Depends on who you ask.
If you ask a self-identified conservative, by definition that person will value the preservation of long-established traditions. The valuation of what was supersedes valuation of change, even in the face of problems that require change for resolution. Within this crowd, you’d likely find a few who don’t believe anyone has been to the moon.
The success of Trump in his presidential bid relied on his ability to push hot buttons on various conservative issues. His campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” claimed America was no longer great due to changes wrought against the wishes of conservatives. He alone could fix it.
Still waiting for the how.
Progressives, on the other hand, see the slogan and his subsequent win as a threat to hard won changes that have addressed many of the nation’s problems over the last fifty years. Included in the hard won changes has been the end of the Cold War, which if Trump’s ham-fisted approach fails to lighten, could easily reignite.
None of which worries a majority of conservatives who see the threat of Armageddon as fulfillment of God’s promise. Bring it, they whisper in their prayers.
Meanwhile, it’s the mundane stuff keeping the conservatives foaming at the mouth. Take, for example, the issue of welfare. Conservatives would prefer to eliminate aid for parents with dependent children, food stamps, and other support programs for the poor. Except for their Uncle Bob who only has one eye and is dying of Hepatitis C. Uncle Bob needs a government handout because without it, the Christian shame of a kinsman dying on the street means Bob would have to move into the back bedroom.
Bob’s not the only one who can’t take care of himself. Government provides food, shelter stipends, and medical care (until the Affordable Care Act gets blasted into last year) for handicapped, terminally ill, and mentally ill citizens as well as parents of minor children earning less than poverty wage. All those slackers need to get a job!
Progressives have tried to deal with the real problems faced by their fellow man. For example, before 1960, persons with mental illness lived in institutional settings. Patients with depression or autism lived alongside persons with various psychoses, truly a ‘snake pit’ environment. Aided by the advent of new psychoactive drugs and outpatient counseling, sanitariums were closed and most patients were released to the general population.
The mentally ill weren’t the only ones who triggered massive welfare efforts. The aged had gained Social Security decades earlier, but it was the late 1960s before Medicare came into existence. Then there were the rest who’d previously been left to die in unheated shanties.
The ‘needy’ had always been among us. But from the late 19th century to World War II, the industrialization of agriculture caused more people to move from the countryside to cities. Previous support networks of families and neighbors and local churches were disconnected from those who needed their help. That along with a tremendous increase in population resulted in the present welfare system.
It’s not like progressives saw a vision of ever higher taxes to support an ever increasing horde of needy. Their solution has been to spend more money in addressing the roots of poverty and ignorance: better schools, one-on-one casework to determine needs, more job training programs, more and better preschool options, higher teacher salaries, and health care for every person.
It should go without saying that a person who is mentally or physically ill can’t work. But one of the fondest dreams of conservatives is to kill Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act.
There’s no apparent effort to connect the dots.
The conservative ‘great again’ solution is to cut programs. They envision a pastoral scene where neighbors care for neighbors and local churches hand out food baskets. They cling to their fantasy because it’s simple. It worked a hundred years ago, so it should work now. Of course they’re not eager to revert to outdoor toilets, kerosene lamps, and horse and buggy.
Nothing about the modern world and its problems is as simple as conservatives want to make it.
If you ask evangelical Christians, ‘great again’ means turning back the clock to a time when a woman could not terminate a pregnancy without risking her life. Evangelicals do not accept that women have the Constitutional and moral right to determine what happens inside their own bodies. For many conservatives, a woman’s use of any form of birth control is questionable. Women belong in the home, not in the workplace competing with men, coming home with perhaps a larger paycheck and the ability to pack up and leave if he doesn’t treat her right, and pregnancy helped keep her there.
In the conservative Christian view, granting women these rights did not solve problems but created them. The fact that over 5000 women died annually from illegal abortion doesn’t faze them—it’s the fetus that matters.
Progressives sought solutions to the outrage suffered by atheists, Jews, Muslims, and followers of other faiths forced to hear Christian prayers announced over the intercom as a resonant baritone voice intoned the supplication. Whether in government meetings or public buildings, Christian beliefs and imagery dominated. The solution seemed simple enough—allow no advocacy or public recognition of any specific religion in commonly shared venues. Nothing of this restrained an individual from praying silently or at home or places of worship.
This small step toward consideration for others infuriates those who want to force Christian beliefs upon the entire population and declare the United States a “Christian nation.” Never mind what it says in the Constitution. As Vice-President Elect Pence says, God comes before country.
Allahu Akbar, ya’ll!
For men and women who desire and love those of their own sex, progress means allowing them the same rights under the law as enjoyed by all American citizens. Legal challenges affirmed the right to privacy in matters involving with whom and how sexual relations might occur. They affirmed the legal rights of marriage, of employment and housing and commerce.
To the evangelical right, ‘great again’ means reclaiming a time when nobody talked about homosexuality and if they did, they whispered. To legitimize such perceived deviation by granting rights to homosexuals is a moral outrage. And now transgender? Bathrooms? For this segment of voters, blocking such ‘progress’ is a dictate from God Himself.
For many conservatives, making American great again means going back at least to the 1950s if not the 1850s when African Americans knew their place. And that place wasn’t at the lunch counter beside respectable whites. It wasn’t at school mixing with white children. It wasn’t in interracial marriages.
Make America Great Again! Go back to a time before we knew so much, before incomprehensible terms like ‘climate change’ didn’t haunt the daily news. This topic alone creates great unease among the segment of the nation’s voters who never understood—or in many cases never accepted—basic scientific principles.
Because government has been the vehicle by which social progress has been required of everyone, conservative hatred centers on government. Government, not the need to care for the poor, not the need for fair and equal education, not the rights to liberty and justice for all, is the reason they have to sit next to a Muslim on the airplane.
Enshrining ignorance as a value is yet another gift of the religious right. Blind faith in God working magic and sufficient prayer time means no personal responsibility to think or learn or take action. Just keep having babies and ignoring evidence that much of the world’s current ills derive from overpopulation.
Real life-threatening problems face the people of the world. Tearing up treaties and trade agreements doesn’t solve them. Ignoring science doesn’t solve them. Removing environmental regulations doesn’t solve them. But at no time in the campaign or now in his appointments has Trump described a single solution to a single problem. He has so little intellectual grasp of his newly-acquired responsibilities that he plans to spend weekends at his penthouse. Because in his world of delegating to underlings, being president is a 9-5, M-F occupation.
In this dark hour, progressives cling to a promise that has gained momentum since this nation was founded, that we as Americans value and strive for equal rights, welcome the downtrodden to our shores, and treat all humanity as our brothers and sisters.
It’s the Golden Rule conservatives have forgotten.
Progressive: making use of new ideas, findings, or opportunities. Liberal: given in a generous and openhanded way; broadminded, not bound by authoritarianism, embracing ideals of economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and institutional, political and administrative reforms.
Progress is forward—unless the future remains in the hands of conservatives.