What Progressive Conservatism Looks Like


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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141 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    I completely agree with this: “the question for democratic societies is not a choice between change or no change (because change is inevitable) but rather a choice between untested and theoretical change or a cautious change that honors the best of American social, political and national traditions.” I also agree that liberals tend to be very “Change, change, now, now now” and benefit from a force that restrains that.

    I do think there a significant rub though when arguing against change and for restraint. The people arguing for restraint are not the ones, typically, suffering from whatever problem is at issue. So the call for restraint often comes of as people deciding to form a committee to study the possibility of throwing that drowning guy a rope. They earnestly promise to get back to the drowning guy with the report as soon as prudent. Yes that is a snarky example but i’d put forward the discussion about what to do about people with pre-existing conditions as a real life example. If you have a PreCond waiting even more years for something is tantamount to being the drowning guy.

    Has your email always been progress.conservative (at) gmail (dot) com?? Did i just notice a change?Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I do think there a significant rub though when arguing against change and for restraint. The people arguing for restraint are not the ones, typically, suffering from whatever problem is at issue.

      Conversely, the people arguing for change are not the ones, typically, who are expecting to bear the cost of the change.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Depends on the issue. In general i think this is usually a false charge, but not always.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Very true for same-sex marriage, since there is no cost.Report

        • Avatar Michelle says:

          Go tell Rod Dreher that. He argues that legalizing gay marriage and providing it the same recognition provided hetero marriage would be costly not only in terms of increased federal benefits, but also in terms of religious freedom as churches that refused to go along with the program would inevitably face discrimination lawsuits.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

            As good an argument as anyone’s ever made that churches shouldn’t be permitted to perform civil marriages in the first place.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC says:

            Yes, like those Catholic churches that refused to perform marriages of non-Catholics face lawsuits….oh, wait, no, they don’t. Or like those churches that refuse to perform interracial marriages faced lawsuits…wait, they didn’t either. (Societal pressure, yes, lawsuits, no.)

            That excuse is literally the stupidest ahistoric excuse I’ve ever heard in my entire life. No church, _anywhere_, in the entire history of the US, has lose a suit over failure to perform a marriage service.

            This is because you simply cannot, under any circumstances, sue a church for failure for hold a _religious ceremony for you_, and that entire concept is crazy.

            And it’s crazy in another way, a way that doesn’t ever get pointed out. It’s crazy in that it assumes that gay people are being gay to _annoy_ people, and thus it’s perfectly reasonable for them to decide to _force_ others to participate in their marriage ceremony against their will, when they could just go elsewhere and have a marriage free of problems.

            Of course, what Rod is _probably_ talking about, and trying to confuse is the issue, is ‘religious’ organizations that are not actually religious, might face discrimination lawsuits about their hiring practices…which is, indeed, true (Just like if they refused to hire women or Jews or black people) but this has nothing to do with gay _marriage_ and is instead due to whether or not sexual orientation is a protected class under state law.Report

            • Avatar wardsmith says:

              No church anywhere or just anywhere in the US? The next step might be based on English common law, or whatever passes for it now. I could see the lawsuits, after all, Obamacare made a mockery of the Catholic Church’s position on contraception, freedom of religion be damned.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                “Freedom of religion be damned.” Heh. Eloquently put, sir.

                The Roman Catholic Church is many things but stupid is not one of them. It quite realizes its ideals are only ideals. She is probably the last institution on earth that holds to ideals. The rest of us congratulate ourselves on our cleverness at pragmatism.

                Which is fine, but you don’t need a church for to be clever and pragmatic. You don’t need churches atall.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                The Roman Catholic Church is many things but stupid is not one of them.

                Some comedian looking for cheap and easy jokes should hire you as his straight man.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Ignoring the fact that I clearly meant churches in the US, because things that happen outside the US do not happen ‘in US history’, I must point out that no church in Denmark _lost a suit_ either.

                And Denmark has a _state controlled_ church (The authority of the church is the monarch, the head of the church is a political minister), and that state just voted a rule-change on the church, which is fundamentally no different than Rome putting a rule-change on the Catholic church, or the membership of a Baptist church voting for a rule-change in their church.

                Or do you think the leadership of the Danish National Church is should somehow _not_ be allowed to make changes in how it operates? (And if not them, then who?)

                Making an analogy between the _leadership of a church_ (even if said leadership is the Danish government) changing the rules of a church to _the US government_ (which does not run any churches) being able to do that is complete nonsense.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            All this shows is that Rod Dreher does not really understand how the Constitution and Free Exercise clause works.

            Courts try to stay out of religious disputes as much as possible to the extent that they don’t even want to hear property disputes if a Church goes through schism. The Government cannot compel a church to perform any marriage.Report

          • Avatar Lyle says:

            Actually that problem is fixed if you say the state only authorizes Civil Unions and a Civil Union is in place once both parties sign the application and the clerk issues the document no ceremony needed. (Basically an extension of the French model where due to historic anti-clericalism marriage takes place at the registrars office).
            Of course its not clear that a discrimination suit could survive against the first amendment, as requiring churchs to marry all comers would fly right into the free exercise clause. (Of course the free exercise clause has limits, if I were to open the church of Human Sacrifice and solicit volunteers, I would be locked up).Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              Actually that problem is fixed if you say the state only authorizes Civil Unions and a Civil Union is in place once both parties sign the application and the clerk issues the document no ceremony needed. (Basically an extension of the French model where due to historic anti-clericalism marriage takes place at the registrars office).

              Erm, that _is_ how it works, except the document is called a ‘marriage license’. Two people can walk down to the courthouse and fill one out, and, tada, they’re married.Report

    • Avatar Liberty60 says:

      TR and Ike were- are still- my heros. I constantly remind people that I became a liberal Democrat only reluctantly after the madness of contemporary conservatism became apparent to me in the late 90’s.

      As I mentioned in the other thread, I am not seeing a lot of calls for change in the liberal camp nowadays; the biggest issue is defending and preserving the institutions that have been working for the better part of a century, or opening up the tradition of marriage to everyone to partake in.

      What calls for radical change am I not hearing, over in the Left? Today outside the grocery store I was accosted by a woman from Greenpeace, who wanted me to support their call for international oceanic preserves, areas set aside from commercial exploitation and fishing.

      To which I replied, “oh, you mean like Teddy Roosevelt did with Yosemite?”

      This is what passes for “Change, Change” nowadays.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      That has always been my email and also my blog was at http://www.progressconservative.com.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      Note: all the people against veteran’s benefits, medicare, all that stuff? They’re the ones arguing for radical change.Report

  2. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    I appreciate the incrementalism but it’s like the three-legged pig, too good to eat all at once, perhaps, but he’s gonna get et just the same.

    BTW, does this apply to anything besides gay marriage? I’m trying to apply it elsewhere but not having luck in translating it to other issues. I mean are we gonna be Sweden someday and you’re just lowering us gently into the pit instead of pushing us in all at once? Pls advise.Report

    • Avatar Liberty60 says:

      Is Sweden the conservative version of “Somalia!”, the thing you yell at people to get them running?

      Better epithets, please.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      We’re going to have beautiful women, clean cities, and a populace where nobody goes bankrupt cause of a medical decision? The horror.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Don’t forget 80% ethnic Swedes and language laws…Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          BBC4, June 2012:

          “Cameron’s Swede Dreams”

          What’s so great about Sweden? The British left has long been obsessed with Sweden. Now the Conservatives are too. Little wonder: the country always tops the global charts for happiness and social cohesion; its economy is dynamic and its deficit is low.

          In this week’s Analysis, Jo Fidgen investigates the “Swedish model” and the British obsession with it. She finds the country is more conservative than people think, with its centre-right government’s generous welfare state depending on very traditional notions of trust and social cohesion. At the root of Swedish conservativism is what the experts call a “Swedish theory of love” – in which the state is seen as the defender of the individual.

          Could this idea ever work for Britain? Sweden has provided a blue-print for David Cameron’s Conservatives and their “Big Society” reforms, but many in Sweden argue that they are being misunderstood by Britain’s Tories. Jo also looks at how, as Sweden struggles to become more multicultural, the “Swedish model” itself may in fact be unravelling.

          Listen now [30 minutes]


          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            From the BBC4 transcript of “Cameron’s Swede Dreams”:

            FIDGEN: Lars Tragardh’s “theory of love” has become establishment
            thinking. But even in ordinary conversations, it’s remarkable how often Swedes
            mention independence and individualism as being central to their understanding
            of things. You can see the theory in action in policies such as subsidised
            childcare, which makes it affordable for women to go back to work. One of the
            things that baffled me when I arrived in Sweden was that I’d go into a café with
            my partner and take a couple of cakes to the counter, and without fail we’d be
            asked if we were paying separately. There’s an assumption here that people
            operate as individuals and that we won’t want to be indebted to anyone else, and
            that principle means that those regarded as welfare scroungers contributing
            nothing are seen as an affront to the whole system.
            TRAGARDH: The state is there to provide fundamental resources, allow
            individuals to be able to take the kind of risks that a market society is all about. That’s
            the dynamic that we see. The security net is there, to be sure; so that you have
            situations of disaster, there is something there. But the fundamental logic, right, is that
            people should work and that, therefore, you have to create economy that allows for
            the creation of work. So individual autonomy and independence is ultimately based
            on you having your own income, right, not getting money from the state.
            FIDGEN: And what happens if you don’t have your own income?
            What part do you play in that society?

            TRAGARDH: Well you’re actually in a tough spot, right? Sweden is in many
            ways a kind of rough society, right? People who fall outside find themselves in a
            situation, right, where they will survive, but they will not be given the kind of respect,
            nor really the kind of income that someone will that has a job. So the incentive
            structure – and that’s even stronger today with a new Conservative Government – is
            very much geared towards getting people into or back into the workplace.

            FIDGEN: In a homogenous nation, it’s
            easy to forge shared values and to persuade people to pay high taxes to build the
            society you all want to see. But that social cohesion is coming under threat as
            Sweden becomes more globalised; indeed as it becomes more like Britain. The
            first challenge to the Swedish model: multiculturalism. Over the past two
            decades refugees have poured into Sweden from the former Yugoslavia, Somalia
            and Iraq. Many of the immigrants have moved to suburbs like this one: Tensta
            in North West Stockholm. Eighty five per cent of the people here are first or
            second generation immigrants, and many can’t find work. More than a third of
            people registered as unemployed in Sweden come from abroad. Marcus Uvell of
            the free market think tank Timbro argues the Swedish model designed for a
            homogenous society is simply unable to cope.
            UVELL: The situation we’re facing right now if you look at the
            immigrant population – that we have big groups of people who don’t really get a
            serious chance on the Swedish labour market, they’re only sort of being supported by
            everyone else – I think this is a system which is completely contradictory to the ideas
            behind the Swedish welfare state, which is a system built for everyone contributing
            and everyone sort of getting money back. So I think this is a dangerous situation. It’s
            bad for the immigrants and it’s bad for the Swedish economy and it creates potential
            conflicts between the groups who are sort of paying the bill and the groups who are
            receiving the benefit.
            FIDGEN: I’ve been really taken aback by how common it is for
            Swedes to talk about immigrants in a negative way. Many feel aggrieved that
            their tax money is supporting people who’ve never paid into the system. And
            social solidarity is being undermined from another direction too. Nalin Pekgul
            was a Social Democrat MP. She’s lived here in Tensta for more than thirty years,
            since arriving as a teenager from Turkey. In that time she says the classless
            society has begun to fracture and she blames the reforms that brought
            competition and choice into the system.
            PEKGUL: It is destroyed. All the Swedish model is destroyed. There is no
            Swedish model anymore. The way they have done it now with the healthcare system
            is to give these middle class and upper class all the choices; and people who live in
            poverty or people who live in Tensta, they have no choices at all. They never, never
            will dare to say that we want to have different healthcare system for rich and for poor
            people. They will never dare to say it because it is not acceptable in Sweden. Maybe
            after twenty years, it is going to be like Britain.
            FIDGEN: And she doesn’t mean that as a compliment.

            More surprises await:


          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            In this week’s Analysis, Jo Fidgen investigates the “Swedish model”

            Tiger’s ex-wife?Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          And having to change your underwear every half-hour and wear it on the outside.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        We also get Ingmar Bergman movies!

        This might only excite me though.

        On the down side, we get poorly made and aesthetically unpleasing furniture and ABBA.

        This might make up for ABBA though:


        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Not just you- he’s an unbelievably great filmmaker. Neck and neck with Hitchcock.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            Admittedly, Bergman doesn’t entirely work as a counterexample about running the country like Sweden, since he had a very serious nervous breakdown and left the county for eight years after they wrongly arrested him for supposed tax evasion at the height of his career.

            He’s still an incredible filmmaker though.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            I meant that more as a joke than anything else. I have a hard time getting other people to see mid-century art film with me.

            Though my favorite will always be Truffaut. J’Adore TruffautReport

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              Truffaut is pretty great. I spent much of this year searching down a tee-shirt that was briefly in a Truffaut film- it’s a long story, but I found it was being made in Vietnam still.

              In terms of Bergman, I tried to program a monthly Bergman series a number of years ago and was shocked by how hard it was to whittle it down to 12 masterpieces. I couldn’t get below 15 that were absolutely must-see. The reason I mention Hitchcock is I think it’d be the same problem with him.Report

        • Also Ace of Base. Sweden can never be truly forgiven for Ace of Base.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          What the hell do you mean that ABBA is something that needs to be made up for?Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            If I were a young man in the 1970s, I would have been part of the down-town NY scene and listening to The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Television, etc when they were playing at CBGBs.

            So Disco/Pop is not quite my bag.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        great skiers also.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Well, Jesse, I was using “Sweden” non-pejoratively, indeed a progressive paradigm.

        My first thought was Greece but I thought I’d play it straight. Try it sometime. 😉Report

    • Avatar Tim Kowal says:

      Long Beach started imposing a 10 cent tax on grocery bags, trying to encourage puerile to bring their own reusable bags from home. Lots of people in Long Beach already do that, but I doubt a majority does. Is this an example of the law pushing too hard for social change?Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

      I’d settle for becoming Canada, personally.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I don’t think I could stomach that much niceness.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        90% white and language laws?Report

        • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

          Yes, those were the features of Canada I was thinking about when I praised it.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Please look at it from my perspective.

            Imagine if there were people who were arguing that we, as a country, needed to be a lot more like Colorado Springs. Someone else who argued that we needed to be a lot more like Boise. Perhaps a third person pointed out that Salt Lake City had a culture a lot like the one we wanted to have as a country.

            Would you, Ryan Noonan, be able to resist pointing out the demographics of those cities to the folks making that argument?Report

            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              I would actually point out Salt Lake City’s liquor laws and wonder why on earth anyone would want such a thing. Boise’s reasonably cool, from what I hear, although I’ve never been there.

              I take it that your claim is that Canada has more social tolerance, better health care policy, and is consistently ranked higher than the United States on most measures of economic freedom because they’re all white? I don’t think you’re wrong that a lot of other countries do reasonably well on a lot of metrics because they have homogeneous populations, but that’s really an argument that the US has some extremely icky problems with racism, not that those other places aren’t great. In fact, pointing out that the US is kind of a wreck because one group of people used to own another and has never really atoned for that is yet another argument in favor of the US turning into someplace else.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                You’re a better person than I am, then.

                My claim is that communitarianism is pretty much proportionate in any community to the amount of culture that feels shared (if not dominant) and that, sadly, in the absence of any other major markers, ethnicity is a proxy for shared culture.

                We’re seeing little tremors in Canada between Alberta and Quebec and Ontario due to cultural issues. I rather expect these tremors to increase rather than decrease. We’re seeing little tremors in Europe as well. The countries that were able to establish the cultural markers that we envy and want to set up ourselves were able to do so in some very particular circumstances that, for a host of reasons, are trembling now… and, it seems to me, that they tremble in the same proportion that their culture is being asked to change beyond the normal evolution that comes from old people dying and young people watching television made in other countries.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I don’t think you’re wrong, for what it’s worth. I just think your argument is orthogonal to mine. Canada has policy that is worth imitating. That they were able to create it (potentially) because of an extraordinary amount of social cohesion doesn’t really change much, and it doesn’t change the fact that we should try to emulate their good ideas.Report

              • Avatar Lyle says:

                More than a little tremor with the Separatists wining control of Quebec in the last election (all be it a minority government). This division goes back to Wolf’s win in 1759 at Quebec. So inaddition to the Alberta vs center issue you have the english french difference in Canada. Now places like New Brunswick and Manitoba have some mixture of the two cultures but Alberta has very little and outside of near the provincial line there is little in Ontario. So Canada is not a homogenous country, just divided on a different basis than the US.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                SLC? I bought beer in a supermarket there.
                I can’t do that at home.
                (and I think Huntsman got rid of the weird “club” membership thingy anyhow)Report

              • Avatar Michelle says:

                You must live in Pennsylvania, home of some of the country’s weirdest liquor laws.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      I don’t think it’s a long march towards liberalism with conservatives just applying the brakes at crucial moments. There are also course corrections where overreach is rolled back. This looks liek the opposite of progress but it’s not. An example might be gun policy. With the AWB there was liberal overreach. Progressive conservatives knew that something had to be done to deal with gun crime (forward thinking) but they wanted a different approach based on American values. So they tackled gun crime itself with policy. They insisted on tougher enforcement of gun laws (ex. Project Exile). Gun crime was dialed back and eventually there was a strong case to be made for letting the AWB sunset. Now we have perhaps the most robust legal access to guns in US history and gun crime is still at reasonable levels. For me, that’s progressive conservatism at work.Report

      • Avatar Michelle says:

        Gun crime is at reasonable levels compared to where? Murder rates per capita here are still far higher than in other advanced industrial countries. Not that I think stricter gun legislation is going to help, as I think the issues surrounding gun violence are societal and cultural. But gun control is a good example of using law to try to control behavior–it’s generally not an effective approach.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Not feeling this, Mike. Progressivism has a ratcheting effect. Your own example of gay marriage is a one-way ticket.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          How would civil marriages represent a one-way ticket? The PC approach would be to use them as a trial for possible gay marriage down the road. That kind of more thoughtful and measured approach to progressive policy is exactly the kind of conservative influence I am talking about.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Not sure we’re talking about the same thing, Mike. I’m saying once you institute gay marriage, you can’t un-institute it.

            To the subject—for the sake of clarity, not another round of debate—there are two different arguments, now kneaded into an unseparable dough. First, if gay marriage is a question of “rights,” whether or not it’s good for society is irrelevant. The same could be said of “gun rights”—if the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms as a natural right of self-defense, that we’d be better off on the whole by banning guns is irrelevant.

            Second, to the ratcheting effect of progressivism, even if gay marriage were to prove itself a net negative over the next few generations, once institutionalized, even the conservative would be forced to concede that de-establishing it would be de-stabilizing and thus more harm than good.

            A bit of a Catch-22 for the “traditionalist,” since half his argument is stability and continuity. Once he loses a point to the radicals, it’s lost forever.

            So too, we’ll never withdraw school lunches [and breakfasts!] now—the idea that parents should feed their children is now obsolete. The teachers’ strike may close the classroom, but not the cafeteria.


            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              “The same could be said of “gun rights”—if the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms as a natural right of self-defense, that we’d be better off on the whole by banning guns is irrelevant.”


              Can you have a natural right to something that makes everyone worse off? I’m not sure that’s actually the case. It seems counter-intuitive.

              One would think the natural law thinker would find that natural law propositions that lead to everyone being worse off would tend to disconfirm that the proposition that the thing is a right is correct.

              In the long run, anyway. We might be better off in the short run if we ban guns, and still be worse off in the long run. You can certainly make an error there, regarding how you measure “better off” and what scale you’re using, for time.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                PatC, can you deny there’s a natural right to self defense? Was it Bastiat who said the condemned man has every right to kill his jailers [presumably to escape]? Well, I suppose you can’t set off a nuclear weapon to escape from the cops, but it’s a good ethical puzzler, eh?

                Can you have a natural right to something that makes everyone worse off?

                Well, I certainly think so. Hobbes’ Leviathan is a completely reasonable scheme, as is communism. Let’s say communism works. Is that the end of the discussion of “rights” and liberty, &c., the morality of the anthill?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I think it’s pretty likely we have a right to self-defense. I think whether you assert it or no, having it yields one set of ethical frameworks and not having it yields another, and in an imperfect world of humans I think the second is of dubious value.

                But I could be wrong, empirically we’ve never really had a society where pacifism of that degree has lasted.

                I’ll let you know if I change my mind 10 years after Gort shows up.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              “Second, to the ratcheting effect of progressivism, even if gay marriage were to prove itself a net negative over the next few generations, once institutionalized, even the conservative would be forced to concede that de-establishing it would be de-stabilizing and thus more harm than good.”

              That’s why the Progressive Conservative approach is incremental steps that can be pulled back.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mike, that’s exactly where we are right now but you’re not gonna get any points for Burkean caution.

                And where we are right now is not going to be “pulled back.” It’s ratcheted in.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                So then Tom – what is your plan for how to deal with, for example, gay marriage? Do we on the Right just defend the wall or do we keep ourselves open to the possibility that we were wrong? If you firmly oppose it then I can see the case for a solid defense of traditional marriage. But it you are open to factual persuasion, how do you test the hypothesis without some measure of compromise i.e. civil unions or a few test states with full marriage?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mike, I think our state-level labs are already open on gay marriage, and I agree with your position completely. However, I call it Burkean conservatism, is all, along with the caveat that in those states where gay marriage is already established, I do not foresee it ever being “rolled back.”

                “A state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation.”—Edmund Burke

                Not exactly a new idea. 😉Report

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      Tom, if you /really/ want to know about Sweden’s economic miracle, read this <a href="The surprising ingredients of Swedish success – Free markets and social cohesion Liberals, er “progressives” aren’t going to get it.Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I will say this about Eisenhower:

    He appointed two of the best Supreme Court Justices to the Bench. Those being William Brennan and Earl Warren. Potter Stewart and John Harlan II were not bad either.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Do you know what he said about Brennan and Warren?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Yeah, but it’s not true. They were just good friends.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Yeah but as Mike said those were probably urban legends. I was going to add a line that said “Even if he though they were mistakes” but decided against it.

        Even if he thought they were mistakes, I think the U.S. benefited from what the right-wing saw as a mistakes. I am still a Warren Court person and sometimes judicial action (while not democratic) is necessary to push for social change.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    One of your intellectual heroes was the George W. Bush of his time? A guy who invented his own horse cavalry unit so he’d have some horse cavalry to ride with, in the invasion of Mexico that he started so he’d have a war for his horse cavalry to ride in? The guy who built a fleet of giant battleships and sailed around the world intimidating the canoe-paddling brown people by exploding random crap (while carefully avoiding the Japanese who’d just blown the Russians out of the water)? The guy who made such a point of showing us How Mad He Was that he split his political party and let Woodrow Wilson get elected (Wilson, whose isolationist attitude was a big reason why World War I happened)?Report

  5. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    This is really very good. I’ve always contended any attempt at progress should face intelligent opposition, lest it inadvertently create a situation worse than the one such an attempt is trying to solve. The Conservatives always have a role to play here, demanding proper accounting, oversight and what I would call the Surgical Fix: the smallest possible solution.Report

  6. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    In a technologically advanced capitalist society, change is inevitable.

    Progressives and conservatives both (and all other political animals) would love to take credit for some changes and push other changes on their political opponents. In neither case are they primarily responsible for, or in control of, the changes they encounter around them.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      Jason – I would agree that change mostly happens on its own and in a sort of organic way. The government’s role in a progressive conservative concept is really just to put up a supporting legal framework as the change happens.Report

      • Avatar Citizen says:

        Who does the framework serve and who builds it to suit themselves? Is the design goal ever really achieved? If you want organic should you build artificial trellis? The three sisters is something I look for in our society. Each facet adding to the other, contributing in their own way. There are forces that lay waste to anything natural.Report

  7. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Very nice post, Mike. I consider myself a Burkean libertarian, which puts me in a position to have a fair amount of affinity with progressive conservatism as you describe it, and particularly with the Disraeli quote.Report

  8. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I think this is a more reasonable version of conservatism than what I’m used to hearing about in the US and worthwhile for that reason. I do think there’s probably also a role for preserving some sort of cultural and ecological patrimony that could go with this, although certainly conservatives aren’t exactly on the forefront of eco preservation. As a hunter, though, I’d imagine you’re more sympathetic.Report

  9. Avatar DavidTC says:

    I agree (impossibly) with Tom Van Dyke. Your ‘progressive conservative’ seems to just be another way to say ‘moderate progressive’. Does this apply to anything but gay marriage?

    (And I must point out that the entire concept of ‘civil unions’ was ‘something the right could get behind’, and when they failed to do that, there was no point. ‘Progressive conservatives’ might want that, but as there actually appear to be _none of those in office_, it seems rather pointless to claim there’s some opening being missed there. The imagined history of ‘the left wasn’t content with civil union’ is not actually what happened at all. It’s the _right_ that didn’t like them. The middle proposed that as a compromise, the right said ‘Hell no, we won’t support that’, the left shrugged and decided it would be just as easy to get gay marriage.)

    But, anyway, take health care. The only ‘social’ change I can see is that we decided that we weren’t going to let people die from lack of money for health care, an position that, essentially, the entire country agrees with. So it’s not like this position was ‘forced’ on anyone.

    So, pick any point in history all the way back to, say, 1960 when access to health care first became a national issue. What is the ‘progressive conservative’ idea there? Or what would it be now to replace the ACA, or passed instead of the ACA?

    Because it’s actually hard to come up with a _more_ conservative plan than the ACA that would actually accomplish the goals that American wish accomplished.

    Basically, we seem to live in a country where the right is ‘We do not actually wish to solve any real problems at all, we demand the rich pay less taxes and you do something about these social issues we’ve made up!’ And the left says ‘We wish to solve problems, but because of years of insecurity, we will propose literally the most right-wing idea we can think of, and the right surely won’t complain about that!’ (Spoiler alert: the right ends up complaining about it.)

    Where exactly are the ‘progressive conservatives’ located in all this?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      “I agree (impossibly) with Tom Van Dyke. Your ‘progressive conservative’ seems to just be another way to say ‘moderate progressive’. Does this apply to anything but gay marriage?”

      Sure, pick the issue. Education? Progresive conservatives pushed for smart reforms that took the decisions out of the hands of teaching programs and replaced them with commonsense. Conservation? I’ll take Ducks Unlimited over Greenpeace any day of the week.

      And it’s not a moderate conservatism. It’s more of a rational conservatism aimed at actually achieving goals. Take abortion. We would love to see a full ban but that isn’t going to happen. Re-focus on 2nd and 3rd trimester and you are at least making ‘forward’ progress. Couple this with better funding and advocacy for adoption and you move a little further.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        Education? Progresive conservatives pushed for smart reforms that took the decisions out of the hands of teaching programs and replaced them with commonsense.

        I have no idea what you mean by ‘teaching programs’ or having ‘commonsense’ replace ‘decisions’. I don’t mean that snarkily, I literally have no idea what you’re trying to say there. There were some bad decisions being made by teaching programs (?) and those decisions were replaced (At a higher level?) by using common sense?

        Conservation? I’ll take Ducks Unlimited over Greenpeace any day of the week.

        Wait, so we’re talking about some sort of caricature of the left? What left politician even vaguely supports Greenpeace?

        …and, I must ask, what politicians on the right supports Ducks Unlimited?

        I agree entirely that environmentalism _should_ be considered ‘conservative’, although it sadly is not. But it’s fairly odd to claim you should called conservative just because you support some environmentalism.

        This is a disagreement you’re having with the right, not the left.

        We would love to see a full ban but that isn’t going to happen. Re-focus on 2nd and 3rd trimester and you are at least making ‘forward’ progress.

        …you think there are 3rd trimester abortions? WTF?

        Couple this with better funding and advocacy for adoption and you move a little further.

        Which is, I’m fairly certain, another example of a disagreement you’re having with the right, not the left.

        …so, basically, what I got from your post was ‘somewhat pro-life, moderate progressive’. Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my question:

        What is the specific policy ground that progressive conservatives inhabit that neither progressives or conservatives do? Or, failing that, what general progressive policy grounds do they inhabit and what general conservative policy grounds do they inhabit? (Like libertarians generally inhabit fiscally conservative grounds, but socially liberal grounds.)Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          Actually, the real questions I think I need to ask:

          Are you sure you guy don’t mean conservative progressive instead progressive conservative? Aka, a moderate progressive?

          And my next question is: Do you realize how moderate current progressives are?

          I mean, we can’t even get any banking reform after the damn banks blew up the country. Our health care reform is the _conservative_ version. We are unable to regulate CO2. Our stimulus is half tax cuts, and cut in half, and we can’t pass another in the middle of a recession. We couldn’t pass a damn _highway_ bill.

          Claiming to have a progressive viewpoint, but that there’s some sort of _moderation_ needed in our current political system, is a bit surreal. You’re demanding that a person crawling along the floor with broken legs ‘slow down’. There’s not a hell of a lot slower it is actually possible to go and still move forward.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            I would consider progressive conservative and conservative progressive to be interchangeable.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              Uh, okay. Now I’m confused even further, but I had run into my general confusion of what ‘conservative’ actually means, so I’m not sure this is solvable here.

              Other political parties (Even libertarians) seem to want to solve problems. And all too often, it appears that conservatives _don’t_. So I try to constantly remind myself that conservatives _do_ claim to be solving problems, although their problems are often imaginary. (Hey, did you hear Obama was going to remove ‘In God We Trust’ from money?) They also want to ‘fix’ things, although their ‘fix’ is often very clearly something that would be worse off.

              But here, it appears by ‘progressive conservative’ you mean ‘a progressive who wants to solve problems _slowly_’. I.e., it appears that you’re using exactly the definition of conservative that _I_ keep thinking inside my head, but which conservatives assure me is wrong: ‘Someone who doesn’t want to solve any problems’.

              In my universe, politics have both goals, and general ways they solve those goals:

              Progressives, for example, have as a current goal helping the worst off, and have generally used government programs to fix this. Progressivism, in fact, has changed goals a few times, and is probably best identified by the means used to reach those goals: Progressives want to use the power of government to fix problems.

              Liberals have ‘everyone should be treated equally’, and used to use courts and public opinion to fix this. Although now that the left ended up with both them and progressives, liberals have, in recent times, used progressive methods. (To, I think, their detriment. For example, affirmative action, which tries to used a progressive method to reach a liberal goal.)

              Libertarians have a bunch of goals, and a fairly consistent way (less government) to reach those goals.

              Conservatives have a jumble of stated goals that don’t really work together, and a jumble of stated means to reach those goals. (Anti-abortion laws, I must point out, are _more_ government. And gay marriage laws are basically exactly the same amount of government.) I really can’t parse out any consistent _anything_ from them, although I keep people told there is.

              And then other conservatives show up and say ‘No, conservative is just refusing to do anything’. Which I _actually agree_ with, but am told is wrong by other conservatives.

              Sometimes I have the idea that none of us know what the hell we’re talking about.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          Teaching programs have been responsible IMO for a lot of the woes facing schools with regards to curiculum. De-emphasis of certain skills, weird teaching methods, etc. Some conservatives would have dialed it back to 1950s-style teaching. I believe Progressive Conservatives have been the leaders on education pushing for reforms that move education forward but don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

          As for politicians on the Right supporting DU, there are plenty. Sportsman generally lean Right for a reason. You can also check the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus which has several conservative members.

          Third trimester abortions are legal and DO happen, though admittedly 2nd trimester is much more of a concern.

          The big O didn’t mention adoption one time in his 2008 ‘Blueprint for Change’. McCain did.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            Romney didn’t mention the troops once in his acceptance speech.
            Fox called him on it — a softball… He responded, “I talked about what was important to me.”

            Romney, would-be president? Total asshole.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC says:

            Teaching programs have been responsible IMO for a lot of the woes facing schools with regards to curiculum.

            Education is actually something I don’t really see on a left-right axis. The far right has policies that will _clearly_ make education worse, like vouchers (Which is essentially ‘This school sucks, let’s remove all the high achieving students and all the money. That will make it better!’), but barring nonsense like that, the entire things gets pretty murky.

            Of course, this is probably because I have a somewhat conservative mother who is a teacher, and she, and I, agree with what is wrong with schools in Georgia: Not enough teachers, and idiotic standardized testing.

            Third trimester abortions are legal and DO happen, though admittedly 2nd trimester is much more of a concern.

            Third trimester abortions are almost entirely medically required. The number of abortions after 24 weeks is estimated at 0.08%. (The number after 21 week, after which detailed records aren’t kept, is only 1.4%, so it can’t be higher than that.)

            It is perhaps also worth pointing out that only about 12% of abortion happen in the second trimester. And frankly, I rather suspect most of those are delayed to that point only because the right keeps making women jump through hoops, some of which take a while.

            The big O didn’t mention adoption one time in his 2008 ‘Blueprint for Change’. McCain did.

            …whether or not a presidential candidate mentioned something in an election blueprint is not actually very good evidence that it is an issue the party cares about. And I’d actually like some reassurance McCain didn’t just mention adoption in the context of _gay_ adoption, which was an issue that election. (Or rather, states enforcing their anti-discrimination laws and some faith-based adoption services having their funding cut because they refused to follow the rules.) ‘Mentioning’ adoption is not actually saying he’d strengthen it or fund it better. I cannot find his policy statement.

            But regardless of what he said: Adoption services, like almost all government services to help out families and children, are supported much more by the left than the right.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        Leftie here. I’ll take Ducks too. Greenpeace is off it’s rocker, and has been for ages.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      Health Care, then. It’s my field, I’d like to know where you stand.Report