Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Always Moving Forward

by Ryan Anderson
"I figured it up the other day: If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans - enough to fill the city of Detroit."
Bob Dole, 1976 Vice Presidential Debate
This infamous quote -anachronistic even in its own time- seems downright absurd now. Most of us don't remember a time when Democrats were the warmongers; when a belief that government could help spread prosperity, freedom and opportunity at home naturally led men like FDR, Harry Truman and JFK to call on the military to achieve those same ends abroad. It took us a long slog through Vietnam and a new breed of leader - RFK, Eugene McCarthy and MLK- to convince the Democratic Party to embrace a reasoned approach to foreign policy, where military intervention is last on a long list of alternatives.

In their day, these men were iconoclasts. Now they are icons.

In Nebraska especially, progressives are often asked to balance ideological purity and delectability. If a candidate isn't liberal enough, they aren't worth supporting. If they're too liberal, they can't possibly win.

I think we spend too much time framing the debate in this way. Progressivism has never been and can never afford to be about a dogmatic adherence to a specific set of principles. If our commitment to moving our state and our nation forward is genuine, we must be willing to move ourselves as well.

Robert Kennedy was right to challenge liberal tradition and propose tax breaks to companies that developed in the ghetto. Russell Long was right to embrace Friedman economics and create the Earned Income Tax Credit. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was right to question the social effects of 1960s welfare and call for reform. And Bill Clinton was right to make balancing the budget a priority.

We owe the modern progressive movement not just to the old bulldogs of liberalism - the Franklin Roosevelts and the John Maynard Keyneses. We owe it also to those who built upon their work, often by adopting ideas formed in the conservative movement. Compromise isn't always surrender, and it isn't always about winning elections. It's often a valuable tool of progress, which is what the "progressive" movement is supposed to be all about.

We have a new Congress and a new Unicameral. We have new races coming up and a new executive director coming in. But as we look ahead to the next cycle let's not forget that in the long run, this isn't just about winning elections. No, building a "new Nebraska" means winning the war of ideas, and that will require a constant process of self-review.

Too often these blogs are used as just another tool to control spin and bully candidates into "sticking to the message". That's never been this site's aim, and I hope to continue our tradition of real debate about real ideas in the new year.


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