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Finding Progressive Theoretical Roots
The Times this morning has an interesting piece that reveals how conservatives are propelling their philosophy using "boot camps." The Ronald Reagan Leadership Academy kicks off with a class of 26 young people who read the ideological underpinnings of the conservative movement - the conservative canon beginning with none other than Russel Kirk . However...
"Every political movement has its texts. But James W. Ceaser, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, argues that the conservative focus on core thinkers has no exact parallel among liberals. 'It doesn’t mean they’re not interested in ideas,' Professor Ceaser said. 'It means their approach to politics doesn’t rest on theory in the same way.'"
I beg to differ: liberalism's tenants were described much earlier. John Stuart Mill defended it 150 years ago in his essays. The Bush administration should read what he has to say about differences of opinion, namely "We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still." Others have realized the importance of updating the groundwork to confront modern challenges. In an excellent op-ed in the LA Times, Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny, founding editors of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, recognize just that. They end with these goose-bump-giving lines:
"Having seen the failure of a generation of conservative ideas on fiscal and foreign policy, Americans are ready to listen to an alternative. Now is the moment for Democrats to offer a set of breakthrough ideas that will create a governing majority for a generation. But this will happen only if they are willing to be more than the railroad conductor making sure the trains run on time, and instead put America on a new and different track."
Let's hope we can do just that.