Saving America’s Soul – e-letter October 25, 2014

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Saving America’s Soul   Progressive Values e-letter October 25, 2014

We should begin by setting the conscience free. When all men of all religions…shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power…we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society. John Adams 2nd U.S. President

I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another. Thomas Jefferson 3rd U.S. President

A progressive moral vision is deeply connected to the exercise of conscience. Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. Reinhold Niebuhr

background information for a national dialogue about America’s values and future: Saving America’s Soul – - overview – articles and excerpts or quick scan

 Democracy Should Be a Brake on Unbridled Greed and Power by Bill Moyers, Democracy Now, June 8, 2011

The False Equation: Religion Equals Morality by Gwynne Dyer, CommonDreams.org, December 19, 2011 -

Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America By – CJ Werleman, Alternet.org, November 26, 2013

72% of Americans Disapprove of Republican Party…but it’s Set to Take Control of Both Houses of Congress Anyway posted on The Christian Left, Facebook, September 13, 2014 from AllGov.com

False facts and the conservative distortion machine: It’s much more than just Fox News by Paul Rosenberg, Salon.Com, Aug 18, 2014

Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment by John Atcheson, Common Dreams, June 18, 2012 — We are witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world… Much of what has made the modern world in general, and the United States in particular, a free and prosperous society comes directly from insights that arose during the Enlightenment. Too bad we’re chucking it all out and returning to the Dark Ages…Now, we seek to operate by revealed truths, not reality. Decrees from on high – often issued by an unholy alliance of religious fundamentalists, self-interested corporations, and greedy fat cats – are offered up as reality by rightwing politicians…

The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party by Joan Bokaer, TheocracyWatch.org, 2008

The Long, Sordid History of the American Right and Racism By Robert Parry,   Consortium News May 20, 2013

Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control — And Why We’ll Still Be Fighting About it 100 Years From Now By Sara Robinson, AlterNet, February 15, 2012

How Propagandists for the 1% Are Manipulating Christian Teachings to Rob the Middle Class By Michael Meurer, Truthout, posted on Alternet.org, October 17, 2012

Wall or no wall, politics and religion have always been inextricably intertwined, and we won’t win until we recognize and deal with that fact. Why Progressives Can’t Ignore Religion by Mike Lux, AlterNet, February 27, 2012

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soul: a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional nature; the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.; the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe; the moral and emotional nature of human beings merriam-webster.com

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…. Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

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From the editor, Phyllis Stenerson: This information is so important you need to learn it from a broad range of reliable sources. In the many times I’ve tried to write a succinct overview about our democracy being seriously threatened by the accelerating extremism of the Republican Party, I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude and tend to go on, and on, and on. When I first became aware of the gravity of this movement, particularly the manipulation of religion, I didn’t want to believe my head and heart (soul) screaming “This is so wrong.” Now the evidence is conclusive. Fueling culture wars using revisionist history, religion , women’s rights -  and race  as emotional wedge issues – is despicable. Thank you independent media for investigative, honest journalism. The impact is already disastrous, especially for children – /generational-justice/ , minorities and the planet and will get worse. It is the civic and moral responsibility of citizens – /citizenship/ who believe in America’s founding vision of religious pluralism and shared opportunity to fight back against extremists. Thank you for your attention. * * * * * -

The Constitution is inherently progressive by John Podesta and John Halpin, Politico.com, October 10, 2011 – …As progressives, we believe in using the ingenuity of the private sector and the positive power of government to advance common purposes and increase freedom and opportunity…Coupled with basic beliefs in fair play, openness, cooperation and human dignity, it is this progressive vision that in the past century helped build the strongest economy in history and allowed millions to move out of poverty and into the middle class …the story of America has also been the story of a good nation, conceived in liberty and equality, eventually welcoming every American into the arms of democracy, protecting their freedoms and expanding their economic opportunities…

At the heart of The American Soul (by Jacob Needleman) is a call to rediscover the timeless truths hidden within the founding vision of the American nation. Embedded in the ideals of democracy, individual liberty and freedom of conscience is a view of human nature that echoes essential aspects of the wisdom that has guided every great civilization of the world… – The Inward Work of Democracy, On Being with Krista Tippet, June 28, 2012

Crimes Against the Soul of America by Caroline Myss, Huffington Post, September 5, 2009 There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that diminish the strength, the integrity, and the overall well-being of a nation’s inner core…A conscious effort to “dumb down” the education of this nation qualifies as a crime against the soul of America.

The Sociopathic 1 Percent: The Driving Force at the Heart of the Tea Party By Paul Rosenberg, Salon.com, March 8, 2014 ……sociopaths are defined by their lack of empathy, conscience or any form of intuitive social awareness… It’s a mindset devoid of empathy or conscience, for whom other people simply are not real, a mindset that has gripped us collectively, ever more tightly, over the past 30 to 40 years…

Has Neoliberalism Turned Us All Into Psychopaths? By Paul Verhaeghe – The Guardian -  , posted on Alternet.org, October 2, 2014 …economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatization have taken their toll…

The Progressive Conscience in Action by Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Center for American Progress, April 6, 2009 …For progressives, a crucial guiding principle in regard to public policy is to secure the common good while protecting individual liberty to the fullest extent possible. The progressive understanding of the “common good” is based on the conviction that not only is each individual endowed with human dignity, purpose, and worth, but also that human society as a whole should reflect these characteristics. Therefore, human beings together should strive to realize social relations based on these universal values…

Wasn’t Jesus A Liberal? by Gary Vance, The Christian Left, August 4, 2014 Liberalism has been under assault for years now. The battering of this grand political philosophy has altered the contemporary definition of liberal to the point that Conservatives use it as a profane word……Jesus was the ultimate liberal progressive revolutionary of all history…It is time for Christians of conscience to stand up to religious and political hypocrisy.

The Koch Brothers’ 3-Step Plan to Conquer the Next Generation  By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News, September 14, 2014 1. Defund Public Schools 2. Make Schools Dependent on Private Entities for Money 3. Ingrain students with Greed-Based Ideology -

The Spirit That Drove Us to Civil War Is Back by Andy Schmookler, Huffington Post, 9/2/2014 …the force that drove us to Civil War more than a century and a half ago, and the force that has taken over the Republican Party in our times…In both cases, we see an elite insisting on their “liberty,” by which they mean the freedom to dominate…

The Worst Ideas of the Decade — The prosperity gospel by Cathleen Falsani, Washington Post, December 2009 …The “prosperity gospel,” an insipid heresy whose popularity among American Christians has boomed in recent years, teaches that God blesses those God favors most with material wealth….Told that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and favor…

The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government by Chris Hedges -  , TruthDig.com -  , posted on CommonDreams.org, October 7, 2013…This ideology calls on anointed “Christian” leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation “biblical.”… The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it… are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous.

America’s War for Reality by Robert Parry , January 15, 2013 by Consortium News -  — The real struggle confronting the United States… is testing whether fact-based people have the same determination to fight for their real-world view as those who operate in a fact-free space do in defending their illusions…..Simply put, the Right fights harder for its fantasy land than the rest of America does for the real world …The country is going to need its conscious inhabitants of the real world to stand up with at least the same determination as the deluded denizens of the made-up world. Of course, this fight will be nasty and unpleasant. It will require resources, patience and toughness. But there is no other answer. Reality must be recovered and protected – if the planet and the children are to be saved.

Idealism, Conscience And The Spiritual Left by William Horden, Huffington Post, March 1, 2010 …Rooted deep in the grain of American culture, the Spiritual Left has long acted as the progressive conscience of the nation…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…

Phyllis Stenerson, Paideia LLC  612.331.1929 – phyllis@progressivevalues.org  – http://www.ProgressiveValues.org

Paideia (pu-di’uh) is an ancient Greek philosophy of educating for citizenship to create an ideal society

Fair Use Notice: These pages contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit for educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C. § 107. The many wise and articulate writers who share their knowledge with the public via the internet are profoundly appreciated. If any writer wishes to have their content amended or removed, please contact the editor at – phyllis@progressivevales.org phyllis@progressivevales.org. Thank you.

Liberals, conservatives differ in estimating consensus within their group

By Susan Perry, MinnPost.com, 11/26/13

A key difference on thinking about consensus may help explain why the conservative Tea Party movement was able to gain political traction while the liberal Occupy Wall Street movement did not.

As I’ve mentioned before in this column, recent years have seen an explosion of research into the psychological underpinnings of the ideological differences between liberals and conservatives.

These studies have found in general that conservatives tend to be more fearful of threats and losses, less tolerant of ambiguity, and more likely to value order, structure and stability. They are also more likely to develop punitive judgments about people who violate social norms.

Liberals, on the other hand, tend to be more open to new experiences, more accepting of ambiguity and change, and more egalitarian in their attitudes toward others.

Well, you can add another differing psychological characteristic to that list. For a new study has found that conservatives and liberals also vary significantly from each other in how they estimate the percentage of people who share their opinions on politics and other topics.

Conservatives tend to overestimate the similarity of their views to other conservatives, while liberals tend to underestimate the similarity of their views to other liberals.

According to the team of New York University researchers who conducted the study, this difference may help explain why the conservative Tea Party movement was able to gain political traction while the liberal Occupy Wall Street movement did not:

At the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, the liberal movement had garnered mass support and possessed potential for enacting meaningful change. However, supporters of the movement struggled to develop consensus on both large-scale (e.g., creating a shared agenda) and small-scale (e.g., determining how to respond to the New York City Police Department’s request to take down signs) issues, which hindered the movement’s ability to progress toward social change. … In contrast, supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement reached consensus on important goals and successfully founded a congressional caucus.

The inability of liberal Occupy Wall Street protestors to achieve consensus on vital issues ultimately contributed to the movement’s failure to develop solidarity and enact political change. Although developing actual consensus within a group’s ranks is important for mobilizing collective action, research has shown that perceiving consensus — even if that perception is not entirely grounded in reality — is similarly a vital step in motivating collective social change.

Two separate studies

The published study actually contains two separate but closely related studies. The first study involved 292 volunteer participants (171 women, 121 men); the second, 287 participants (162 women, 125 men). All participants were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk online survey website. They ranged in age from 18 to 82, but the mean age in both studies was 35.

When asked to describe their ideology, 137 of the first study’s participants said they were liberal, 93 said they moderate and 62 said they were conservative. In the second study, the numbers were similar: 125 identified themselves as liberal, 96 as moderate and 66 as conservative.

Participants in both studies were asked to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with 41 statements, some political (“American should strive to strengthen its military”) and some nonpolitical (“I like poetry”). They were also asked to estimate the percentage of other people who share their political persuasion would agree with each statement  — a measure of perceived in-group consensus. Study one’s participants were asked to make this estimate in reference to other people participating in the study. Study two’s participants were asked to do it in reference to Americans in general.

Study’s two’s participants also completed a standardized questionnaire designed to evaluate individuals’ “need for uniqueness.”

Findings

Both studies found that moderates and conservatives tended to perceive their beliefs as being more similar to those of others in their political groups than they actually were — evidence of what psychologists refer to as the “false-consensus effect.”

Liberals, on the other hand, generally perceived their beliefs to be less similar to those of other liberals than they actually were, thus displaying an effect that psychologists refer to as “truly false uniqueness.”

Liberals did this in part, the research also revealed, because they possess a stronger desire to feel unique than do moderates and conservatives. (Other research has shown that additional motivations, such as the need for closure and a desire to avoid uncertainty, may also explain why liberals and conservatives differ in the accuracy of their similarity estimates.)

Political implications

The current study’s findings are undoubtedly provocative. They may also have important political implications, as the NYU researchers explain:

Liberals’ greater desire for uniqueness likely undermines their ability to capitalize on the consensus that actually exists within their ranks and hinders successful group mobilization, whereas moderates’ and conservatives’ weaker desire to feel unique (i.e., greater desire to conform) could work to their advantage by allowing them to perceive consensus that does not actually exist and, in turn, rally their base.

In recent years, America has seen the demise of media outlets in which liberal commentators and listeners provided similar positions on political issues (e.g., Air America), whereas their conservative counterparts (e.g., The Rush Limbaugh Show on the radio and The O’Reilly Factor on television) continue to thrive and create influential political discourse. The present research suggests that the failure of media outlets that promote consensual opinions among liberals may be due in part to liberals’ greater desire to develop beliefs and preferences unique from those of other liberals.

As political movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party continue to develop over the coming years, dispositional motivations associated with the political ideologies of the movements’ members could inform the extent to which members accurately perceive the consensus that exists within their ranks and ultimately affect the groups’ ability to strive toward and successfully achieve collective goals.

The study was published online Nov. 18 in Psychological Science, a journal published the the Association for Psychological Science.

http://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2013/11/liberals-conservatives-differ-estimating-consensus-within-their-group?utm_source=MinnPost+e-mail+newsletters&utm_campaign=ab7fc3a1a1-12_1_2013_Sunday_Review11_27_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3631302e9c-ab7fc3a1a1-123367202

The Two Political Parties Are Remarkably Far Apart on Basic Issues

By David Morris, Institute for Local Self Reliance, June 18, 2013 – The following content was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website [2]. posted on Alternet,org

Excerpt

The gridlock that plagues Washington leads many, fairly or unfairly, to lump together the two parties and declare a pox on both their houses.  But most state governments are not gridlocked. Just the opposite.  In almost two thirds one party controls both legislative houses (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature) and the governorship:  Republicans 20, Democrats 13. In these states, parties can translate ideology into policies virtually unimpeded.  An examination of these policies allows us to get behind the name-calling and 30-second sound bites and discover the remarkable difference between the two parties on fundamental issues.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats is not on the size of government but the purpose and goals of government.  Both parties believe in taxing heavily and spending lavishly when it comes to protecting our nation from external attack.  Both parties fervently embrace the Declaration of Independence’s insistence that among our “unalienable rights” are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  But their conceptions of security and liberty differ radically…What Democrats see as steps to enhance security Republicans view as steps that restrict libertyIt is important to note that these Republican actions often result less in a tax reduction than in a tax shift from income taxes to sales or property taxes that burden lower income households most heavily…One could hope that in 2014 the stark evidence emerging from state capitols about the difference between the parties can lay the foundation for a nationwide debate on the purpose of government and the ends to which collective authority should aspire that goes beyond the are-you-for-it-or-against-it attitude that contaminates and diminishes that debate.

Full text

The gridlock that plagues Washington leads many, fairly or unfairly, to lump together the two parties and declare a pox on both their houses.  But most state governments are not gridlocked. Just the opposite.  In almost two thirds one party controls both legislative houses (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature) and the governorship:  Republicans 20, Democrats 13.

In these states, parties can translate ideology into policies virtually unimpeded.  An examination of these policies allows us to get behind the name-calling and 30-second sound bites and discover the remarkable difference between the two parties on fundamental issues.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats is not on the size of government but the purpose and goals of government.  Both parties believe in taxing heavily and spending lavishly when it comes to protecting our nation from external attack.  Both parties fervently embrace the Declaration of Independence’s insistence that among our “unalienable rights” are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  But their conceptions of security and liberty differ radically.

Democrats believe that governments should not only secure our borders but also advance our personal security.  As reflected in recently enacted state laws, that belief translates into policies extending health care access to as many as possible, raising the minimum wage and expanding unemployment insurance. Republicans vigorously oppose this use of government.  They insist we should not be compelled to be our brothers’ keeper. Of the 13 states that so far have refused the federal government’s offer to pay 100 percent of the costs of expanding health care coverage to millions of their residents, for example, Republicans dominate 12.  All six of the states that are leaning that way are Republican controlled.

What Democrats see as steps to enhance security Republicans view as steps that restrict liberty.  They assert that government-created health exchanges interfere with the right of insurance companies to manage their own affairs while the requirement that everyone have health insurance constitutes an act of tyranny.  Minimum wage laws interfere with the economic liberty of business and the freedom of the marketplace.

Republicans argue that taxes, especially those that tax the rich at higher rates than the poor, interfere with our liberty to pursue happiness by amassing unrestrained wealth.   In the last legislative session Democrat-controlled California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota raised the income tax rate on millionaires while in the last two legislative sessions, Republican-controlled Kansas reduced such rates by 75 percent and legislators in Kansas as well as in North Carolina and Nebraska are openly pushing for the complete elimination of the income tax.

It is important to note that these Republican actions often result less in a tax reduction than in a tax shift from income taxes to sales or property taxes that burden lower income households most heavily.

When it comes to personal liberty, however, Republicans believe in big government. As former Republican Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum observed, “The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire.”  Even if their wants or passions do not harm others.

This legislative session Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota joined 9 other states and the District of Columbia in extending the freedom to marry to include those of the same sex. Meanwhile, of the 25 states with constitutional prohibitions on same sex marriage, 22 are completely controlled by Republicans.  None are Democrat dominant.

Of the 17 states that have enacted medical marijuana laws, 10 are Democratic and only two are Republican. (The rest are not controlled by a single party.) As if to put an exclamation point on this difference, the same day last November that voters in Washington and Colorado approved the legalization of marijuana, voters in Arkansas handily defeated a proposal to allow the drug to be used for medicinal purposes with a doctor’s prescription.

Gun control is an issue that for Republicans and Democrats affects both liberty and security. For Republicans the ability to own unlimited numbers of guns and carry them whenever and wherever one wants with a minimum of government oversight, constitutes an essential part of freedom while allowing the owner to protect herself from physical harm.  For Democrats widespread gun ownership significantly contributes to physical violence inside and outside the gun owner’s household; thus in this case unrestrained liberty must give way to regulation.

In this legislative session while Democratic states like New York and Connecticut and Maryland tightened gun laws, more than a dozen GOP states scaled back their already minimal gun laws. Statistician Nate Silver insists, “Whether someone owns a gun is a more powerful predictor of a person’s political party than her gender, whether she identifies as gay or lesbian, whether she is Hispanic (or) whether she lives in the south…”

For both Democrats and Republicans liberty means being able to participate in influencing the political decisions that affect our lives and futures.  But here again their conception of liberty differs significantly. For Republicans it means the liberty of money, allowing individuals to spend unlimited amounts to elect candidates and lobby legislators while restricting the liberty of people by making voter access more difficult.  For Democrats it means the opposite.

Recently Colorado, Delaware and Maryland have enacted laws making it easier for people to register and vote while Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Virginia have made it harder. Nine of ten states that have voter photo ID laws are Republican dominated.

One could hope that in 2014 the stark evidence emerging from state capitols about the difference between the parties can lay the foundation for a nationwide debate on the purpose of government and the ends to which collective authority should aspire that goes beyond the are-you-for-it-or-against-it attitude that contaminates and diminishes that debate.

 

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/democrats-and-republicans-differ-drastically-liberty-and-security

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/david-morris
[2] http://www.ilsr.org/liberty-security-democrats-republicans-differ/:
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/arkansas
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/candidate-position
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/colorado
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/connecticut
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/declaration-independence
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/delaware-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/democratic-party
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/district-columbia
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/indiana
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/institute-local-self-reliance
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/kansas
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/maryland
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/massachusetts-0
[16] http://www.alternet.org/tags/minnesota
[17] http://www.alternet.org/tags/nate-silver
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/nebraska
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/new-york
[20] http://www.alternet.org/tags/north-carolina
[21] http://www.alternet.org/tags/person-career
[22] http://www.alternet.org/tags/person-location
[23] http://www.alternet.org/tags/political-parties-united-states
[24] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-0
[25] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-party
[26] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-senator
[27] http://www.alternet.org/tags/rhode-island
[28] http://www.alternet.org/tags/rick-santorum-0
[29] http://www.alternet.org/tags/statistician
[30] http://www.alternet.org/tags/tennessee
[31] http://www.alternet.org/tags/virginia-0
[32] http://www.alternet.org/tags/washington-0
[33] http://www.alternet.org/tags/candidate
[34] http://www.alternet.org/tags/federal-government
[35] http://www.alternet.org/tags/health-insurance
[36] http://www.alternet.org/tags/insurance-0
[37] http://www.alternet.org/tags/unemployment-insurance-0
[38] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Why Ultra-Conservatives Like the Sequester

by George Lakoff, February 26, 2013 by Common Dreams

Excerpt

Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and other major economists have pointed out that the deficit is not an urgent economic problem and that, to the contrary, the economy would be helped by an increase in public investment and harmed by drastic cuts. The Sequester would hurt the economy, millions of people, and the country as a whole.

President Obama has detailed the vast range of harms that the sequester would bring. They are well-known. And they are not necessary. The president sees the sequester, if it happens, as an enormous self-inflicted wound, inflicted on America by a Republican-dominated House elected by Americans.

But pointing out Republican-caused harms to millions of people — many of them Republicans — does not sway the ultra-right. Why? Democratic pundits say that Republicans want to hurt the president, to show government doesn’t work by making it not work, and to protect “special interests” from higher taxes. All true. But there is an additional and deeper reason. Ultra-conservatives believe that the sequester is moral, that it is the right thing to do.

Progressives tend to believe that democracy is based on citizens caring for their fellow citizens through what the government provides for all citizens…progressives believe that the private depends on the public…They believe that those who make more from public provisions should pay more to maintain them.

Ultra-conservatives don’t believe this. They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them. They take this as a matter of morality. They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.

Their moral sense requires that they do all they can to make the government fail in providing for the common good. Their idea of liberty is maximal personal responsibility, which they see as maximal privatization — and profitization — of all that we do for each other together, jointly as a unified nation… In the long run, they believe, the country will be better off if everyone has to depend on personal responsibility alone.

Moreover, ultra-conservatives do not see all the ways in which they, and other ultra-conservatives, rely all day every day on what other Americans have supplied for them. They actually believe that they built it all by themselves…

It is mostly about what they see as the right direction for the country: maximal elimination of the public sphere.

In short, they have an ideology that partially, but only partially, fits what half of our population believes. Overall, it actually fits what about 20 to 30 percent of the population totally believes. Both total progressives and partial progressives don’t want to see millions of folks hurt and the economy hurt as well. But thanks to Republican gerrymandering at the state level, progressives and partial progressives do not control Congress.

This is the real picture and few people in public life dare to tell it…Democratic messaging hasn’t gotten to the heart of the problem: the real moral divide in America. Democratic messaging, in blaming Republicans in Congress for the harm to come, just offends Republicans and fails to speak to moral divide at the heart of our public life.Would addressing it help? I think so, if it is done with the appropriate sensitivity.

Full text

Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and other major economists have pointed out that the deficit is not an urgent economic problem and that, to the contrary, the economy would be helped by an increase in public investment and harmed by drastic cuts. The Sequester would hurt the economy, millions of people, and the country as a whole.

President Obama has detailed the vast range of harms that the sequester would bring. They are well-known. And they are not necessary. The president sees the sequester, if it happens, as an enormous self-inflicted wound, inflicted on America by a Republican-dominated House elected by Americans.

But pointing out Republican-caused harms to millions of people — many of them Republicans — does not sway the ultra-right. Why? Democratic pundits say that Republicans want to hurt the president, to show government doesn’t work by making it not work, and to protect “special interests” from higher taxes. All true. But there is an additional and deeper reason. Ultra-conservatives believe that the sequester is moral, that it is the right thing to do.

Progressives tend to believe that democracy is based on citizens caring for their fellow citizens through what the government provides for all citizens — public infrastructure, public safety, public education, public health, publicly-sponsored research, public forms of recreation and culture, publicly-guaranteed safety nets for those who need them, and so on. In short, progressives believe that the private depends on the public, that without those public provisions Americans cannot be free to live reasonable lives and to thrive in private business. They believe that those who make more from public provisions should pay more to maintain them.

Ultra-conservatives don’t believe this. They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them. They take this as a matter of morality. They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.

Their moral sense requires that they do all they can to make the government fail in providing for the common good. Their idea of liberty is maximal personal responsibility, which they see as maximal privatization — and profitization — of all that we do for each other together, jointly as a unified nation.

They also believe that if people are hurt by government failure, it is their own fault for being “on the take” instead of providing for themselves. People who depend on public provisions should suffer. They should have rely on themselves alone — learn personal responsibility, just as Romney said in his 47 percent speech. In the long run, they believe, the country will be better off if everyone has to depend on personal responsibility alone.

Moreover, ultra-conservatives do not see all the ways in which they, and other ultra-conservatives, rely all day every day on what other Americans have supplied for them. They actually believe that they built it all by themselves.

So for them the sequester is not a “self-inflicted wound.” It is justice. The sequester is not merely about protecting “special interests.” It is about the good people who pursued their self-interest successfully, got rich, and have acted “morally” in avoiding taxes that pay for public provisions by the government.

They are not merely trying to harm their own constituents just to hurt the president politically. Yes, they think hurting the president politically is moral, and they believe that any constituents they are hurting need to become more personally responsible. They see the sequester as serving that purpose.

In short, the sequester is not just about money and political power for the republicans in the House. It is mostly about what they see as the right direction for the country: maximal elimination of the public sphere.

In short, they have an ideology that partially, but only partially, fits what half of our population believes. Overall, it actually fits what about 20 to 30 percent of the population totally believes. Both total progressives and partial progressives don’t want to see millions of folks hurt and the economy hurt as well. But thanks to Republican gerrymandering at the state level, progressives and partial progressives do not control Congress.

This is the real picture and few people in public life dare to tell it. It is more convenient, and less scary, to think that all that is involved is money and politics as usual. That’s what current Democratic messaging says. Democratic messaging hasn’t gotten to the heart of the problem: the real moral divide in America. Democratic messaging, in blaming Republicans in Congress for the harm to come, just offends Republicans and fails to speak to moral divide at the heart of our public life.

Would addressing it help? I think so, if it is done with the appropriate sensitivity.

George Lakoff is the author of The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic (co-authored with Elizabeth Wehling). His previous books include Moral Politics, Don’t Think of an Elephant!, Whose Freedom? and Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute staff). He is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.

 

Obama’s mainstream pitch

By Kenneth S. Baer, Washington Post, January 23, 2010

Kenneth S. Baer is a managing director of the Harbour Group and the author of “Reinventing Democrats: The Politics of Liberalism from Reagan to Clinton.” He is a former associate director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama administration.

If you missed Barack Obama’s inaugural address on Monday, you might have thought that it was George McGovern who took the oath of office.

“Unabashedly progressive,” said ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl; “President Obama goes on the offense for liberalism,” Politico proclaimed. A day later, Republicans jumped on board. “His unabashedly far-left-of-center inaugural speech certainly brings back memories of the Democratic Party in ages past,” thundered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum said the speech “rejected and repudiated the ideas that have dominated American political discourse since the Carter presidency. It rejected not only Reagan, but Clinton.” Former Nixon and Reagan aide David Gergen concluded: “Gone were the third way of Bill Clinton and the centrism of Jimmy Carter. He emerged as an unapologetic, unabashed liberal — just what the left has long wanted him to be and exactly what the right has feared.”

Yet Obama’s address was firmly in the mainstream — of both the country and the Democratic Party, which has absorbed the lessons of its post-1968 defeats and synthesized into its core the New Democratic values of the Clinton era. The speech sounded so robustly liberal not because the president or his party has changed but because the Republican Party has, moving far outside the norms of American political thought.

Defending the idea of a social safety net to guard against the vagaries of life is hardly radical. President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law extensions of Social Security; President Ronald Reagan worked with House Speaker Tip O’Neill to save Social Security in 1983; President George W. Bush created the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

But in a world in which Republicans have endorsed a budget that would eviscerate Medicaid and turn it into a block grant and that would change Medicare into a voucher program whose value would quickly be overtaken by inflation, protecting the integrity of these programs suddenly sounds bold. Note that Obama did not say these programs were immune from reform. And while an inaugural address is hardly the place to rattle off numbers, Obama could have added that last year he put forward $350 billion in health entitlement savings on top of the $716 billion in Medicare savings he signed into law in his first term, cuts that Republicans tried to use as a cudgel against Democrats last year.

Did Obama call for a new entitlement to deal with our economic woes? No.

In fact, keeping with the New Democratic approach, Obama rejected the old-time religion of equality of outcome and framed his vision as one of equality of opportunity: “We must . . . empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American.” Obama put forward neither a new government agency nor a guarantee of success. “Hard work and personal responsibility,” Obama reminded us, “are constants in our character.” Rather than relaunch the War on Poverty, Obama’s economic focus was the middle class and those striving to get there.

These differences may sound subtle, but they were an important shift in the Democratic Party’s public philosophy. In the 1990s, this change was controversial (recall the fight over welfare reform), but now it is easy to miss because opportunity and responsibility are so deeply embedded in the party’s DNA.

Defending a safety net and calling for opportunity for all is nothing new, though Obama’s call for full equality for gay and lesbian Americans is. Yet this, along with the calls for equal pay for women, welcoming immigrants and action on climate change, is radical only if viewed through the oversize tortoise-shell glasses of the 1980s.

The country has changed. In a turnabout from the past, these social issues cut against the GOP — not the Democratic Party. In the 1980s, a New Democrat would counsel against even mentioning these issues. Today, one of the most effective advocates for gay marriage is the preeminent New Democratic institution Third Way.

Perspective is everything in assessing Obama’s second inaugural address. One cannot ignore how the Republican Party’s move to the right has shifted the parameters of political debate. On economic policy, the president is in line with the bipartisan, postwar consensus on the safety net and with the New Democratic view on government’s role in the economy. On social issues, he is firmly in the mainstream and hardly a McGovernik.

But don’t believe me. Listen to Newt Gingrich: “I didn’t think it was very liberal,” he told Politico. “There were one or two sentences obviously conservatives would object to, but 95 percent of the speech I thought was classically American, emphasizing hard work, emphasizing self-reliance, emphasizing doing things together. I thought it was a good speech.”

So did I.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-mainsteam-pitch/2013/01/23/0bcce614-657a-11e2-9e1b-07db1d2ccd5b_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wp_login_redirect=0

Justice and Prosperity

Editorial, New York Times, January 22, 2013

Mini-excerpt

[President] Obama and [Chief Justice] Roberts visions of Amer­ica are very dif­fer­ent. No dis­agree­ment is more fun­da­men­tal than that about the con­nec­tion between jus­tice and prosperity. To Mr. Obama, pros­per­ity enables jus­tice and vice versa…Roberts… has reg­u­larly ruled as if jus­tice and pros­per­ity are unre­lated or even anti­thet­i­cal…The con­nec­tion between jus­tice and pros­per­ity is clear and strong….jus­tice of all kinds, espe­cially social jus­tice, is an essen­tial means of achiev­ing prosperity…

Excerpt

…As the president’s Inaugural Address made plain and as important rulings of the Roberts court show, the Obama and Roberts visions of America are very different. No disagreement is more fundamental than that about the connection between justice and prosperity.

To Mr. Obama, prosperity enables justice and vice versa...The Roberts court, on the other hand, with the chief justice in the majority, has regularly ruled as if justice and prosperity are unrelated or even antitheticalThe connection between justice and prosperity is clear and strong. “Economic growth,” the scholar Benjamin Friedman documented, “more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness and dedication to democracy.” And justice of all kinds, especially social justice, is an essential means of achieving prosperity…

Full text

When Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. congratulated President Obama after he completed his oath of office on Monday, Americans heard the cordial, affirming voice that regularly fills the courtroom of the Supreme Court. But the chief justice’s graciousness did not mean he was endorsing the president or his views.

As the president’s Inaugural Address made plain and as important rulings of the Roberts court show, the Obama and Roberts visions of America are very different. No disagreement is more fundamental than that about the connection between justice and prosperity.

To Mr. Obama, prosperity enables justice and vice versa. Persuasively, he said in his address, “Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.” He also said, “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else.” And commitments to justice, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, he said, “do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

The Roberts court, on the other hand, with the chief justice in the majority, has regularly ruled as if justice and prosperity are unrelated or even antithetical — by protecting large corporations from class-action lawsuits; by making it much harder for private lawsuits to succeed against mutual fund malefactors, even when they have admitted to lying and cheating; or by allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns and advance their narrow interests by exerting influence unjustly over government.

When the chief justice cast his critical vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act last June, he made clear that he did not favor the law, which is the most important commitment to justice and prosperity so far of the Obama administration. He wrote tartly, “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

The connection between justice and prosperity is clear and strong. “Economic growth,” the scholar Benjamin Friedman documented, “more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness and dedication to democracy.” And justice of all kinds, especially social justice, is an essential means of achieving prosperity, as economic progress in the South demonstrated after the civil rights laws brought racial progress.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the coming months about the continuing need for a critical section of the Voting Rights Act that prevents racial discrimination and about the basic rights of gay Americans. Those cases are unquestionably about justice and fundamental issues of fairness. But their outcomes will inevitably affect prosperity as well, because they deal with issues of participation in American society and, as a result, in the American economy.

The cameras lingered on President Obama after the inaugural ceremony just before he entered the Capitol, as he turned back toward the Mall and took in the crowd of a million or so of the American people whose general welfare he again swore to promote. When Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath, he had a similar chance to be reminded of the multitudes to whom the Supreme Court pledges “Equal Justice Under Law” — and to be reminded of the strong link between justice and prosperity.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/opinion/justice-and-prosperity-defined-by-obama-and-roberts.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130123&_r=0

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