Progressive/Conservative:

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2004
Progressive/Conservative:
6
Thu, 10-24-2013 - 1:16pm

      I am an amateur student of history.  It seems to me that the tension in history can be described as conflicts between conservative and progressive ideas.  In using these terms I am for the most part using their traditional definition and the definitions found in dictionaries.  The definition I am using for conservative is disposed to preserve existing conditions, institution, etc. and to resist change.  For progressive I am using the definition advocating movement toward a specific goal.  In short conservative ideas support the status quo, while progressive ideas are for change, but not random change. 

      What I see as the basic pattern is that a new idea develops that is in conflict with an established idea.  This conflict could lead to a synthesis, which is a combination of the old and new.  The new idea or synthesis then becomes the new conservative idea and the process is repeated.  It also seems to me that this process is gradual.  Even when there appears to be a “revolutionary” change it seems to me that the ideas behind the “revolutionary” change were accepted gradually over time.  Other times the change is gradually and is not always noticed.

      What I think is a good example is the developing of modern democracy.  I feel this development started in 17th century England with the English Civil War (1642) and the Glorious Revolution (1689).  At first very few of the “demo” (the people) were allowed to vote.  Restrictions included those based on gender, amount of property owned, amount of taxes paid, race, religion and so on.  Gradually these restrictions were removed until now virtually all adults are allowed to vote in many nations.  A very big change occurred shortly after World War I when virtually all women in the United States and in the United Kingdom were given the right to vote.  I do not consider the United States and the United Kingdom to be democracies before that time I consider them to have been “pre-democracies.”

      The original conservative idea was that the monarch, usually a King, ruled with very little restriction and that the monarch gained that status through birth.  The progressive idea was to have the people vote for the officials who controlled the government. With each step toward full democracy the progressive idea eventually became the conservative idea.  The final result is that now virtually full voting rights is a conservative idea.

      Tom,

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2004
Thu, 10-24-2013 - 3:20pm

      In thinking about what I wrote in the first post to this thread I realized I left something out.  What I wrote was that all new ideas are adopted whole or as part of a synthesis.  This is not the case.  Many new ideas are discarded, either prior to being implemented or after being implemented.

      Tom,

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-17-2012
Fri, 10-25-2013 - 12:44am

I think your definitions of conservative and progressive are fundamentally flawed.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2004
Fri, 10-25-2013 - 9:46am

      Deen, the definitions I used are based on my reading of entries for those terms in a number of different dictionaries and based on my understanding of the historical development of those terms.  This is particularly the case for the term conservative.

      Tom,

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-17-2012
Sat, 10-26-2013 - 1:59am

Conservatism is an adherence to certain ideals and values as opposed to the "status quo."  Conservatives would embrace a new idea or policy if it met those standards.  Conversely, many “progressive” ideas are well-worn standards.

I also disagree with your identification of monarchy as a conservative idea.  That notion grew out of culture and the simple realities of the day, rather than a conservative ideology.  In fact, with it's similarities of a large all-powerful central government controlling, or "taking care," of the people/children, it smacks of liberalism.  Further, the notions of personal responsibility and self-reliance are inherent in democracy and the pursuit of self-government, to whatever degree they manifest themselves in various cultures.

And as far as “full voting rights” being a conservative idea, one only need listen to the tripe about “voter suppression,” etc to see that liberals might disagree. ; )

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2004
Sat, 10-26-2013 - 10:50am

      Another area in which there has been gradual change since at least the 17th century has being in regard to increased tolerance toward people who are different than the most preferred group.  Intolerance has been based on gender, race, religion, national origin, class differences, sexual preferences etc.  I do not know of a civilization, prior to the mid 20th century, in which the most preferred group has not practiced some form of discrimination or intolerance.  It is the case that some civilizations were less tolerant and others more tolerant, but as far as I know all previous civilizations were intolerant to some degree.  Again while I feel there has been a long term trend toward tolerance over the last three or four centuries this trend has not been equally strong in all areas of the world and there certainly have been setbacks.  I do feel that currently, in the most powerful nations of the world, there is a great deal of tolerance, most likely more than has ever existed in any previous civilization.  Again I feel that this modern movement toward tolerance started in 17th century England and that one of the most important “founders” of this movement was John Locke (1632 to 1704).

      The first sentence of the second paragraph of the “Declaration of Independence” starts with “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness . . .” yet many people in the thirteen colonies, including the writer of these words, owned slaves.  I think this highlights the conflict between the status quo, that in almost all states slavery was allowed and the progressive idea that all men (people?) are created equal and deserve equal opportunity to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Since no “whites” were slaves and most “blacks” were it appears to me that there was a strong amount of racial intolerance in this.

      Things did change over time.  Slavery was abolished, “black” males were given the right to vote and eventually discriminatory “Jim Crow” laws were abolished.  But who were the people, beside African Americans, who pushed for these improvements.  It seems to me that for the most part they were members of the Republican Party.  The first Republican President (in the modern sense of the term) was Abraham Lincoln who famously freed most slaves in 1863.  The reconstruction amendments to the US Constitution, 13 to 15, were ratified between 1865 and 1870.  These amendments, which are all very important to the civil rights movement freed all slaves, stated that citizenship rights are not to be abridged and provided that race be no bar to voting rights. In the “World Almanac and Book of Facts for 2003” it is reported that these amendments “. . . were drafted by Republicans . . .”  Further, the constitution states that two-thirds of both houses of congress are needed to propose an amendment.  These reconstruction amendments were proposed by congress between 1865 and 1869 during which time both houses were dominated by Republicans.  The first President to clearly call himself a Democrat was Andrew Jackson who owned slaves while President.

      The period 1880 to 1960 was approximately the time when “Jim Crow” laws that severely discriminated against blacks were in effect.  It is my understanding that “Jim Crow” laws were mainly in the south.  Because of this I feel that discrimination was stronger in the south than the north even though there was discrimination in the north.  Further, based on Presidential election results it appears to me that southern politics dominated the south between 1880 and 1960 which, as I stated, was the period of “Jim Crow” laws.

      I feel that the nature of the Democratic Party drastically changed after the election of 1933, but despite that President Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, signed the order interning Americans of Japanese decent during World War Two.  I feel this was an example of racial intolerance in that Americans of German or Italian decent were not interned.

      After World War Two things changed.  President Truman, a Democrat, integrated the military.  However, it was President Eisenhower, a Republican who, in 1957, sent Federal Troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to integrate Little Rock Central High School.  Governor Orval Faubus, who fought the integration, was a Democrat.

      The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was passed with the support of 59% of Democratic Senators, but 93% of Republican Senators.  No Republican Senator voted against it.  Further, 51% of Democratic members of the House voted for the 1957 act while 87% of Republican members of the House voted for it.  It was signed into law by President Eisenhower, a Republican.  Similarly, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed with the support of 64% of Democratic Senators, but with 81% of Republican Senators.  The House passed the Act with 62% of its Democratic members voting for it and 79% of its Republican members voting for it.  Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, signed it into law.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed with the support of 72% of Democratic Senators and 94% of Republican Senators.  In the House 77% of Democrats supported the law, while 80% of Republicans did so.  In every case a greater percentage of Republicans supported these laws than Democrats.

      Prior to the Civil War it was slavery that was the status quo, at least in some states and it was the abolition of slavery that was the progressive idea.  After the Civil War and up until very recent times discrimination and intolerance was the status quo and it was civil rights that was the progressive idea.  Because the Republican Party was opposed to slavery and in favor of the extension of civil rights through virtually all of its history it was a progressive party, at least in regard to these matters.

      I believe that the people of the United States are a lot less racist than in the past and that neither the people of the Republican Party, the Tea Party or the Democratic Party are any more racist that the people of the United States in general.

      Tom,

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2004
Sat, 10-26-2013 - 10:52am

      The Twentieth Century has been remarkable in terms of the development of democracies.  As I wrote earlier I do not consider a nation that does not allow virtually all adult women the full right to vote a democracy.  At best I would consider it to be a “pre-democracy.”  Based on this there would be few democracies in the world prior to 1900.  New Zealand did grant women’s suffrage in 1893 and some US states granted women’s suffrage prior to 1900.  Australia granted all non-aboriginal women the right to vote in 1902.  Finland granted women’s suffrage in 1906, Norway in 1913, Canada in 1917, the United States in 1920, Britain and Ireland in 1928 and France in 1944.  There were other nations which granted women’s suffrage during this period.

      Since 1972 Freedom House (see here) has been rating the nations of the world on whether they are Free, Partly Free or Not Free.  In reading about this rating system it seems to be that these rating are based on how democratic these nations are or were.  In 1972 Freedom House rated 29% of the nations of the world as free, 25% as partly free and 46% as not free.  In 2012 these ratings were 46% free, 30% partly free and 24% not free.  This table (see here) shows population trends since 1980, with 35.90% of the world population in free nations, 21.60% in partly free nations and 42.50% in not free nations in 1980.  The 2012 data shows 43.29% in free nations, 22.93% in partly free nations and 33.78% in not free nations.  This shows a strong movement from not free to free (I would say from not democratic to democratic) over this time period.

      This brings up another point.  I feel that over the long term change tends to move in one direction, but there also are setbacks.  For example after an initial attempt at democracy a nation may revert to a less democratic form of government in the form of a dictatorship or restored monarchy.  Examples would include England in the 17th century, France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Germany and Spain in the 20th century and a number of Latin American countries.  However, I feel that the data from Freedom House indicates that, despite setbacks, the long term world trend is toward more democracy.

      Tom,