What drives polarization, government dysfunction? | TheUnion.com

What drives polarization, government dysfunction?

Wow, Mr. Montes! I found your May 17 opinion piece entitled "Enough of progressive ideology" truly shocking for its mean-spirited distortions and misrepresentations.

I feel compelled to respond because I think it fuels baseless hysteria, cynicism and misunderstanding and promotes the kind of polarization that is destroying effective government.

As a progressive, I am always interested in conservative opinion, not just in order to understand it, but to see where we have common ground as a starting point for constructive political discussion. I personally have no problem, e.g., with your stated basis for support of the founding principle of individualism, and I fail to see where progressives differ unless you think individualism stands for intolerance.

Progressives do not see the Constitution as an "impediment to our goals" as you suggest but as a guide and inspiration. Public policies intended for the greater good do not generally violate individual rights. Individual values remain personal and viable for the individual unless those values lead to negligent or criminal acts that cause harm to others (e.g., murdering a doctor because he performs constitutionally permitted abortions). Every community has rules that limit behavior "for the common good." Such rules, laws or policies have nothing to do with individual rights and have no relevancy to the discussion of "liberty."

We celebrate that the Constitution mandates freedom of speech and free exercise of religion because it promotes liberty, as well as tolerance. It protects individual thought and beliefs while inviting discussion whereby the best ideas and beliefs survive the process and thrive. That's called progress and has nothing to do with anyone losing their rights as an American. There is no conspiracy or agenda in academia or in most media to promote "propaganda." These are important venues for learning, discussion and debate necessary to a democracy. As far as your concerns about limited government, has it occurred to you that government has remained limited but grown in proportion to our increased population, technology and expansion of global interests, as well as other powerful interests beyond our individual control? Our national responsibilities are huge. We are a world power, after all.

Your greatest distortion, Mr. Montes, was your misinterpretation of Obama's comment (if he in fact said it) about "fundamentally transforming the USA."

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When he entered office, the country was facing economic collapse due to lack of regulation of Wall Street, the lowering of taxes for the rich and 10 years of unfunded wars by prior conservative administrations that had created a huge, fiscally irresponsible level of debt. President Obama sought to stabilize the economic situation, bring back lost jobs, end the wars and bring the troops home. He is doing that. He sought to address neglected domestic issues, to find remedy for large scale problems only government can address, to fulfill its constitutional obligation to "promote the general welfare." He sought to address problems such as: unaffordable health care; failing infrastructure; oil dependency and oil spills; public education; public safety and health; fiscal problems; entitlement and tax reform, etc.

The Affordable Care Act was not "rammed down our throats." It was based on the conservative ideas of The Heritage Foundation (and RomneyCare), debated and enacted by our elected representatives and deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. It has already given over 8 million people affordable health insurance, thus making our country healthier.

Obama and most Americans are aware of the destruction of the middle class during the conservative revolution of the past 30 years. Obama seeks to "level the playing field" so the middle class can recover and thrive again. If that is an expression of progressive ideology, it should be celebrated.

Certainly there is no reason to call progressives a "greater danger" than "Islamic jihadists!" I think we are all fed up with a conservative ideology that promotes fear and anti-intellectualism and supports a "do nothing," obstructionist Congress that consistently fails to deal with the problems this country faces, even to the point of shutting down the federal government.

Instead of slander, we progressives seek truthfulness, integrity, fairness, patience, compassion and civility to address these issues.

Michele Spencer lives in Grass Valley.

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