It seems to me….
“I’m a Progressive. Much in the same way our founding fathers – who, oddly enough, wouldn’t get elected today – were Progressives.” ~ Will Ferrell.
The U.S. is the midst of a difficult transition between the post-industrial era and whatever comes next bringing political polarization and paralysis of government, the deep dissatisfaction of public opinion, and lack of trust in all institutions. Many people refuse to accept that we have moved beyond a world of secure manufacturing jobs, generally homogenous societies, respected traditional institutions, and seek a return to that which no longer exists. The future lies before us but we have only a limited idea of what that future might be.
What we can be sure of is that it will be a world of transformative new technologies with capabilities we are only beginning to comprehend. A polyglot world of diverse mixes of races and ethnicities that are both super-creative and periodically combustible. A world increasingly shaped by climate change and the immense challenges it poses for all of us.
Some sections of the U.S. recognized these waves of new technologies early, leveraging and accommodating them – and occasionally constraining them. They integrated the influx of Latino and Asian immigrants, coped with diversity in schools and work, and accepted that whites were the new minority. Some areas such as Florida, Texas, and California were hit by climate-related catastrophes including hurricanes, droughts, and fires and have aggressively moved forward with ambitious clean energy and sustainability measures.
Unfortunately, there are those attempting to turn back the clock unable to relinquish outdated ideas repeatedly proven not to work. It will increasingly become imperative to adopt progressive values emphasizing the welfare of everyone rather than restrictive rightwing orthodoxies. Conservatives seem trapped in obsolete ideological beliefs of the past controlled by zealous activists and corrupt special interests who refuse to face up to the realities of a new century and work in good faith or compromise in any way with those with differing views.
The pendulum of political opinion, frequently motivated by voter disillusionment, repeatedly swings between both conservative and liberal extremes. Hopefully it has passed its recent zenith where Republican party control was commandeered by neo-fascist conservatives. Rather than favoring traditional liberals, a new wave of younger politicians preferring progressivism (both liberal and conservative) seems ready to shoulder their opportunity at leadership.
Our current national political paralysis has resulted primarily from uncompromising conservative ideologues holding the government hostage and paralyzed. Their obsession with tax cuts at any cost only leads to slashing reductions in popular public programs, ignoring needed investment in infrastructure, and creation of huge budget deficits which eventually will alienating almost everyone. Political dysfunction will continue as long as conservatives have sufficient strength to thwart
progress. In this current juncture, there does not appear to be any viable political way that a cooperative bipartisan path is able to provide a way forward. An entirely new generation of representation is called for.
The U.S., as well as the rest of the world, faces numerous challenges. The global economy has created massive inequalities that are unsustainable in a democratic society. New technologies are changing how we work and what we do. Climate change mandates that we transition from fossil fuels and onto clean energy as quickly as possible.
Coming decades will see an explosion of innovation in practically every direction. There will be challenges: how far to take biotechnologies and the manipulation of genetics, how schools will evolve to prepare children for a continuously innovative society, how to feed everyone in a healthy and sustainable manner in a world of climate change, how to respond to robotics and transformative artificial intelligence, how to house people of all income levels in a sustainable way in our burgeoning cities….
Two different political cultures already at odds through different political ideologies, philosophies, and worldviews can get trapped in a polarizing process that increasingly undermines compromise. They see the world through different lenses, consume different media, and literally live in different places. They start to misunderstand the other side, then start to misrepresent them, and eventually make them the enemy. The opportunity for compromise is then lost. This is where the U.S. stands today.
Consequently, our nation is now polarized into competing tribes resulting in Congressional gridlock. A very conservative Republican party refuses to advance into the 21st century undermining all reasonable attempts to move forward. Instead, they move an agenda of absurdity: denying climate change, demonizing immigrants, tax cuts for billionaires when there is historic inequality…. The U.S. desperately needs a functioning political supermajority able to break our political stasis and boldly move ahead and take on the many 21st-century challenges our nation faces.
While Republicans are resisting change, a new wave of progressives are also challenging incumbent Democrats – reformists who understand that a healthy society needs a strong well-funded government, who are not reluctant to raise public funds through progressive taxation. Who appreciate the market and the capabilities of entrepreneurial business. Who are tech-savvy and understand the transformative power of new technologies and the vibrancy of an economy built around them. Who understand that businesses need innovate solutions that scale and grow the economy for everyone so as to resolve our many challenges.
Change must come while acknowledging and accepting the justifiable anger of those currently feeling ignored by past realities from perceived unresponsive political representation; all while foregoing any condescending hubris deemed equally offensive. All sections of our nation must feel the worth and inclusiveness of their needs and beliefs.
Progressives have always believed taxes are an essential element for ensuring sufficient public investment and necessary government services. They also believe that those who are most well-off should shoulder a larger portion of the tax burden. They realize you get the government you pay for, and the challenges of the 21st century require increased investment. There is commitment to economic growth led by new technologies and entrepreneurship. They understand that adequate public funds for investment and healthy government can only come with a robust economy that has the potential to share the wealth.
The central role of education in promoting upward mobility is well-established, but so too is its role in promoting growth and mitigating inequality. Perhaps no single area will be as central to a 21st-century opportunity state as this; a higher percentage of people completing a university degree would substantially boost economic growth and social mobility as better-educated people are more likely to create productivity-boosting innovations. As technological change makes new demands of workers, there will be an even greater need for a well-educated workforce. Additionally, a degree provides a path for bright youngsters from lower-income families to prove their abilities.
A central fact of contemporary U.S. is its rapid demographic evolution. In 1980, the population of the U.S. was 80 percent white. Today, that proportion has fallen to 63 percent, and is projected to be under 50 percent by the year 2050. Progressives embrace these changes, seeing a diverse population as a source of economic strength and cultural renewal.
Many of those filling our prisons have been convicted of drug-related offenses. The national “War On Drugs” wreaked havoc on many lower-income and minority communities. Even though the U.S. spent over $1 trillion fighting the war on drugs, it was a failure. Now, we are engaged in a new battle over drugs. In 2016, more than 214 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication were written in the U.S. by health care providers. As many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long-term for noncancer pain in primary care settings struggle with addiction; from 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
The 21st-century version of good government is digital. Digital technologies enabling networked organizations are the state-of-the-art means of organizing projects of any scale. Smart city efforts aim to improve city operations in at least five key areas: multimodal transportation, public safety, environmental sustainability, internal city operational efficiency, and citizen and business engagement. Intelligent processes, enabled by digital technology, create a virtuous cycle of constant improvement fed by continuous feedback providing the possibility of identifying opportunities for adaptation, analyzing trade-offs, and then responding more quickly and efficiently.
Change is critical. The election of Donald Trump as President demonstrated just how acutely political divisions of race and geography remain; much of it motivated by anxiety about how the U.S. is changing. Some voters idealized a picture they grew up with in which culture and politics were dominated by a white Christian majority and found a voice for their disorientation in Trump’s rhetoric and his promises that he could restore an older vision of the country.
It is impossible to understand those hapless defenders of the status quo gazing through rose-colored glasses and romanticizing about a time in our past that never was. Isn’t it far better to imagine a future that might be – and then commit to whatever is necessary to make it happen? It is time for our nation to once again stand up and lead; to consign obsolete ideas to the scrape piles and dust bins of history. Tomorrow can be better – it has to be….
That’s what I think, what about you?
 John William Ferrell is an American actor, comedian, producer, and writer.
 Leyden, Peter. California Is The Future, NewCo, https://medium.com/s/state-of-the-future/americas-paralyzed-politics-today-is-california-s-15-years-ago-5fc9c50eebc3, January 2018.
 There are many prominent conservative progressives: e.g., Josh Barro, David Frum, Bruce Bartlett….