Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Election 2007/2008: Battle for the Future of Philadelphia and the World Part I

It is quite clear, as evidenced across the country, that American politicians are absolutely unrepresentative of the people who send them to statehouses and Washington. We see incumbency become a weird form of radiation that mutates the cellular structure of politicians; these men and women become subhumans (excuse the hyperbole) that espouse views and defend positions that are often indefensible and sickening to their constituents back home (e.g. Schiavo bill) In local government, as seen in Philadelphia, it can get even worse. As a lifelong Philadelphian (only 21 years old) I traveled to Washington DC to attend The George Washington University studying International Affairs and Public Policy. It was there that I learned much more than I wanted about politics and politicians. Being in DC during the presidential primary season and the general election taught me a lot about the role local, regional and national politics plays in the lives of everyday Americans.

Philadelphia politics, like American politics are in desperate need of an overhaul of its human resources. The kind of people we send to City Councils, Statehouses and Congress are not representing the views of their constituents. Of course, people send their representatives away to make decisions in their stead, and if they do not agree then they can get voted out next time around. But this is not happening either. We simply do not care enough to hold our representatives accountable, thereby leaving us terribly vulnerable to unimaginable abuses of power, fiscal irresponsibility and lies masked in things called faith and patriotism. Regardless of political ideology, I believe that if you ask someone who pays attention to what is going on, reads the occasional newspaper and watches a news cast every now and then, they will say with authority that America and their city is moving in the wrong direction.

In 2007, we have the opportunity to set it right. And we can do it in Philadelphia first. Politicians often say we need to get our fiscal house in order. I think we need to get our political house in order. And we can do that by electing pragmatic progressives (of liberal or conservative ideology) to office. However, I argue that these progressives must be young; a new generation must lead us in this 21st century. We need a larger presence of young and dynamic pragmatists in office who are willing to do what is right as opposed to what is politically expedient. Clearly this is idealistic and brings up a few issues. Term limits? Nonpartisan elections? Real campaign finance reform that makes it easier for people who are not millionaires to run for state office? We shall see. But it will take ambitious young progressives to change Philadelphia, America and indeed, the world. I think it begin in Philadelphia, in 2007. Where is the founding conference for those people?


At 8:41 AM, Blogger DanielUA said...

Good post...

And, welcome to the fold, Omar.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Ben Waxman said...

What does it mean to be progressive? I've always associated the word with liberal ideas. Can you be conservative and progressive?

I agree that young people in Philadelphia are ripe to participate in a broad social movement for change at the local and national level. I also like some of the proposals like term limits and campaign finance reform. I used to be against term limits, but after living in New York City for a semester, I got to see them in action. NYC has one of the most progressive city councils in the Northeast. I think this is partially due to the term limits that keep ideas fresh.

At 2:30 PM, Blogger Pat Evans/Butcher/Wicks said...

Grover Norquist is as progressive as they come in the sense that he is willing to propose new ideas and do new things. I think of "progressive" as willing to change and to be a "conservative" means you want things to stay the same.

It is a problem that the term progressive does not really mean anything. I for instance would say that supporting Business Privilege Tax reduction is NOT progressive, but some Philadelphians think that that stance is the penultimate progressive, reform-oriented campaign.

hmm, what is progressive?

At 3:10 PM, Anonymous john said...

I think of progressive as believing in the positive role of government in promoting equal opportunity, minority rights, social justice, environmental protection, global cooperation, and a moral economy.

I think of progressive as believing in the necessary role of government in allievating market failures that come from unchecked capitalism.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger DanielUA said...

I would consider Norquist to be regressive, not progressive. His ideas aren't new at all; he wants to return America to the early 1900's.

At 3:29 PM, Anonymous john said...

moreover, i don't think progressive should be defined of with reference to time...moving forward or backwards is just semantics

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Omar said...

Wow what a great debate! There seems to be some serious thought revolving around progressivism (is that a word?)

I'd like to think that to be progressive you have to espouse or support views that "fundamentally or significantly" change something. Thats as good as I can get right now.

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous john said...

man...i totally disagree. progressive isn't a reactionary term...it should be something static. i think this whole "change" or "moving forward" is part of our larger messaging problem.

i don't blindly believe in change as progressive. a zoroastrian oligarch who started a party in the u.s. would be progressive by that definition.

in fact, that might be what it literally means...but for me, it means something more.

At 3:56 PM, Blogger ACM said...

john's first list is almost exactly what I imagine when I use the word.

it's not about the temporal sense of 'progress,' but closer to the way that a tax system can be said to be 'progressive' (in that it somewhat acts to redistribute wealth downward). getting toward a more just, equitable, compassionate society.

At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Never understood the deal with term limits… they just seem to imply that voters have to be helped with their job of electing people. I mean if you don’t want a third term president than don’t vote for one but I don’t think it is really necessary to vote on if we should be able to vote on third term presidential candidates… just gets us another step further removed from the democratic process.

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't need term limits for offices that are more competitive (e.g., mayor, president, county executive). You need them for the legislature so that you don't have career politicians. The voters do need that help.


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