A Progressive Definition of Freedom

Pete Buttigieg, a progressive Democrat, it the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He is also a Rhodes scholar, served a tour of duty in Afghanistan during his time as mayor, and is openly gay.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Buttigieg talked about the need for progressives to win back and recast concepts that conservatives currently “own.” He argues that it’s time for progressives to own freedom, family, and patriotism.

You’ll hear me talk all the time about freedom. Because I think there is a failure on our side if we allow conservatives to monopolize the idea of freedom — especially now that they’ve produced an authoritarian president. But what actually gives people freedom in their lives? The most profound freedoms of my everyday existence have been safeguarded by progressive policies, mostly. The freedom to marry who I choose, for one, but also the freedom that comes with paved roads and stop lights. Freedom from some obscure regulation is so much more abstract. But that’s the freedom that conservatism has now come down to.

Or think about the idea of family, in the context of everyday life. It’s one thing to talk about family values as a theme, or a wedge — but what’s it actually like to have a family? Your family does better if you get a fair wage, if there’s good public education, if there’s good health care when you need it. These things intuitively make sense, but we’re out of practice talking about them.

I also think we need to talk about a different kind of patriotism: a fidelity to American greatness in its truest sense. You think about this as a local official, of course, but a truly great country is made of great communities. What makes a country great isn’t chauvinism. It’s the kinds of lives you enable people to lead. I think about wastewater management as freedom. If a resident of our city doesn’t have to give it a second thought, she’s freer.

Universal healthcare = freedom.

Good public education = freedom.

Clean drinking water and air = freedom.

Fair wages = freedom.

Affordable housing = freedom.

Easy & Secure voting = freedom.

Gun control = freedom.

Policing by consent = freedom.

The concept of freedom has been corrupted, distorted and bastardized. It’s time for progressives to own it.

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