Shh. It’s coming: progressivism is back. Slowly, but aggressively, our generation is coming together to make sure our tomorrow is something decided by us, rather than by the grayed-haired Viagra users currently in power.
In D.C. over the summer, a movement within our generation began to take hold in the name of progress. In addition to the 3,000 GW students staying in D.C. this past summer, thousands of others joined them in the District, creating an informal caucus of students from all over the nation. After meeting students from Yale, Brown, Stanford, University of Texas and UC-Berkeley, it became quickly apparent that there is a newly invigorated generation ready to kick, scream, activate and solve issues at the national level. The students I met were not the redversus-blue ideologues of the past election. These were people willing to talk on both sides of the political fence about what the world means to them on issues like social security, the war in Iraq, genocide, religious radicalism and family values. While there has never been a drought of words over these topics, the current people involved are trying to move beyond political debate and into action, resolutions and progress.
Progressivism is not new. Famously used in the presidential elections of 1912 with Teddy Roosevelt, 1924 with Robert Lafollette and 1948 with Henry Wallace, the rise of progressive ideas into political parties was meant to try and cure many of the ills American society developed during spurts of industrial growth. Similar to the state of affairs during previous ages of progressivism, we too are sitting on a threshold between disaster and hope. In the past 10 years we’ve dealt with everything from AIDS to genocide to terrorism, in addition to the proliferation of the Internet and globalizing forces. In all the ups and downs, the belief in finding positive uses of government has, for many, fallen off the horse’s saddle. Just ask yourself: can you say 10 positive things about the government? Well, if you’re ready to join the new progressive movement, then think quickly.
Progressivism is neither left nor right, liberal or conservative – but a brand all its own. Currently, there are preliminary strides within our generation to change the definition of progressivism for those willing to close the ideological divide and get something done. During Welcome Week at GW, there was a progressive fair led by the College Democrats, with about 10 different groups attending from “left” organizations. This effort seemed to misunderstand the broadness that the term progressivism can encompass by only relating itself to one political spectrum and not inviting the College Republicans or other conservative action groups. In order to have strong policy to frame the future with, it cannot be single-handedly led by one political wing. Progressivism has previously been confused with liberalism. That is its greatest handicap in involving people with similar passions yet varying identification with different voting blocks. Progressivism needs to be an organic creation of thought that doesn’t alienate people, but instead makes everyone’s lives better.
The financial security of the nation is drowning into serious debt, unions are breaking up, poverty is delving into deeper despair, education fails at every turn, environmental regulations continue to be ignored and the cost of gas, college and housing rises astronomically everyday. We need to use history to understand the struggles that came before and stop taking the present for granted. We can’t wonder what the world would be like if women couldn’t use birth control, if segregation existed and if health benefits were not guaranteed, after those rights are taken away. In today’s society, there are overwhelming promotions of selfishness, materialism, corruptness and irresponsibility distracting our generation from taking concern for crumbling social structures created in the past 100 years.
In order to have a future comparable to the lives we lead now, we need to look at what made the world it is today and be sure the hard work doesn’t go to waste because of a few lazy generations. Our generation needs to use its energy and intelligence about changing things and shoot it straight down the Metro line to Capitol Hill. Instead of being afraid to be political, afraid to care about serious issues, instead of insisting on calling yourself conservative or liberal, take charge of your future and call yourself a progressive.
-The writer, a junior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.