On the Heir to Progressivism

I’m not going to write much on the Iowa Caucus results from last night. The candidate I’m pulling for, the candidate I’ve given money to — former Senator John Edwards — came in second on the Democratic side with thirty percent of the vote, behind Senator Barack Obama (with 37 percent) and ahead of Senator Hillary Clinton (with 29 percent). I’m impressed with Obama’s victory. I’m a little surprised at Clinton’s close, third-place finish.

Truthfully, I could vote for any of the three candidates. Edwards is further to the left than either of the sitting Senators, and I feel that his positions on health care, economic inequality, and the like are more advanced and more detailed than his opponents. But, as I said, I’d have no trouble, come November, pulling the lever (or rather, using the touchscreen) for any of the three.

But, that’s not what I really wanted to write about.

Rather, I’m amazed at Edwards’ post-Caucus rally speech. He claims the mantle of progressivism, and he names his historical predecessors — Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.

Two Democrats, and…

One Republican.

It’s one of the oddities of history that Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are considered two of the greatest Presidents, yet the party that sent them to the White House no longer fits them. Roosevelt and Lincoln would today be considered “Republicans in Name Only” — Lincoln fought to strength the Union and free the slaves, while Roosevelt fought the monied interests of his day. Today, those positions — a stronger Federal government, civil rights, industrial regulation to benefit the working man — are positions that the Republicans have abandoned. Indeed, we would consider them Democratic positions today.

I don’t think Edwards misspoke when he mentioned Teddy Roosevelt in his speech at all. I think it was entirely deliberate. He’s saying that America needs another Teddy Roosevelt.

I’m curious to see how New Hampshire shakes out on Tuesday.

I hope Edwards is in the race for the long haul. At worst, he’ll continue to pull rival campaigns to the left. At best, America might have found its heir to Teddy Roosevelt.

2 thoughts on “On the Heir to Progressivism

  1. Indeed, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt were Republicans back when the party still remembered what the word meant.

    A “republican” party (with a small “r”) by definition is a party that believes in a strong central government, and that such a government exists to protect the rights of the individual against the tyranny of the majorities. A “democratic” party believes that the majority rules, and that the rights of the individual must be subservient to a society’s ideology. A “republican” party would therefore be progressive, while a “democratic” party would be conservative.

    Obviously, the core principles of each party got turned on their heads during the previous century. The party names are now misnomers. Yet the Republicans (with a capital “R”) still love to trot out “the party of Lincoln” as a catchphrase, even though Lincoln would be abhorred at what his party has become.

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