31 May 2016
Anti-establishment before it was cool
I remember after I won my first election, in 2003, the city party chairman came up to me, congratulated me and said "we have a name for guys like you....progressive."
I wasn't sure how to take that. At that time, I think it was a good thing to be a progressive. It meant that you thought outside the box, wasn't trapped in typical party platform ideology and were willing to work across party lines to make things happen. The first reference to a "progressive wing" of the party dates to 1910-1916 when Teddy Roosevelt split off from the Republicans and ran as the head of the Bull Moose Party. Now my admiration of Teddy makes sense to me. The views were generally left of center of the party and Teddy's brand was famous for its trust-busting ideology. Social security and other social justice issues branded the wing too far left and of course, it and the GOP went down in flames that election year. In 1924, a senator from Wisconsin controlled that wing of the party and he launched an equally unsuccessful third party campaign for president.
Of course, I don't know that I fully align myself with those ideas of progressivism, but social justice issues are part of my moral fiber and probably does push me out of many rank and file types. So be it. I also believe that there is a role for government-something that many in the tea party and libertarian wings of the GOP don't want to acknowledge.
Interestingly enough, when I did a google search for "Progressive Republican", it didn't even come up. Progressive politics, progressive Democrat, but nothing on the GOP. Which goes to my next point that the progressive wing is dead. I, and what I believe were a large number of others during the 2000s virtually became extinct with the election of President Obama because the right ran so far to the right it left progressives as rare as the white buffalo. And if there was a reason to hate progressives, it paled in comparison to the disdain the "establishment" wing of the GOP found in the hearts of folks calling themselves conservatives in this election year.
In that first election, it became clear that the "establishment" (a term no one was using then) had to figure out what to do with me. The answer came in the next election when I ran an unsuccessful reelection campaign, losing by 15 votes. When I was interviewed after the loss, I commented "I got the message, loud and clear". And so I figured that was the end of my involvement in politics. The establishment won.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2014, long after the elimination of the progressive wing. I saw a slim chance to run and win a position I don't think I had ever seen myself holding, a very slim chance. I knew I had to do it outside of the insiders, outside of the party establishment. And my message was simple: stronger together. And it was a massive uphill climb, feeling like every step was fraught with someone, something working against it. The message resonated, and I think to some degree my campaign was seen at the "anti" establishment that folks could get behind.
Oddly enough, I think now I'm seen as part of the establishment, only a year and a half into it. And that goes to my next point. What exactly is the establishment? Because for the last nearly 20 years of my life, folks in the establishment would have never identified me as one of them. So is it after a year in? Is it because someone else isn't in? We've so villainized our elected officials that anytime someone gets in.....that we've put there to upset the apple cart.....we immediately blame them as being part of the problem.
And we've lost some really good public servants in the process.
Maybe there is good reason to not trust politicians-I can think of plenty, reasons and politicians. But we also have to be educated and able to be governed. God's Word goes to this point very plainly. I trust one day civility returns to public debate and that finding oneself in the role of an elected official isn't about catering to a particular ideology that is counterproductive to a solid democracy. It may be an imperfect system, but it is still the best in the world. And it didn't happen absent of decent people, strong leaders, with a desire to work together for the best interests of the people they serve.