Profile of a Progressive

Last week, I profiled a Conservative, and this week I chose one of the most respected Progressives in the Nebraska Democratic Party. Like the Conservative, I chose this person for authenticity – meaning I believe she means what she says. She is a good friend. She makes me feel warm and happy every time we’re together. She is compassionate, committed and deeply supportive of those less fortunate. I just love her. Her views don’t seem to fit the mainstream of Nebraska political thought, but she doesn’t see it that way. She’s very optimistic about the prospect of working with Republicans to get things done.

But how do her views on Racism, Immigration, Health Care and Climate Change compare to the Conservative Nebraskan I interviewed last week? What does she really believe would be fertile ground on which to compromise? She’s committed and engaged, so let’s drill down and see what she really believes.

Like last week, my first questions were on racism in America and racism in the Party, and her words and thoughts were almost exactly the same as my Conservative friend. She believes racism is a problem for everyone everywhere, and she doesn’t see it as a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. She sees it as a human issue. Among the people she knows, she sees no outward or overt racism, but believes the Party has a lot of internal work to do in eliminating our cultural microaggressions.

Throughout this process, Immigration was the only issue in which I found fundamental differences that would make it almost impossible to find common ground. My Progressive friend believes that creating borders to stop people from naturally migrating to find better economic opportunities is essentially immoral. Most of us are reluctant to say the words out loud, but she supports open borders as it relates to immigration. That's okay. There is a strong moral case to be made on which to base that political position. My Conservative friend, on the other hand, was happy to consider very charitable solutions to keeping undocumented aliens in the U.S., but was emphatic that our borders be controlled. Clearly, this is an issue that will take a lot more honest debate before we can close the gap in our respective viewpoints.

My Progressive friend favors Medicare for All. She supported Elizabeth Warren’s plan and numbers. However, if it meant extending coverage to all Americans – a universal health care hybrid plan of some sort that protected those with preexisting conditions and undocumented workers, she would be willing to compromise away Medicare for All to get there. Of course, health care is filled with complexity and satellite issues that would need to be addressed, but I found a willingness on the parts of both my Conservative friend and my Progressive friend to get there.

The Green New Deal, a resolution to address climate change and poverty on a dramatic scale, is supported by my Progressive Friend 100 percent. However, she points out very clearly that it is a resolution and not a finished policy proposal. As Speaker Pelosi said, it’s “an aspirational document.” She believes the major problem is an outrageous misconception about what the Green New Deal is all about. “We must dispel misinformation,” she says. “No one wants to get rid of cows. What we are simply saying is that we need to farm or ranch in a way that is not hurting the environment.” I asked her specifically if she saw Republicans as “science deniers?” She scoffed at the assumption. “It simply isn’t true,” she said. “When I meet Republicans in person, they are not science deniers.” Again, she points to disinformation as the core of the problem.

As I traversed the ins and outs of this experiment, I found fascinating assumptions from both sides on what the other side believes. In all cases, the more extreme the assumptions were, the more incorrect they were. Remember both of these subjects are totally committed to their side of the political divide. Their views are more committed to the Right or Left perspective than the mainstream, and yet, they were remarkably willing to compromise to find solutions. However, in both cases I discovered a reliance on a media narrative to describe the other side that was almost completely inaccurate.

I know from experience, the more I try to question the media narrative and try to see the opposition as real people, the more I get push-back or even hateful condemnation from my political allies. It is both absurd and non-democratic. So, as we move forward together, try not to get too wrapped-up in what you see on television or hear on the radio about the other side. Instead, talk to your Conservative neighbor and see what he or she really thinks, and then believe, because it’s true, that we’re just not that far apart.


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