Many, if not most, conservatives like to think of progressives as being blind supporters of “big government”, closet Communists, Soviet Socialists, neo-fascists, etc., but it simply isn’t so. When it comes to such issues as defending civil liberties, protesting war and protecting the environment, progressives often dissent from official government policy. And though most conservatives are gung-ho for strong “national security” and military might, they want their civil liberties not to be infringed upon as well. So for the moment where progressives and most conservatives meet and agree is in the need to secure our most fundamental Constitutional rights. But we have other rights as well which we, as a nation of free individuals, should defend.
Evidence for the bipartisan cooperation on civil rights can be found at the national level as Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Wisconsin’s Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner have co-sponsored a bill (The USA Freedom Act) that would prevent the mass, indiscriminate collection and use of electronic data on Americans without a warrant while making the process of obtaining a warrant more open to public scrutiny.
And here in Wisconsin a Democrat and a Republican in the Assembly have agreed to work together on a bill to make sure police departments in the state do not misuse cell phone location data.
Progressives don’t want a “Big Brother” government at any level. What we want is a government of brotherly love at all levels that works to rein in both the excesses of government and corporate capitalism: to the extent that government can help, we want it to be democratically helpful. It is an ideal, of course, which our representatives do not always live up to.
Conservatives seem to prefer a nation of every brother and sister for himself/herself while talking a lot about patriotism, “one nation under God”, that sort of thing. (Our so-called “centrists” and “independents” are generally less ideological, less strident conservatives.) A nation “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” is certainly an ideal to pledge allegiance to, an ideal to which we could all agree. And yet our nation ends up spending massively for a military and wars to defend “liberty” while treating many on our own soil, especially minorities, women and the less rich and powerful– with something far less than democratic justice.
If all Americans deserve civil liberties, don’t we all also deserve civil rights, enough to eat, decent shelter and clothing, good, healthy work to do that pays enough to live and thrive on? As we all come together to nonviolently defend our civil liberties, so must we come together to defend our shared egalitarian vision, our various natural environments and communities from both the overreaching power of government and the depredations of big businesses.
Some Americans, we could say, are now using only half their brains.