockholders’ interests nor national security nor democratization nor global competition nor outsourcing nor manifest destiny nor history.

If God lived on earth, people would break out all his windows–Hasidic Saying

Amorphous and anti-authoritarian, the Spiritual Left is perhaps best defined as a borderless association of leaders. Free thinkers and independent seekers of spirituality beyond dogma, its members engage in–and disengage from–political activism as a matter of personal conviction, not ordained groupthink. What this means to the Political Left is that it cannot take for granted the Spiritual Left’s whole-hearted support of its candidates and policies. And it especially means that the Political Left cannot hope to tap the vast potential of the Spiritual Left unless it embraces ideals and values beyond power-sharing with the Political Right.
The meaning of life is not politics. The Political Left will need to return to the moral high ground of progressive American thought and give voice to the American conscience of compassion if it is to recapture the imagination and heart of its spiritual counterpart. It has to want to change the world for the better, not just get elected.
Which of course means that it may be inevitable that the Spiritual Left goes its own way as it long has. So long as the political right and left remain embroiled in the politics of mutually assured destruction, it may well be impossible for people of good conscience to commit their energies and resources to an ever-escalating culture war of polarization. Looking back over the course of civilization, there are many instances of Taoist and Zen sages, for example, who refused participation in political affairs. The Buddha, too, set the example by abandoning the privileges of the palace to become a wandering monk.
In this light, it is worth considering that the Spiritual Left is not solely an American phenomenon. It is much more an international worldview than is the fundamentalist Christian Religious Right. Idealism has become the new pragmatism: Only unreflective ideologues believe things can go on the way they are–practical people worldwide know that we must solve the problems related to health, hunger, potable water, and the environment if we are ever to fulfill our potential. So, it may be that the Spiritual Left is part of a global movement transcending borders and politics, a groundswell of nearly seven billion peers whose inner divinity illuminates a path carrying us all into the Golden Age of Humanity.

A nation never fails but by suicide–Ralph Waldo Emerson

I stroll back to 1973 occasionally and loiter in the rain-soaked parking lot to play out that conversation with the professor again. But things have changed. He quit drinking. I quit smoking. The pub is now a sushi bar. The war on terror gnaws at our freedom.
The moon, though, still glimmers in a puddle as it always has, reflecting the timeless ideals of people of every culture seeking the way of an enlightened government.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-horden/idealism-conscience-and-t_b_473783.html

 

William Douglas Horden has researched spiritual traditions of East and West, North and South, for the past 40 years. He has traveled extensively and lived in various shamanic communities, steeping himself in the timeless world view of the ancient cultures.

Websites:
The Toltec I Ching
13th Sky Fine Art Photography
The Inner Compass radio show
Larson Publications

Along with his collaborator, Martha Ramirez-Oropeza, he is the author of “The Toltec I Ching: 64 Keys To Inspired Action In The New World,” which recasts the ancient Oracle of China in the symbology of the Native Americans of Mesoamerica.

Add It Up: Taxes Avoided by the Rich Could Pay Off the Deficit by Paul Buchheit

 Common Dreams, August 27, 2012

Conservatives force the deficit issue, ignoring job creation, and insisting that tax increases on the rich wouldn’t generate enough revenue to balance the budget. They’re way off. But it takes a little arithmetic to put it all together. In the following analysis, data has been taken from a variety of sources, some of which may overlap or slightly disagree, but all of which lead to the conclusion that withheld revenue, not excessive spending, is the problem.

1. Individual and small business tax avoidance costs us $450 billion.

The IRS estimates that 17 percent of taxes owed were not paid, leaving an underpayment of $450 billion. In way of confirmation, an independent review of IRS data reveals that the richest 10 percent of Americans paid less than 19% on $3.8 trillion of income in 2006, nearly $450 billion short of a more legitimate 30% tax rate. It has also been estimated that two-thirds of the annual $1.3 trillion in “tax expenditures” (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes) goes to the top quintile of taxpayers. Based on IRS apportionments, this calculates out to more than $450 billion for the richest 10 percent of Americans.

2. Corporate tax avoidance is between $250 billion and $500 billion.

There are numerous examples of tax avoidance by the big companies, but the most outrageous fact may be that corporations decided to drastically cut their tax rates after the start of the recession. After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, they’ve paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes. Worse yet, it’s a $500 billion shortfall from the 35% statutory corporate tax rate.

3. Tax haven losses range from $337 billion to $500 billion.

The Tax Justice Network estimated in 2011 that $337 billion is lost to the U.S. every year in tax haven abuse. It’s probably more. A recent report placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. Using the lesser $21 trillion figure, and considering that about 40% of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth Individuals are Americans, and factoring in an annual 6% stock market gain based on historical records, the tax loss comes to $500 billion.

4. That’s enough to pay off a trillion dollar deficit. Reasonable tax changes could pay it off a second time:

(a) A non-regressive payroll tax could produce $150 billion in revenue.

Get ready for some math. The richest 10% made about $3.84 trillion in 2006. A $110,000 salary, which is roughly the cutoff point for payroll tax deductions, is also the approximate minimum income for the richest 10%. A 6.2% tax paid on $1.43 trillion ($110,000 times 13 million payees) is about $90 billion. The lost taxes on the remaining $2.41 trillion come to about $150 billion.

(b) A minimal estate tax brings in another $100 billion.

The 2009 estate tax, designed to impact only the tiny percentage of Americans with multi-million dollar estates that have never been taxed, returns about $100 billion per year.

(c) A financial transaction tax (FTT): up to $500 billion.

The Bank for International Settlements reported in 2008 that annual trading in derivatives had surpassed $1.14 quadrillion (a thousand trillion dollars!). The Chicago Mercantile Exchange handles about 3 billion annual contracts worth well over 1 quadrillion dollars. One-tenth of one percent of a quadrillion dollars could pay off the deficit on its own.

More conservative estimates by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Chicago Political Economy Group suggest FTT revenues of a half-trillion dollars annually.

Add it all up, and we’ve paid off the deficit, almost twice. More importantly, the avoided taxes and a few other sensible taxes could provide sufficient revenue for job stimulus without cutting the hard-earned benefits of middle-class Americans. 

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

 

The Crackpot Caucus By TIMOTHY EGAN

New York Times, August 23, 2012

Excerpt

…Take a look around key committees of the House and you’ll find a governing body stocked with crackpots whose views on major issues are as removed from reality as Missouri’s Representative Todd Akin’s take on the sperm-killing powers of a woman who’s been raped. On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom.Their war on critical thinking explains a lot about why the United States is laughed at on the global stage, and why no real solutions to our problems emerge from that broken legislative body…Where do they get this stuff? The Bible, yes, but much of the misinformation and the fables that inform Republican politicians comes from hearsay, often amplified by their media wing…

Full text

The tutorial in 8th grade biology that Republicans got after one of their members of Congress went public with something from the wackosphere was instructive, and not just because it offered female anatomy lessons to those who get their science from the Bible.

Take a look around key committees of the House and you’ll find a governing body stocked with crackpots whose views on major issues are as removed from reality as Missouri’s Representative Todd Akin’s take on the sperm-killing powers of a woman who’s been raped.

On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom. Congress incubates and insulates these knuckle-draggers.

Let’s take a quick tour of the crazies in the House. Their war on critical thinking explains a lot about why the United States is laughed at on the global stage, and why no real solutions to our problems emerge from that broken legislative body.

We’re currently experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, a siege of wildfires, and the hottest temperatures since records were kept.  But to Republicans in Congress, it’s all a big hoax. The chairman of a subcommittee that oversees issues related to climate change,  Representative John Shimkus of Illinoisis -  you guessed it  – a climate-change denier.

At a 2009 hearing, Shimkus said not to worry about a fatally dyspeptic planet: the biblical signs have yet to properly align. “The earth will end only when God declares it to be over,” he said, and then he went on to quote Genesis at some length.  It’s worth repeating: This guy is the chairman.

On the same committee is an oil-company tool and 27-year veteran of Congress, Representative Joe L. Barton ofTexas.  You may remember Barton as the politician who apologized to the head of BP in 2010 after the government dared to insist that the company pay for those whose livelihoods were ruined by the gulf oil spill.

Barton cited the Almighty in questioning energy from wind turbines. Careful, he warned, “wind is God’s way of balancing heat.”  Clean energy, he said,  “would slow the winds down” and thus could make it hotter. You never know.

“You can’t regulate God!” Barton barked at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in the midst of discussion on measures to curb global warming.

The Catholic Church long ago made its peace with evolution, but the same cannot be said of House Republicans.  Jack Kingston of Georgia, a 20-year veteran of the House,  is an evolution denier, apparently because he can’t see the indent where his ancestors’ monkey tail used to be. “Where’s the missing link?” he said in 2011. “I just want to know what it is.” He serves on a committee that oversees education.

In his party, Kingstonis in the mainstream. A Gallup poll in June found that 58 percent of Republicans believe God created humans in the present form just within the last 10,000 years -  a wealth of anthropological evidence to the contrary.

AnotherGeorgiacongressman, Paul Broun,  introduced the so-called personhood legislation in the House – backed by Akin and Representative Paul Ryan – that would have given a fertilized egg the same constitutional protections as a fully developed human being.

Broun is on the same science, space and technology committee that Akin is. Yes, science is part of their purview.

Where do they get this stuff? The Bible, yes, but much of the misinformation and the fables that inform Republican politicians comes from hearsay, often amplified by their media wing.

Remember the crazy statement that helped to kill the presidential aspirations of  Michele Bachmann?  A vaccine, designed to prevent a virus linked to cervical cancer, could cause mental retardation, she proclaimed. Bachmann knew this, she insisted, because some random lady told her so at a campaign event.  Fearful of the genuine damage Bachmann’s assertion could do to public health, theAmericanAcademyof Pediatrics promptly rushed out a notice, saying,  “there is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement.”

Nor is there is reputable scientific validity to those who deny that the globe’s climate is changing for the worst. But Bachmann calls that authoritative consensus a hoax, and faces no censure from her party.

It’s encouraging that Republican heavyweights have since told Akin that uttering scientific nonsense about sex and rape is not good for the party’s image. But where are these fact-enforcers on the other idiocies professed by elected representatives of their party?

Akin, if he stays in the race, may still win the Senate seat inMissouri.  Bachmann, who makes things up on a regular basis, is a leader of the Tea Party caucus in Congress and, in an unintended joke, a member of the Committee on Intelligence.  None of these folks are without power; they govern, and have significant followings.

A handful of Republicans have tried to fight the know-nothings. “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” said Jon Huntsman, the formerUtahgovernor, during his ill-fated run for his party’s presidential nomination. “Call me crazy.”

And in an on-air plea for sanity,  Joe Scarborough, the former G.O.P. congressman and MSNBC host, said, “I’m just tired of the Republican Party being the stupid party.”  I feel for him.  But don’t expect the reality chorus to grow. For if intelligence were contagious, his party would be giving out vaccines for it.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/the-crackpot-caucus/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120824

Paul Ryan’s Social Extremism

New York Times, Editorial – August 26, 2012

Mitt Romney, who will be officially nominated this week as the Republican nominee for president, appears to trim his social convictions to the party’s prevailing winds. There is no doubt, however, about where the party’s vice-presidential candidate stands. A long history of social extremism makes Paul Ryan an emblem of the Republican tack to the far right.

Mr. Romney’s choice of Mr. Ryan carried some risks, considering Mr. Ryan’s advocacy of overhauling Medicare, but it has sent the strongest signal of solidarity to those who have made the party unrecognizable to moderates. Strident conservatives had been uneasy with Mr. Romney, but it is the rest of the country that should be nervous about conservatives’ now-enthusiastic acceptance of the Republican ticket.

Mr. Ryan is best known as the face of Republican budget-cutting, though his ideology runs much deeper. For years, he has been a reliable vote against workplace equity for women, opposing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to file wage-discrimination lawsuits, and two similar measures.

The full outpouring of hard-right enthusiasm is based, to a large degree, on Mr. Ryan’s sweeping opposition to abortion rights. He has long wanted to ban access to abortion even in the case of rape, the ideology espoused in this year’s Republican platform. (Mr. Romney favors a rape exception.) Mr. Ryan also co-sponsored, along with Representative Todd Akin ofMissouri, a bill that would have narrowed the definition of rape to reduce the number of poor women who can get an abortion through Medicaid.

Besides that, he has co-sponsored more than three dozen anti-abortion bills, including measures that would require women to get an ultrasound first, bar abortions after 20 weeks in theDistrict of Columbia and end federal spending for family planning programs. Though he urged Mr. Akin to end his Senate race last week over an offensive remark about “legitimate rape,” Mr. Ryan has actually co-sponsored more of these measures than Mr. Akin.

I’m as pro-life as a person gets,” he said in 2010.

He also co-sponsored a bill last year to allow employers to decline coverage of birth control if it violated their moral or religious convictions, and his budget would end all government financing for Planned Parenthood while slashing spending on prenatal care and infant nutrition. Mr. Ryan’s record on gay rights is no less egregious. He supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and voted against the repeal of the military’s discriminatory don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy. In 2009, a decade after Matthew Shepard was murdered for being gay, Mr. Ryan voted against a bill named after Mr. Shepard that expands the federal hate crimes act to include brutality based on sexual orientation.

In 1999, he even voted to prevent same-sex couples in theDistrict of Columbiafrom adopting children. In a break with his party, however, he supported a 2007 bill outlawing job discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Mr. Ryan is one of the most anti-gun-control candidates on a presidential ticket in many years, holding a grade of “A” from the National Rifle Association and opposing a background check requirement for purchases at gun shows.

The crowd at the Republican National Convention this week will faithfully support Mr. Romney’s nomination, but its heart will be closest to the younger man with the more radical ideas standing at his side.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/opinion/paul-ryans-social-extremism.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120827

80-year study: Democrats better at economics by Paul Bedard

The Washington Examiner, August 17, 2012

Excerpt

When it comes to which party is better for the economy, Republicans talk the talk, but it’s Democrats who deliver the goods according to an unusual 80-year study of the impact presidents have on growth, personal wealth, the stock market and even 401ks…according to Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box [by]  financial planner Bob Deitrick… CPA and educator Lew Goldfarb.

Goldfarb blamed the conventional wisdom that Republican presidents are better economic managers on the inability of Democrats to tell their story. “Democrats stand on their message so poorly,” he said. “Republicans, on the other hand, win the salesmanship merit badge every single year.”..

 

Full text

When it comes to which party is better for the economy, Republicans talk the talk, but it’s Democrats who deliver the goods according to an unusual 80-year study of the impact presidents have on growth, personal wealth, the stock market and even 401ks.

The bottom line, according to Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box: Of the five best economic presidents since Herbert Hoover, only one is a Republican. The paydirt finding: $100,000 invested during the 40 years Republicans had the White House would be worth $126,027. The same amount invested in the stock market during the Democrat’s 40 years would be $3,912,210.

“Our book is a myth buster,” said financial planner Bob Deitrick who co-authored Bulls, Bears with CPA and educator Lew Goldfarb.

Goldfarb blamed the conventional wisdom that Republican presidents are better economic managers on the inability of Democrats to tell their story. “Democrats stand on their message so poorly,” he said. “Republicans, on the other hand, win the salesmanship merit badge every single year.”

The duo stumbled on their conclusions while working on a different issue. Researching the impact of politics on stock market trends, Deitrick realized that in the last 80 years, Democrats and Republicans have held the White House 40 years each, minus President Obama’s term. They came up with a ranking system based on stock market returns, personal income, economic growth and business prosperity.

The best period was during the Kennedy-Johnson years, the worst Herbert Hoover, who presided over the Great Depression. In order, the rankings are: JFK/LBJ, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon/Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, and Hoover. Carter was the only Democrat in the bottom half of the list.

Theirs is a non-political book that also suggests that the Democrats have been luckier than the Republicans. Just consider that George H.W. Bush had a flat economy that was starting to surge when Clinton was elected and it roared during his term. By the time George W. Bush took over, the Clinton-era internet bubble had popped and he started two wars. For example, they write, $100,000 invested in 1993 was worth $341,894 at the end of Clinton’s term. Under Bush, that $100,000 was worth $64,990 after his eight years, a difference of $277,000.

The authors omit President Obama because his four years aren’t over, but they paint a conflicted economic picture of his years in office.
http://washingtonexaminer.com/80-year-study-democrats-better-at-economics/article/2505194

Promoting Progressive Values

From Commonweal Institute

Why Values Matter

We all have values, but we don’t all talk about them. Progressives, in particular, are often more inclined to talk about policy and programs than their personal stories and the values that motivate them. We’re missing opportunities to connect with others if we do not express our values.

To a great degree, people decide whom to trust, whom to believe, based on feelings of similarity or kinship – and also on values. Superficial similarities, such as age, sex, clothing, language, are often taken to imply a greater likelihood of similar world view and values.

Polls show that a great many Americans are tired of cultural division and animosity. They seek to move back toward more tolerance and mutual understanding—a greater sense of our common values as Americans–as our country seeks to deal with its present challenges and those of the future.

Values matter to us as individuals as we seek to restore a sense of shared interests, values, and commitment in our society. Each of us can be a part of that healing process. To do that, it is not enough to talk about programs or policies – we need to talk about how we see ourselves as Americans, what are hopes are for the future, and what we have in common with those we’re speaking with.

Progressive Values

Defining the values that underlie and unite the Left has become an urgent question in the past few years. We have come to recognize that, to a great degree, our political choices emerge from our sense of cultural identity and our emotional responses to stories and images, not from ‘rational’ cost-benefit analyses.

Modern Progressive Values: Realizing America’s Potential [1], an analysis of contemporary progressive thought by Institute Fellow Kyle Gillette, was written with the intention of enabling progressives to come together around a common values platform. Dr. Gillette’s report consolidates the work of many other groups and individuals, who have used a variety of methodologies during the past decade to create lists of values. These lists had many similarities, but differences, too. Gillette analyzed their work to identify a set of six core value clusters (three pairs) that define modern progressive thought. 

While each of these six terms might also be used by conservatives, progressives define them differently. Several tendencies, or ‘moral intuitions’, mark these values as different for progressives than for conservatives. These include empathy and responsibility, a proclivity for non-hierarchical patterns, pragmatic attention to real-world problems, acceptance of diversity, and recognition of interdependence.   

These attitudes distinguish the six core values in ways that are uniquely progressive and ground them in human emotion and behavior. Like all values, they are experienced and expressed through emotions, images, narratives, and action.

Freedom / Security

These two core values describe what progressives value for individuals, including what the state allows its citizens to do (speak, marry, travel, etc) and what it protects its citizens from (violence, exploitation, illness, and so on).

Freedom. When progressives say they value Freedom, they mean that they value the Freedom for individuals to do what they wish and to pursue desirable opportunities. Because they respect individual autonomy in matters of political views, religion, and sexuality, progressives believe that the government should give individuals Freedom of choice and speech and allow people to determine the course of their own lives. Freedom extends also to the collective self-determination upon which representative democracy is founded. The differences between what progressives and conservatives mean by “Freedom” have to do with the role of empathy and responsibility, and the definition of who counts as an individual. Progressives value the Freedom to succeed and determine one’s own life, but also Freedom from systems that, left unchecked, create unjust imbalances in economic status.

Security. When progressives say they value Security, they mean that they value Freedom from illness, hunger, violence, war, chance disasters, poverty, exploitation and ignorance. While progressives respect the power of the “free market”, they consider protection from capitalism’s excesses and exploitations crucial to being “free”, since progressives believe that one of the essential roles of government is to provide security against the harm and the vicissitudes of fate. Since such protection is not free, they support taxation for the purpose of providing Security against fate, even if taxation lessens individuals’ right to do what they choose with their money. Security also extends to threats from non-human actors such as natural disasters, illness, and the like. This is why the left regularly promotes policies that benefit emergency response infrastructure, public health, universal healthcare, and social security.

Community / The Commons

This pair of values refers to how citizens relate to one another as groups, and how those groups relate to the resources we all share.

Community. For progressives, to value Community means to value people, human bons, social structures, and healthy families. Progressives particularly value communities characterized by creativity, equality, diversity, and a strong sense of mutual interdependence. It is this “mutuality” more than any other concept that differentiates progressive Community from conservative Community.

Progressives believe that individuals must be responsible, but not only for themselves. Society is responsible for every individual and every individual is responsible for society. Moreover, every individual is responsible for every other individual – it is not merely a bureaucratic or autocratic but more basically a human principle. While conservatives often depict this strong progressive notion of interdependence as a form of socialism, the key human feature derives from empathy and responsibility. Progressives, in contrast to conservatives, value communities in which rules are questioned — where the material demands of the present trump following traditional rules for the mere sake of tradition. The progressive worldview is distinct from both liberalism and conservatism in the sense that it attends more directly to concrete needs than to abstract concepts.

The Commons. The Commons are what we share, what no one can claim as private property and what all of us need to live healthy, happy lives. We need The Commons as individuals and our communities need to use The Commons effectively in order to function and thrive. The Commons include the environment, transportation and power infrastructure, healthcare system, electronic commons, education, language, and cultural heritage. Our government, created by and responsible to the citizenry, is also part of The Commons. What differentiates the progressive value of The Commons is our proclivity to share – to recognize, for example, that not only our families, cities, or countries need access, but that all people do. Progressives recognize that all humans have The Commons in common. To the degree that some individuals exploit the environment more than others, or devote less labor to its preservation, they violate the moral imperative that results from the progressive value of The Commons. Another difference from the conservative view regarding The Commons lies in the size of the Community and the longevity of its benefits. Progressive policies place a much greater emphasis on providing a livable world for future generations.

Truth / Justice

This pair of values pertains to the formal structures of language and law, and is rooted in progressives’ commitment to reason, transparency, and fairness.

Truth. Truth includes not only facts but also more generally a stance of honesty and integrity, transparency in government, and a strong commitment to reason. The progressive version of Truth places a distinct emphasis on telling citizens what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear.

The progressive value of Freedom, though genuine and complete unto itself, both depends upon and supports the value of Truth. Freedoms of speech and the press are only free when what is said or written is true; lies fall under libel and slander laws. Rather than interpreting data according to preconceived ideological positions, even if said positions might support other progressive values, this value of Truth dictates a strong progressive desire for objective and rational analysis. Reason and accuracy, far from being only ideological concepts, are vital to progressivism’s pragmatic character.

Justice. Progressives believe that everyone should play fair, and that the terms of fairness derive neither from birthright nor from mere convention or tradition. The terms of fairness derive rather from a rational sense of Justice that lies beyond power, beyond privilege, and even beyond the traditions established by legal precedent. Progressives gauge the Justice of a law based not merely on its effectiveness at advancing progressive causes or its acceptability within existing legal frameworks, but also and more importantly on the degree to which it makes rational sense, to which it is fair. Justice is akin to Truth’s formal consistency but operates in the realm of the world as it is legislated and lived.

Progressive Values Are American Values

Progressive values are fundamental American values. As the Center for American Progress says [2], “[M]any Americans are positively predisposed toward progressivism as an ideology but… many people remain unaware of its proud past and vision for the future. Progressive reformers at the turn of the 20th century led the charge to create decent working conditions; challenge corporate abuse and special privileges for the wealthy; ensure full equality under law; pass social benefits for the poor, elderly, and unemployed; promote humanitarianism and cooperative security; and implement public interest regulations to protect our natural resources, ensure safe food and medicines, and pave the way for a more humane and efficient economy. These reforms set the stage for broad-based economic growth and increased political equality throughout the 20th century.”

Act on Your Values

Figure out what your values are. If you start with what you care about, ask yourself WHY you care about that. What do you want to have happen in our society? What are you afraid will happen if your values are not acted upon?

Tell stories about how you got your values. Example: “My mom taught me the Golden Rule. That gave me the idea that everyone in our society is basically the same underneath – we all deserve fairness and respect.” When you’re aware of your personal stories, you can bring them into conversations with others. This may lead those people, in turn, to think about their own values and where they got them from.

Be influential [3]. Find ways to join public conversations through which you can spread your progressive values.

Read the full report Modern Progressive Values: Realizing America’s Potential