By Charles Kraft, Board Member
Progressivism, and an actual “Progressive Party,” was born out of the frustration of Republican conservatives with the conditions that created and flowed from the Gilded Age and would eventually result in the Great Depression. Society was divided primarily into “haves” and “have-nots.” Despite there being plenty of “wannabees,” for all kings have their courts, there was no real social mobility, no real way to move up based on hard work and perseverance. Only the extremely rare case of a rags-to-riches success story captivated public attention, but something had to be done to create a real upwardly mobile society before the American experiment in liberal democracy could be considered a success.
Teddy Roosevelt and his Progressive (Bull Moose) Party foresaw the conditions that would ultimately lead to the Great Depression. In spite of all that they created by sheer force of will, the Robber Barons, despite claims that they “built America” were, on some important level actually holding it back.
Christian conservatives (especially white evangelicals) should be considered unreachable for progressive political strategic purposes. However, highly educated, more pragmatic conservatives will be looking for leadership that makes sense in today’s world. It is becoming increasingly clear to them that the end game for religious conservatives was never practical, never achievable. In their zeal to be satisfied by “father figure” leaders, religious conservatives are most susceptible to zealots who use them with no real intention of delivering on their agenda.
Trump is using them the same way they have been used for the past generation, but he is merely stepping it up a few notches to be sure he doesn’t lose them. Whether he delivers on the Christian agenda or not, he will keep their support if he pushes their agenda harder than anyone else and they will be unreachable by pragmatic common sense for the foreseeable future.
Pragmatic conservatives, on the other hand, care primarily about their own personal authority, not the authority of the church or Christ, or God or any “father figure.” They want to BE the strict father in their own domain, with authority primarily over their own lives. These conservatives CAN be reached with appeals to Pragmatic Progressivism.
George Lakoff, https://georgelakoff.com/2016/07/23/understanding-trump-2/
A pragmatic conservative looks out for number 1, not for selfish reasons, but because they are strong, independent authorities for and within their families and their communities. They instinctively recognize that what’s good for them is good for their family and what’s good for their family is good for their communities and ultimately the world around them. They accept the mantle of leadership and the burdens that go with it. There is no greater burden to a pragmatic conservative than the requirement to engage in constant and ongoing competitive battle for financial gain in the dog-eat-dog world of winning and losing.
The pragmatic conservative dedicates their strength of body, mind and spirit to the protection of their family and expect that if everyone else does the same, then there will be no systemic or societal failure. Whether rich or poor, conservatives put themselves and their responsibility to their family and their community at the center of their worldview. They will feign fealty to human superiors or higher powers if that’s what it takes to maintain their power and their control over their family. Their sense of strength and personal power and authority is central to their character and should be honored and respected even while they are gently reminded that no person is an island and their support of family and community must be a two way street based on fair and decent reciprocity.
No conservative will accept an attitude of “entitlement,” but the pragmatic among them will admit that reciprocity on an individual level and within their family and community is all important for the wellbeing of the family, the community and their entire world. It is to the pragmatic conservative’s sense of truth, trust and reciprocity that Centrist Progressives must appeal to finally pull them free of their pointless attachment to any kind of religious sense of conservatism. Progressives cannot hope to compete with authority figures that only confirm biases within the minds of religious conservatives and these folks should be considered unreachable for progressive political strategic purposes.
To the rest of you… join a movement that respects your strength. Together, with a focus on real life conditions and modern science, we will craft pragmatic policy initiatives that truly set the playing field for individual, family, community and societal achievement by those willing and able to do the hard work it takes to succeed. Let’s create a world where the best and the brightest and hardest-working earn the greatest rewards and where free-riders and the less-capable earn at least the opportunity to reach for more good life any time they choose to step up.
If “power corrupts” and “absolute power corrupts absolutely” then the countervailing forces to limit the power of huge corporations and the wealthiest individuals is of paramount importance to Progressive Conservatives. This line of reasoning goes all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt and runs clear through conservative thought all the way up to the Heritage Foundation today….