Are there any real progressives?

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Column by Jim Flynn

Political discourse gets confusing when liberal left-wing loonies refer to themselves as progressives and rigid right-wing radicals masquerade as conservatives.

A recent article in the SF Weekly illustrates the confusion: “San Francisco’s progressive Board of Supervisors is now more moderate.” Progressive? Moderate? San Francisco is the do-goody home town of liberal looniness. Lately they’re considering cell phone radiation rules, and they’ve decided it’s OK to be naked but not drunk in the Bay to Breakers annual run.

Real American progressivism was exemplified by the career of Robert Lafollette, a member of the U.S. House, Governor of Wisconsin, and U.S. Senator (1901-1925). Historians consider him one of the five best legislators to have served in the Senate.

Because of the abusive social consequences of the industrial revolution, LaFollette and a few other Republicans challenged the powers of corrupt political bosses and indifferent corporations.

LaFollette’s campaign was continued by the 26th, 27th, and 28th U.S. presidents Republican Theodore Roosevelt, Republican William H. Taft, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson. They may have been our only truly progressives presidents.

In recent decades liberal Democrats have redefined progressivism to mean big government action is the solution to all problems. Liberals went into disguise under an assumed name.

Left-wing historians have tried to include Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson among progressives. Quite the contrary, they were liberal Democrats who mastered the art of buying votes and political power through grandiose federal social programs.

Early twentieth century progressives believed government should regulate business practices which are injurious to the nation or abusive to individuals. They also believed in financial responsibility, conservation of natural resources, and government aid to citizens who are willing but unable to care for themselves.

Progressives come in two kinds these days – conservatives with a heart and liberals who can understand a financial statement. There are some of each in the major political parties.

Lock-step liberals refer to progressive Democrats as Blue Dogs, because they tend to be conservatively responsible about the federal debt and deficits. There are more than fifty Blue Dogs in the current Congress.

Across the aisle, cranky conservatives and rigid radicals refer to progressive Republicans as RINOs - Republicans In Name Only. It’s a nasty epithet intended to embarrass fellow members into conformity with the party line.

Ten years of irresponsible spending by the Bush and Obama administrations has endangered the financial well-being of the nation. Now obstinate hard-liners in both parties are blocking the remedies necessary to correct the crisis they created.

Voters are still fed up with Congress. Just last week a Gallup Poll for USA Today signaled that voters are more angry then they were before the 2010 election. By two to one, sixty-three percent of voters believe members of Congress don’t deserve another term, including those who have served only two years.

Despite the abuse they receive within their own parties, Blue Dogs and RINOs may be the constructive influence needed to put Congress and the nation on a right track. They may be the real progressives of our time - more concerned with the state of the nation than with partisan politics.