All Politicians Are Progressives

by Bob Schwartz

Horse Carriage - Lincoln
Either you embrace innovation or you don’t. And so all politicians who use an iPhone or love the NFL are progressives.

Innovation has two faces. One is the innovation that solves problems. The other is innovation that just does stuff—even if you didn’t ask for it, even if you never knew you wanted it or needed it. Moving from horse transport to self-contained mechanical carriages solved a basic problem, but over time added features some of which are useful and practical for the central function, others of which are just enjoyment that becomes essential. Because times change, as do human expectations and aspirations. Innovation feeds that.

So unless you are a politician who doesn’t have a smartphone, or who doesn’t use a phone or computer at all, or doesn’t drive a tricked-out luxury car (it counts even if you have a driver), you are the beneficiary and tacit endorser of innovation. Which is why when some politicians hearken back to the comprehensive goodness of 18th century America—or 19th or 20th, depending on the issue—it is dangerously silly. This economic Drecession requires an embrace of 360 degree innovation, not just untaxing and unburdening ourselves to prosperity. Not just churning out a generation of STEMers to magically bring us back to former glory. And not just putting digital devices in the hands of every school child either.

This is not the exclusive purview of any political party. There is a tendency, even among the most well-meaning, to take pages from a beloved playbook that are no longer viable. When the legendary coach Sid Gillman changed pro football forever in the 1950s by making the forward pass the centerpiece of the game, it was scoffed at—until he started winning championships and opponents had to permanently rethink the defensive game.

If politicians want to ride around in fancy horse-drawn carriages and send their messages by horse-carried post (if they haven’t made the Post Office disappear), that’s okay. But chances are they’ve embraced innovation in practically every minute of their lives (they love their Twitter!) because, well, it is 2013. It is 2013, everywhere, in every facet, and pretending otherwise is just horse-and-buggy policy. Or maybe just a convenient way to get elected.