Requiem for American progressivism (3)

Just as they view peace, progressives view compassion in a different light, and with other tenets, than conservatives… at least those conservatives presently overseeing the socioeconomic structure of this land of opportunity we call America.

It should ring loud and clear to us all that any individual pity, commiseration or sympathy advanced by conservatives brings no solution to the suffering around us. Compassion and empathy, on the other hand, offer a progressive approach to the treatment of society’s ills, most resulting from our imperfect socio-political systems.

Progressives have defined the moral and social value of compassion in their century-old fight for the well-being of ordinary citizens in their struggle against power and wealth. They have carried the fight against a conservatism which has gone far beyond its honorable tradition of fiscal responsibility into a monolithic approach that puts financial gain above all.

For the purists who like to spell progressives with a capital P, the last political movement appears to have ended with Henry A. Wallace over five decades ago. However, progressivism was from inception more than a movement of social and political reform, extending beyond short-lived periods of makeshift third-party politics.

Progressivism has come to be a state of heart and mind in the American body politic, and no political party, or politician, is denied access to its philosophy. Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations and FDR’s New Deal are both fruits of progressive seeds nurtured by Democrats. Idealistically, one may argue that progressivism is just a quixotic quest for men of goodwill to use their moment of glory and power to bring social justice to the world, to right wrongs.

But such men of goodwill have been in short supply in the American political scene far too long… that is, if we go by the results before us.

In business, one refers to whatever summarizes success, usually profitability, as the bottom line. In like manner to that of private enterprise, one should be able to arrive at a simplified measurement of society’s support for the less fortunate among us… a social bottom line. And just like we pass judgment on the top management of an enterprise after reading the company’s bottom line; we should, likewise, pass judgment on those politically empowered to bring to the nation an acceptable social bottom line.

Unfortunately, the baton of progressivism has not been used to direct a movement of social significance for several administrations, Democratic or Republican. And the Bush administration has orchestrated for three years a cacophony of socially discordant notes, promising to continue playing this overture of rabid Social Darwinism during the next four… since at election time Americans appeared to be deaf-tone.

This great humanitarian with unquestionable moral values, as the Religious Right depicts Bush, claims to have earned enough “political capital” -terminology probably suggested by Karl Rove- in this recent election to pay for the leveling of any remaining progressive structures built in the past, and the fomenting of the dog-eat-dog philosophy under the guise of American rugged individualism.

Ah, yes, the bottom line! The social bottom line of how our least fortunate in American society have fared these past three years in terms of economic equity, human respectability and future expectations… using compassion as the measuring stick.

Economic equity…? Ominous results! The United States “outclasses” all industrialized nations in how the haves outdistance the have-nots in both income and accumulated wealth. In fact, the wealth distribution in the US resembles that of a third world nation, not an economic superpower. Governmental opposition to a minimum living wage, universal health care, and a more equitable taxation system explains it all.

To such dismal economic results, and the acceptance of poverty and an underclass as social inevitability, it only follows that dignity and hope have become the new victims for the American poor, and a middle-class fast sliding there.

We hope the fire of compassion never becomes extinguished in America … and that an ember of progressivism always remains there to ignite future fires; but we must ask ourselves why the better nature of America has changed from strong progressivism to a decadent form of consumerism and selfishness.