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Paul Buchheit
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Monday 31 December 2012
As George Lakoff put it, “For progressives, democracy is based on citizens caring about each provide through the government.. a means by which citizens pay for..infrastructure.. and safety..a justice communication... transportation.”

Why It’s a Privilege to be a Progressive in 2013

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We enter the new year with a degree of optimism, because Americans, except for Congress and the uninformed, are beginning to realize that cooperation transcends self-centeredness as a means of national betterment. Here are some of the specific reasons to be proud of our progressivism: 

1. We focus on community rather than the individual. 

As George Lakoff put it, "For progressives, democracy is based on citizens caring about each provide through the government..a means by which citizens pay and safety..a justice" 

As a role model, we have Howard Zinn, who cared about people, rather than Ayn Rand, who cared about herself. 

Conservatives point to 'individual' successes like that of Bill Gates. But Bill Gates owes most of his good fortune to the thousands of software and hardware designers who shaped the technological industry over a half-century or more. A careful analysis of his rise shows that he had luck, networking skills and a timely sense of opportunism to the point of taking the work of competitors and adapting it as his own. 

That's true for all the high-tech individuals who relied on a half-century of national research and development to make their fortunes. Apple's first computer was introduced in the late 1970s and the company still does most of its product and research development in the U.S., with U.S.-educated engineers and computer scientists. Google's business is based on the Internet, which started as the Defense Department's ARPANET, and their search engine derives from the Digital Library Initiative research at Stanford University. 

Government funding hasn't slowed down. According to the report Funding a Revolution, "Federal support has constituted roughly 70 percent of total university research funding in computer science and electrical engineering since 1976." 

In short, individuals can only succeed with the support of a nation. 

2. We focus on progress rather than profits. 

Progressives are concerned about real issues that affect everyone, not just investors. We're moved to action by studies that show we're near the bottom in child poverty, children's health and safety, and infant mortality

We're angry about being at the top in the number of billionaires, the number of people in jail, in health care costs and military expenses. 

We're shocked by the fact that we have greater wealth inequality than every large country except Russia, Ukraine and Lebanon. 

We celebrate successes in the war on drugs and the battle against Citizens United, and on behalf of LGBT rights, marriage equality, pro-choice issues and Obamacare. 

3. We rely on insight rather than instinct. 

Conservatives preach a spirit of self-reliance that goes way beyond common sense rejecting, for example, assistance programs that give nine-tenths of their benefits to the elderly, disabled or working households. 

They demand that the poor climb the economic ladder on their own even though the U.S. has less economic mobility than almost all other developed countries. 

Research shows that conservatives will "rationalize away social inequalities in order to justify the status quo." They are orderly and moralistic and dependent on authority. Liberals, on the other hand, are more open to new ideas and experiences, probably because they have more of the gray matter that helps to manage complexity in the thought processes. 

But if we're so smart.. 

..Why do we lose the wars of language and emotion to the conservatives? Our opponents agree on big issues without too much thinking —like the Tea Party saying "less government" without considering the consequences. 

We progressives agree on the need to take the trillion dollars of tax subsidies for the rich and use them for middle-class jobs in renewable energy technologies. But it's not enough to agree. We need to put all our energy into that agreed-upon objective, to make America understand how important it is for ourselves and our children.

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ABOUT Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher with formal training in language development and cognitive science. He is the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at

This article and the entire

This article and the entire concept of progressivism remind me of the Soviets scratching their heads in the 1950s, wondering who was behind the scenes of the U.S. economy, making it run and hum so successfully. Surely millions of people acting in their own best economic interests could not possibly generate that kind of wealth and success. Or could they?

Perhaps progressives should gain a better understanding of Adam Smith's invisible hand and realize that the best outcome for society is, with very few exceptions, for everyone to pull his or her own weight. Creating a government monstrosity over the past eighty years that is clearly on the verge of bankruptcy has obviously not delivered the socialistic utopia dreamt about by progressives. I know, I know. If only those dirty capitalists weren’t hogging all the money …

To help the truly needy, why not instead use private charities that will watch every penny as if it will be their last instead of creating millions of juicy federal government jobs with juicy salaries and juicier pensions?

Can't you see that the federal government of the United States is on a path to bankruptcy? What social good do you think will be done when that bankruptcy occurs? And why is it that, somehow, I know you will find a way to blame the capitalists when that bankruptcy occurs?

You hit the nail on the head

You hit the nail on the head with that post Richard. I too feel it may be to late because in my opinion the one percent owns the security apparatus and it is for the most part untouchable. Any descent will be delt with quickly and violently. The majority of Americans are not even aware of the situation we are in.

jackwenayscott's picture

Thank you for being

Thank you for being progressive, supporting a social safety net, and promoting environmental sanity. Yes, those things are important to a really mentally and politically whole individual. But, just as I thought as I walked towards my computer today, there is your basic flaw again in this article! You say, 'Congressemen are all dishonest and don't represent the wishes of their constituency.' Bullsh*t! Please examine the illogical nature of your social analysis! In one sentence you imply that most congressmen are dishonest, that being the reason for the mess we're in, then you go on to describe the very real and honest "conservatives" of this nation, which is about half the population. "Conservatives point to individual success like that of Bill Gates..." And there you go, showing how a major portion of the electorate thinks having rich people and rich corporations is a real good idea! And, yes, they think this, really, really! About half the nation is Republicans and when their congressman votes in favors for the corporations, his voters back home cheer and vote for him again! He's not swayed or bought by corporate money, the voters like what he does! No, your impuning of politicians doesn't hold water, but my analysis of the population's minds and hearts being captive of the entertainers in Los Angeles does. It's a slightly different circuit of reasoning that WORKS, not FAILS as does your reasoning on how we're a "corporatocracy". The circuit is short and sweet and holds it's own under all argument and investigation. Television convinces the population of things and the population then votes for honest, sincere politicians who represent the population's unhealthy views in congressional voting, and the whole thing carries on into a big mess! Anyway, congratulations on Chris Hedges and Amy Goodman, when you realize that they are members of the Entertainment Empire, and watch them change minds for the better en masse, you'll see the power of television, movies, radio, and the recording industry, those mega-businesses now largely controlled by Libertarian Jews in Los Angeles. (and it was you who mentioned Ayn Rand......ha,ha!)

We so often forget the idea

We so often forget the idea of "the common good" - whatever yields the best results for society as a whole. Whether it's emasculating the nation of all manner of guns, whether it's ridding the nation of GMO's in our food supply, or preventing importation of exotic pets that damage our infrastructure, or fracking that compromises our clean water or taxing the wealthy to "spread the wealth" to the less fortunate and to create jobs, we as individuals, in a nation designed to nurture and protect us, must yield to what is best for the nation as a whole, to understand that we cannot possess all the bells & whistles at our whim, that make things worse for the majority of us.

Economic growth is dead. So

Economic growth is dead. So all of the framing needs to change to one of USE LESS, Share More. Which means our economy is going to become much more local agriculture and less hi tech. so even most progressives are missing the boat by thinking that the economy is going to grow and fix the problem.

Actually, progressive ideas

Actually, progressive ideas have rarely been heard in 2012, and I'm only guardedly optimistic that this will change this year. 2012 has been all about/only about protecting what's left of the middle class (note: the middle class is directly responsible for the politics and policies that brought us to this point). To date, the discussion has only been about turning the middle class into a gated community rather than rebuilding it. I'm one of many who has no interest in protecting the comforts of the comfortable, especially since that same middle class refuses to throw a crust 0f bread to the poor. You can't rebuild the middle class out of thin air. The only idea progressives have concerning poverty is to continue calling for job creation, as we've been doing for over 30 years now. You can't survive on promises of job creation. Our history shows what works, what policies were in place that enabled the US to reach its height of productivity and shared wealth between WWll and the Reagan admin. Now look at what has happened to the country overall since those policies were reversed and programs were ended (from Reagan through Bush Jr). If that's too complicated for some, the issue is this basic: Even if a job is available, how do you get a job without a home address, phone, clean clothes/bath, bus fare and enough food to be able to function? The endless liberal (if not progressive) pandering to the middle class -- primarily by media, from print to MSNBC -- has only served to more deeply divide the "masses" and prevent any progressive change.

Liberals continue to have big

Liberals continue to have big ideas without a Liberal government to pay for them, It's easy to dream big as long as someone else is expected to pay the bill for programs that will result in little tangible return for the next three generations while imposing massive hardships on average citizens. Your absolutely correct that Progressives have been absent over the past two decades with very few exceptions. The Progressive wing of the Democrat Party is all that remains of a once great party that had a vision of government that gave it's citizens the tools to succeed which further strengthened our society, not a boot on the back of their neck. The party departed from this mission twenty five years ago when it was captured by a group of Neo-Liberals affiliated with the DLC who had far more in common with the Conservative Right. The Progressive wing of the party missed a golden opportunity to re-emerge during the Carter administration that followed the devastation of the Nixon administration but they were complacent as they felt the public opinion pendulum had once again swung in their direction. As a result we were forced to endure twelve additional years of conservative domination that established a permanent direction for this country over the past thirty years. This amounted to several generations of young Americans who were continuously subjected to the Right's propaganda of personal wealth seeking without any social responsibility without any countervailing views from an all too timid progressive voice. I would like to keep a positive outlook but to be quite honest this country has passed the point of no return with an all but invisible political divide between the two predominant political parties who now respond exclusively to the wealthiest one percent and their unlimited funding !

right on

right on

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