Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Can Progressives and Conservatives Speak Each Other's Language?


By Winslow Myers

There is big money in polarization, as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and
other media kingpins understand all too well. But one of the many
tragic by-products of our polarized political culture is the
demonization of conservatives by progressives. Left-leaners are often
convinced that those on the right are all greedy, fearful militarists
without consciousness or conscience—a grotesque and insulting

My late father was a lifelong Republican who delighted in undermining
the conservative stereotype. He once returned from a trip to Nicaragua
and scandalized his Rotary group by asserting that he hadn’t met a
single communist down there, just a lot of farmers who wanted some
land to cultivate peacefully.

As a self-defined progressive, I am mightily tired of preaching to the
choir, my small circle of all-too-like-minded liberal friends. I am
eager for dialogue with thoughtful people who still carry the same
torch my father did for fiscal prudence, smaller government,
incremental change—and caution in our international adventures.

As Kevin Zeese writes in his article “The Anti-War Peace Movement
Needs a Restart”: “There is a long history of
opposition to war among traditional conservatives. Their philosophy
goes back to President Washington's Farewell Address where he urged
America to avoid ‘foreign entanglements.’ It has showed itself
throughout American history. The Anti-Imperialist League opposed the
colonialism of the Philippines in the 1890s. The largest antiwar
movement in history, the America First Committee, opposed World War II
and had a strong Middle America conservative foundation in its makeup.
The strongest speech of an American president against militarism was
President Eisenhower's 1961 final speech from the White House warning
America against the growing military-industrial complex.”

For twenty-five years I have volunteered for an organization called
Beyond War, which began with the assumption that preventing the world
from blowing up just might be an issue of equal interest across the
political spectrum. Some of us were Democrats and some were
Republicans. In 1988 we even gave our annual Beyond War Award to
Ronald Reagan (and Mikhail Gorbachev)—not because we assented to
everything Reagan did, but because Reagan had bravely taken the
political risk of changing his mind about the “evil empire,”
responding positively to Gorbachev’s ”new thinking.”

Liberal members of our organization peeled away in droves after that
award, demonstrating among other things that they hadn’t
understood—stood under, or stood behind—what the organization stood
for: thinking big enough to transcend polarization.

The opportunity is to cut through the foggy distraction of polarized
stereotyping to a common vision of enlightened self-interest. One
conservative thinker who has done this effectively is Andrew Bacevich,
an ex-marine and Professor of International Relations at Boston
University. His book “The Limits of Power: The End of American
Exceptionalism,” should be required reading for left- and
right-leaners alike. Bacevich argues that American military adventures
are directly related to our domestic culture of over-extension, our
desire to have it all and put off paying the economic and military and
environmental bills that inevitably come due.

Progressives have an opportunity to get off their high horses and
reach out to mainstream Americans who are perfectly capable of seeing
that it is hardly in their interest to saddle their children with
trillion dollar deficits caused by dubious wars without end—wars which
create more terrorists than they kill.

Winslow Myers, the author of “Living Beyond War, A Citizen’s Guide,”
lives in Boston and serves on the Board of Beyond War, a non-profit
educational foundation.

Labels don't help much.

We're too quick to define the conservative through the images of the Bush administration and the Teabaggers, which are like a form of tunnel vision. The word itself is loaded, whether it's being use by a self-defined conservative or one who is attempting to define a conservative. I liked the examples of conservatives in the article who are/were against reckless foreign intervention. Ironically, there are groups of self-described progressives who are cheering on the Afghanistan invasion, excuse my politically incorrect but accurate designation. And yes, knee jerking is not a trait exclusive to ilk like Teabaggers but very readily observable in some left-leaning online postings

Thanks for the centrist views, but no thanks.

The difference between you and I - a stalwart progressive - is that I never would have honored Reagen for doing one good thing amid the many bad things he said and did.

This isn't kindergarden. What you do with bad kids is remove them from the classroom, temporarily or permanently, so the rest of the class can move on.

And as for your snarky comment that progressives outght to get off their high horse, that makes about as much sense as me telling Senator Jeff Sessions to cut the drawl out of his speeches.

What you need a little more of is respect, for those who disagree with you.

Nationalism is not terrorism. And an adversary is not an enemy.

Stalwart Progressive?

While I understand your view, I look at the anti-war, pro-peace movement and do not see a lot of success.

We are excluding Middle American and traditional conservative views.

War is so ugly, so damaging to human life, national security, world stability, rule of law, undermining our economy . . . that we need to get serious about ending it. At least making sure the U.S. stops the ongoing wars of aggression, i.e. wars when we are not attacked and there is no UN resolution allowing it. We are constantly committing war crimes.

I'm an ardent progressive as well. But, I can see alliances with people on some issues and not on others which is why I was quoted in the article advocating for a re-start of the anti-war movement and making sue it is broad based and inclusive of all those who oppose war.

We need an effective peace movement and I can't see that if we exclude many, perhaps most, Ameicans who oppose war because of a progressive purity test.

Kevin Zeese www.ProsperityAgenda.US www.VotersForPeace.US

There are "Conservatives" and there are "conservatives"

The author, Winslow Myers, is taking a typical Coordinator Class, academic variety, approach to his subject.

It is true that many thoughtful Conservatives are amenable to cutting Defense Department budgets, lessening the influence and power of the military-industrial complex and rolling back the American Empire, the above mentioned Andrew Bacevich being one and Chalmers Johnson being another. What Mr. Myers does not take into account is the vast majority of self-identified "conservatives," the so-called teabaggers, fervently hold to the belief that government's primary function is maintaining a military, the police and the courts; the free market will take care of every other human want and need.

This Randian-Friedmanite belief system, i.e. government limited only to carrying out its coercive powers, is really at the root of the tea party movement. Had Mr. Myers asked any rank-and-file teabaggers if it is O.K. for a president to send their own and other Americans' children off to fight and die in foreign military adventures they would answer in the affirmative.

ET Spoon

Divide conservatives

No doubt there are many consevatives, especially of the neo-con variety, that support war, but there are also many who oppose war and militarism. They believe in real national defense, not the kind of military aggression the U.S. currently practices. Why not pull those conservatives to our side?

It will be easier for progressive or liberal anti-war Dems to oppose war if they can point to conservatives who are speaking out against war. It will make them stronger. It will be a defense to the attack from pro-war conservatives. They can say but A B anc C conservative aggress with me.

And, it will make it more likely that anti-war conservatives in Congress speak out and vote against war. We need a winning coalition to stop the war machine. It is no easy task, but it can be done if we get serious about it.

Kevin Zeese www.ProsperityAgenda.US www.VotersForPeace.US

left and right populism

Excellent piece. I disagree with the idea that you cannot recognize good things done by flawed people. The fundamental divides that separate ledft vs right populism are Environment, race and cultural pride. The Right needs to get over its reflexive anti-environmentalism. Republicans used to see no contradiction between Conservatism and conservationism but today we have people all convinced that en vironmentalism is a commie plot. The Left nees to understand that rural white Protestantism is a distinct culture worthy of existing with pride, just like any other culture. It seems like the left and right populists agree on much though. The coalition of Big Business and Big Governemtn is offensive to both.A coalition might be possible, but there are big philosophical diffeferences.

Defining war is not so easy for many on the Left..

The Democrats are now divided among several camps: the Moderates are primarily all the pro-Israeli hardliners who routinely support war and believe in militarism; the somewhat hawkish true Democrats like myself who do believe in nationalism and waging targeted battles like the Afghan Pakistan border or to prevent excessive brutality anywhere; and then we have the all out anti-war types. The last two make up all of the Progressives.

The Republicans on the other hand begin with a hard-core belief in militarism and to be perfectly honest, white superiority. The vast majority are pro-war and would launch any war on an as needed basis, whether it's for oil or lumber. They easily draw over all the moderate hardliners of the Left for most defense related votes, unfortunately.

I can appreciate your efforts to change things, epecially on the Right.. Ron Paul has a hell of time converting anyone from the Right, other than some of the younger generations. But as long as money, power and resources continue to become more out of reach than ever to the average citizen, we face a slew of hardliners ready to start wars and out of the rubble nationalists are born, willing to fight to the finish against them to protect what little they have left.

Nationalism is not terrorism. And an adversary is not an enemy.

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