The passing of Sens. Richard Lugar and Birch Bayh this year has made clear the difference between the two predominant chains of thought in how society handles its problems, finding day-to-day or long-term solutions to learn from mistakes and make society run more smoothly for the benefit of all.
We talk about how the Republicans of today have been hijacked by a new, selfish attitude that seeks only to operate like a venture capitalist liquidating assets from a company it intends to bury, and how the great Republicans of the past would not be welcome in the version that has arisen in the past 10 years. Either that, or it is said that they wish in general to return to some simpler time when things were not changing so rapidly, and when a person's role in society was never in question.
The name of the party is not the culprit, but a redefinition of the driving forces behind these – conservative or progressive – is.
In Lugar's time, to be a conservative meant a general way of dealing with the issues of society was cautiously. Steps should be incremental toward resolving and learning from problems, with a lower risk of losing ground too rapidly. Conservatives did not want to regress to a simpler time; they still looked toward the future, just with what they claim was more surefootedness.
The other school of thought, a progressive attitude, sought to make greater gains more rapidly, certain that a carefully considered solution was the right one, leaning to be more inclusive, less concerned about the older power structure in the interest of being more equal. The changes they sought were seen as more urgent.
But we needed a tempered view of both of these attitudes, a common ground and a balanced way of not only dealing with society but perfecting it along the way. Both were moving forward, and the balance between them protected against losses.
I don't see that in some of those who now claim to be conservatives, not looking to move forward on the findings of scientific researchers. Instead of acting on findings, they cast doubts on the imminent threat of climate change, stoke the unfounded fears of being vaccinated and resist funding of public education.
To be fair, many of the modern progressives have also morphed into a loud band of resisters who loudly oppose any challenge to their onward movement. Any attempt at temperance is seen as a denial of their own definition of pure sociology and will not be considered or met with anything but loud attacks on their intelligence.
It is not hard to see the hurt that can come from being called stupid, and not hard to see why people are not motivated to jump on their wagon of complete social reversal.
The passing of Bayh and Lugar is hopefully a reminder that steadfast division, not based on the interests of a shared society's progression but on who is the biggest brain in the neighborhood, is unacceptable and unproductive.
Though I have always considered myself progressive, from a long line of Kennedy Democrats, I took part in a high school project that involved Sen. Lugar. I was excited to meet him, and though I wound up not taking part, continued to correspond with him about the project. He wrote back with the transcripts, and letters written in his own hand.
I always figured it was some staffer in his office but have come to find that he often did this with constituents. I suppose a modern citizen would have not have taken part, or have been received so graciously by someone on “the other side.” We opposed each other politically, but trusted that the aim was to be better.
I hope the examples of these two giant men will not be lost.
Curtis J. Nash is a Fort Wayne resident.