A Long-Term Look At Environmental, Political, and Social Issues, From The Perspective Of Michigan’s Oldest (and Most Optimistic) Tree Species
By Marvin Roberson
As I’ve noted, this column looks at the long view, even as we find ourselves facing setbacks in the short-term. The idea is to point out that even as we experience setbacks, we should not take those short term losses as a repudiation of Progressive ideals. As my favorite ecology teacher once put it, “Don’t make judgments about long-term processes based upon a couple of data points."
However, I’m going to step out from my planned sequence here, and talk about what’s going on right now, and how it simply reinforces my contention that Progressive causes and values are, have, and will win out in the long term.
In simplest terms, we win because the Progressives have values, and the Right has ideology. And further, while these two things are as different as night and day, the Right thinks they are the same thing. They are not, and values always beat ideology, in the long run.
The battle between Left and Right is often portrayed in terms of ideological opposites. Big government vs. small government. Pro-regulation vs. anti-regulation. Government intervention vs. free market economics.
But here’s the thing - while the examples above are indeed opposite ideologies, those are in fact not the debate we’re having, even though the Right thinks that it is. Progressives are promoting values, not ideologies, while the Right is promoting ideologies, not values.
Let’s look at a short-term, immediate example of that. The Republicans recently tried to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. They portrayed it, and I really think believed, that it was a conflict between government intervention in health care and keeping government out of health care. But that’s not what the two sides were doing.
We said “Everybody should have health care” - that’s a value. They said “Government should stay out of health care” - that’s an ideology.
Notice the difference - we were not saying “Government should make health care decisions”. We just thought that as a matter of values everyone should have health care, not that Government should necessarily be the provider.
Look to history in this matter - in the 1960s and 1970s, most people had employer-based health care. Progressives did not spend any time and energy trying to get government involved, since the private sector and market was doing a pretty good job of providing health care to most people.
Where Progressives involved the government was in under-served populations where the private sector was not providing health care - the elderly and the low-income. So we came uo with Medicare and Medicaid, to assist getting health care to those who were not being served by the free market.
It was only once the private sector began moving away from making sure that most people had health care that the Progressives began a large push to involve government. So in order to promote our value that everyone should have health care, we proposed solutions which involved the government.
However, the Right had no value-based position here - they did not think that all, or some percentage, or none of the population should have health care. They thought that government should stay out of health care. We were promoting a value, which had as its goal a specific outcome, which could be met in a number of ways. They were promoting an ideology, which is inflexible and not outcome based.
We won. We won because Americans want health care. That’s a value most people share with Progressives. Yes, there may be some reticence about Government involvement, but when it came down to it, Progressives won because we promoted values shared by most people, and the Right promoted an ideology which is not central to most people’s lives.
We also won, and will continue to win long-term, because the Right thinks we’re just like them. They think we’re ideology-based, but just in the other side of the ideological coin. What they don’t realize, and why they lose long-term, is that we are promoting values, not ideology, and so their ideological attacks fail because we are having a different discussion than they are.
So why do they sometimes win short term? How did we end up with an infantile narcissist in charge? Because ideology is governance by slogans which can fit on a bumper sticker. Sound-bite slogans are easy to understand and get behind. Value-based solutions are usually more complicated and harder to understand.
But over the long term, values win over ideologies, and most people share Progressive values, even if they think they don’t. Witness the red states expanding Medicaid now that Trump/RyanCare seems dead.
We say “Everyone should have health care." They say, “Government should stay out of health care, even if that means people die as a result."That’s the difference between ideology and values. Is it any wonder that Progressive values triumph over Right-wing ideology as times go by?
Next time - a friend and colleague challenges my assertions that things are always better, even as she acknowledges that Progressives are winning long-term.