What do we value?
For many years, those of us to the left of center, regardless of the degree to which we are to the left, have answered this question by a recitation of positions on various issues. We are pro-choice. We support gun control. We believe in public education. We want to protect the environment. The list goes on.
But, what do we really value? What informs our positions on those issues? Why do we believe the things we believe?
When pressed to answer questions of moral understanding, maturity, and ambition, many of us fall woefully short. Our only answer seems to be that we believe these things because we’re progressive, or liberal, or Democrat. Our most recent generations have never truly been challenged to develop our moral character beyond that which seeks to simply modify social attitudes and behaviors. It can accurately be stated that we’ve fallen into the trap of valuing compliance and obedience above all else. You’re either with us on everything, or you are against us.
Though this approach may guarantee periods of relative order and steady accomplishment, it often ends with a society incapable of critical thought or moral capacity.
We must strive to do better.
Those we resist remain steadfastly committed to placing money and power at due north on their moral compass; we must set rightness, justice, and liberty on ours. While they continue to lay waste to basic American traditions and principles, we must recapture the moral authority to which they’ve falsely laid claim for nearly half a century. While they pursue policies with money, wealth, and power as the natural end of moral thought, we must rightly consider money, wealth, and power to be but a partial list of the means by which our society pursues our highest ideals.
But we must do better than merely laying out our worldview if we expect others to follow us. We must put behind us the days of prizing mere compliance with our rules, beliefs, and standards. We must strive to once again develop moral leadership in our own ranks with the ability and willingness to reflect on those rules, beliefs, and standards in order to make value judgments central to choosing between right and wrong.
Beyond this, we must once again seek a form of moral maturity and ambition that allows for continuous evaluation of our core paradigms for the purpose of bending the arc of moral history towards our values of rightness, justice, and liberty. Through constant reflection and principled leadership, we must manifest our values in our actions, not just our words.
In all of this, our end goal is not utopia or perfection. We must actively strive to pursue virtue within ourselves and our society, not to bend the world to our own selfish desires, but to fully realize the potential greatness inherent in all persons at birth.
This must become the future of the Democratic Party or any other party claiming the mantle of the left in this nation. While those on the right value power and money, we will place value on rightness, justice, and liberty as our virtues. While they seek power by disenfranchising any who stand in their way, we will seek to empower those around us for mutual benefit. While their worldview leads to a hellscape of rationally self-interested tribes constantly warring with each other for domination and supremacy, we will reestablish the moral leadership that has defined our nation’s existence throughout our history.
Now truly is the time to put aside issue driven politics that has led to the enclavisation of liberal thought. We should not be simply a coalition of disparate identities who agree to coalesce around a single banner in order to cobble together enough votes to win elections. We must define that which unites us as progressives and use those values to inform our actions rather than informing our values based on the political desires of those we need to succeed. This is the true path to sustainable action that doesn’t just resist others but also insists on progress towards a better world.