Wednesday, March 3, 2021
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Opinion: The progressive path takes time

In the post-New Deal era, conservatism and its exemplars were broadly discredited. President Eisenhower even went so far to call people who were still deeply rooted in conservatism crazy and out of touch.  

Yet nearly a decade later Barry Goldwater, the champion of maverick conservatism, was the 1964 Republican presidential nominee. He lost his race but set the stage for victory in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan would win the presidency by acting as an improved avatar for Goldwater-style conservatism. Since then, we have all been living in the shadow of Reaganism. 

We still live in an era defined by the rise of movement conservatism and its related sects. It is a cruel irony that we are living in a mirror dimension from the politics of Eisenhower’s days. Now it is the left who is continually seen as out of touch or crazy.

That view has some founding. While progressive policies might be the ideal concepts, we are far from finding an ideal message or sustained support for them among many voters.

This should not result in backing down or retreating from our ideals or goals. Instead, we must prepare a long-term strategy like the kind that conservatives carried out from the 40s through the early 80s.

The vision of an overnight revolution, while appealing, does not seem to be plausible during this time of stasis and polarization.

Instead, we will have to come to terms with a slower path of change. That means as we go, we keep supporting new and more diverse voices as they rise. The goal should be to make it so the new left of today is the establishment of tomorrow. 

That is what conservatives did after FDR. The old conservatives and rising young ones worked to eventually take over the Republican party, leading it down the path it still travels today.

This is an imperfect and frustrating situation. Everyday people suffer from sickness, poverty and hunger. These are issues a progressive agenda could combat if done right. Unfortunately, we live in a system that goes out of its way to make getting stuff done more difficult, compounding the challenges we already face.

Many may lament it, but it remains true that we are not living in a kind of revolutionary time similar to the 19th century. Our path to progress will be a winding one, but it remains vitally important. 

bmh6wh@mail.umkc.edu

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