The Democratic Party’s slogan is “Moving America Forward,” but it’s the Republican Party that’s leading the charge. After Bush’s brilliant State of the Union address and the Democrats’ curious attempt at a rebuttal, it’s even more apparent why Democrats got left behind on Nov. 2, and are failing to catch up. Unlike the reactive presidency of Bill Clinton, who, as Michael Barone puts it, was able to “skillfully adapt to the circumstances,” President Bush is remarkably progressive. In fact, the Republican Party itself has lately been remarkably progressive, and the Democrats have been noticeably not.
The Dems refuse to touch antiquated New Deal policy, won’t even begin to reform the tax code, and most dangerously, are unable to look beyond a Sept. 10 foreign policy. The progressive Republicans are for school vouchers, a simpler tax code, Association Health Plans, Social Security reform and new immigration policies. Under the new leadership of Sen. Harry Reid from Searchlight, Nev., the only thing the Democrats could offer to counter these reforms is “The American Promise,” a plan to roll back all of Bush’s “short-sighted” policies. In other words, they can’t come up with anything, so they’ve resorted to their “just say no” response to change.
But this reaction doesn’t make sense in light of the way Bush is proposing his reform, especially Social Security. I’ve never heard a president reach out for constructive bipartisan discussion as much as Bush did last week. Bush disarmingly said, “All these ideas are on the table … I will work with members of Congress to find the most effective combination of reforms … I will listen to anyone who has a good idea to offer.” If the left side of the chambers stopped booing when Bush was speaking, they would have heard these conciliatory remarks. No doubt, most Yalies were yelling at their TVs when Bush said Social Security was “in need of wise and effective reform.” The Republican Party has acknowledged that there will soon be a crisis, and are trying to avert it now before it becomes insurmountable. Meanwhile, Democrats, like stubborn third graders on the playground, are going home and taking their ball with them.
We’ve seen this attitude since the Iraq War debate began in 2002. Even Ted Kennedy said that “There is no doubt Saddam Hussein’s regime is a serious danger,” but the Democrats’ answer to combat this evil was more resolutions and diplomacy — the same measures of the past 20 years. Sen. Dianne Feinstein thought that “maybe some language could be added” to the 16 previous U.N. resolutions against Iraq. Two years later, despite liberals’ apocalyptic predictions, the situation is getting better every day. (Of course, liberals also ignore the fact that prior to Coalition intervention in Iraq, the place wasn’t exactly cotton candy and merry-go-rounds.) The critics of the war were eerily silent after a majority of Iraqis voted. On their way to the polls, Iraqis walked past posters that read “You vote, you die.” I’d like to think we Americans would risk our lives to vote. There is now a working democracy in the volatile Middle East; Bush’s policies are moving the world forward.
This president is not your 20th century conservative. I call Bush a progressive conservative; a man of conservative values with a new and progressive philosophy. Liberals are starting to use “progressive” to describe their ideology because “liberal” hasn’t been working out for them lately. The problem is that it doesn’t apply, or at least, it applies more to conservatives today. Admittedly, it’s easier for the Republicans to be progressive because their leader is in charge, but the changes they are attempting are huge, and necessary, and remarkably forward-looking. Meanwhile, as Deaniac ringleader Joe Trippi says, the Democratic mantra is “moderate, moderate, moderate,” i.e. Hillary Clinton’s new stance on abortion. But in American politics, moderate means the usual, and Americans want something new. It takes a great leader to break free from the status quo and actually change some things. You’d think the activist Yalies would be in support of such an endeavor.
Progressive conservative is not an oxymoron. Just because you’re a conservative doesn’t mean you can’t have progressive ideals. ProCons take the initiative and promote innovations while protecting the status quo, which is why many of Bush’s proposals will succeed. Progressive action is necessary in the quickly evolving world. If you’re not riding in front of the wave, it will leave you behind. Just ask the Democrats.
Mike Slater is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College.