Progress depends on the effectiveness of those who are working to contribute to it (in all spheres of life), and effectiveness depends on taking responsibility as well as delegating it. The error on the extreme right involves a refusal to delegate, and the error on the extreme left involves a refusal to do anything else.
As I’ve written before, the Tea Party/Libertarian philosophy is based on an ideology of “liberty” divorced from mutual responsibility (see, e.g., Liberty & Interdependence). But there are too many on the Left who make the opposite error: They consider the extent of their responsibility to be to get the right delegates elected to office (see, e.g., “The Fault, Dear Brutus….”, “Messaging” From The Heart of Many Rather Than The Mouth of Few, An Open Letter To Angry Progressives).
The former are continually disgruntled by their inability to divorce liberty from governance, and the latter are continually disgruntled by their inability to elect a government able to impose their will on others. These two dysfunctional extremes define political discourse in America, with the most vocal and active ideologues belonging to one camp or the other.
I’ve written about my frustration that too many meetings of ”progressive” groups are dominated by those who invest all effort and hopes in control of government, eschewing the responsibilities both of working on the ground to effect non-governmental social change, and of working to liberate and implement the genius of the many (see, e.g., “The Fault, Dear Brutus….”, “Messaging” From The Heart of Many Rather Than The Mouth of Few, An Open Letter To Angry Progressives).
The genius of the many is the product not of individual false certainties, but of collective and methodologically disciplined efforts. It is not the reduction to ideological refrains, but the mobilization of cognitive efforts. It is something we continue to discover rather than already know, and it is much subtler and more liberating than the shackles ideologues of all stripes are so eager to impose on us.
We need a new voice, a new camp, and not a merely moderate one. As (New York Times conservative columnist and PBS News Hour analyst) David Brooks has often said, the weakness of moderates as a political movement is that they don’t have a coherent message such as those on the extremes. But there is a coherent message defined by the transcendence of these extremes, one that is merely awaiting a voice to be given it (as I believe President Obama had tried to in his book The Audacity of Hope, and in his 2008 presidential campaign).
In fact, “moderate” is, in some ways, the wrong name for it. It implies that there is a left-right spectrum on which all political thought falls, and that a voice comprised of some alternative synthesis of the ideologies at those extremes must fall somewhere between them. But that voice can be as passionate, as coherent, and as affirmative as the voices at the extremes.
I have already written extensively on what that voice should look and sound like (see. e.g., A Proposal, The Ultimate Political Challenge, What’s Right With America, A Positive Vision For Colorado, “A Theory of Justice”, “A Choice Between Our Hopes and Our Fears”). It is a positive one rather than a negative one, a hopeful one rather than an angry or fearful one; one committed to reason and justice and working together for mutual benefit. It is a voice which considers government an agent and a vehicle of free people, who are most liberated by the benefits and responsibilities of effective and informed self-governance.
I’m a “progressive,” in that I’m committed to participating in meeting our shared responsibility to address the challenges and problems that confront us as a people. But I do not presuppose the means to do so, or the optimal balance between government involvement and private sector unencumbrance. The most important principle that an effective progressive movement should be committed to is the principle that we must discipline ourselves, to as great an extent as we each are capable of, in service to liberating our collective genius, which is the true source of our individual liberty (see, e.g., Ideology v. Methodology, Liberty & Society).
We need a new movement whose message is that we are reasonable people of goodwill, wisely uncertain of how best to resolve the challenges that confront us, but dedicated both to developing the personal and intellectual disciplines which best liberate and mobilize the genius of the many to do so, working to disseminate effectively the fruits of those disciplines, and participating with as much commitment as we can muster in exercising our individual liberty through them in service to our collective and individual welfare (see, e.g., A Proposal, The Foundational Progressive Agenda, The Ultimate Political Challenge).