If it has not already become obvious to most who follow the political machinations of our nation, the inauguration address of President Obama has been hailed by progressives as visionary and encapsulating the best of the American value system, while concurrently being vilified by conservatives as an assault on liberty and contrary to the intent of the founders of this nation.
This isn't the first time that we have heard such stark dichotomies coming from the two ends of the political spectrum. It doesn't make a difference who holds the reins of power, the party out of power finds the policy visions being enumerated to be repugnant.We tend to call these actions to block these visions obstructionism. When we look a bit deeper at what is really going on when this "obstructionism" occurs, we get to the inherent differences between progressive thought and conservative thought.
To be progressive is to recognize that the status quo is never the end of the journey. Each step forward, each step upward is just one on the road to completion of a task. Voting rights were not completed when white landowners had that right; it was better when all white males had that right; it improved more when men of color were given the right to vote, and improved again when women received that right. Are there groups that are still disenfranchised? The progressive would say yes, as the disputes over voter registration and voter rights demonstrate.
To the conservative, however, the status quo is the appropriate completion of the journey for that time. Maintaining my voting expansion example, the early American conservative was satisfied when democracy was instituted in the fledgling America and they believed that the correct segment of the population was given the right to vote. The issue was settled. When men of color were given the vote, there was tremendous conservative outcry that these new potential voters would not use their votes wisely and that they had not earned their votes. It was right before, but would be wrong to expand those rights. By the time the discussion moved to voting rights for women, the conservative argument was that the journey was over when all men had the right to vote. The status quo was working. Now the voter registration and voter rights continue these arguments.
We are involved in a classic push and pull of American politics. Progressives are committed to push us forward. Conservatives are committed to pulling us back. Look at this tug-o-war in almost every one of the contentious issues of the day. The same push and pull is in place. The military is in a struggle to push forward to modernize and get leaner or pull back and increase the size and potency of the weaponry. Individual rights are a struggle to push forward to allow everyone, male, female, gay, straight, etc. to have the absolute control of their own bodies and lives in areas such as marriage, abortion, contraception, etc. or to pull back and allow the states and governmental agencies to control individual access to these rights.
Every one of our political debates are part of the progressive versus conservative push versus pull. Whether we talk education, taxes, foreign policy, climate change. Whether we look at the government's relationship with the church and the various religions that populate our country. To label them as purely obstructionism is wrong. They represent a clash a political philosophies. It is the same clash that the nation has struggled with from day one. The party names and the individuals affiliated with the parties have changed, but they have been progressive versus conservative battles.
This nation has changed direction numerous times. More often then not, the progressive nature of the American people have won the day. We generally take two steps forward and one step back. Our checks and balances system of government doesn't allow the rampant stampede of one philosophy over the other. We pulled back a bit under Reagan and under Bush. The nation has spoken with the election and reelection of President Obama. We are ready to push forward. The time for progress is upon us and as Americans, we should embrace that progress.