Liberal + conservative = Progressive? Join in the debate!

A blog post over on TPM has me thinking about what it means to have liberal thoughts and (fiscally) conservative thoughts co-existing in the same mind. It is possible! I wrote a quick rant/diatribe incorporating Milwaukee’s great Socialist mayors in reply, and bring it to you here:

Knowing that this may be easily taken in the wrong direction, let me say that one very good example of liberal + conservative was the Milwaukee Socialist Party. The Milwaukee Socialists had the mayor’s office for a better part of the twentieth century, and even if later mayors were not Socialists themselves, they did continue one tradition of the Milwaukee Socialists: fiscal conservatism. The Milwaukee Socialists were very tight with money, which is not to say that they did not help the people. Quite the opposite. Mayor Daniel W. Hoan set up and ran a city food buying program during the Great Depression to ensure that people were not getting pinched when they bought food. Any profits he made were donated to charity, but Hoan did not keep a penny to himself. He was the kind of a socialist who put the people of the city first. Not a revolutionary Marxist, but one concerned for his city and its people.

In the time of the Socialist mayors, Milwaukee won many accolades, including “Healthiest City” and maintained a AAA municipal bond rating. It may now be down to just AA, which is still very good, considering the massive deindustrialization and job loss that has occurred. To this day, our mayors run a tight ship. Graft has spread since the Socialists’ day, especially on the county level.

I am very socially liberal, but relatively fiscally conservative. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to spend money on anything. I do want to have good, effective programs in place, such as drug rehabilitation, a super-low-interest microloan program for city residents to start small businesses, and victory gardens in every back yard. Those would take time, and money. But they are still well within the rubric of good, socially liberal programs that can help make a difference. Perhaps that is what my fellow Jason, Mr. Miller, is referring to when he combines liberal + conservative. I believe that is the sort of thing Mr. Obama will be leading us toward as well.


Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.