A few weeks ago, Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich declared to a packed Working Families Summit audience at Iowa State University that the future of our country is no longer a battle between Democrats and Republicans or liberals and conservatives.

To Reich, it now boils down to a new power struggle; one between progressives and a group he calls “regressives.”

I had never heard anyone frame the discussion about the “state of the union” in such a way before so I did some research. I found a 2011 op-ed piece he penned where he explains:

“Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity and tolerance. Progressives assume we’re all in it together: We all benefit from public investments in schools and health care and infrastructure. And we do better with strong safety nets, reasonable constraints on Wall Street and big business, and a truly progressive tax system. Progressives worry when the rich and privileged become powerful enough to undermine democracy.”

Regressives don’t, on all points, according to Reich. 

From what I’ve gathered, regressives are hellbent on an America built around the “survival of the fittest.” Their stance is that if you haven’t succeeded it’s because you’re either lazy, not as smart as they are or just don’t deserve to. Progressives, on the other hand, are focused on a future that includes everyone. 

Regressives see America as a free-for-all where only the wealthy and more fortunate deserve a shot at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Progressives see America as one where everyone has the same opportunity at the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness no matter their socioeconomic status, their gender, their sexual or religious affiliation. 

These are all important things for Iowans to keep in mind. With the presidential election now a little more than a year away (17 months to be exact), it’s time Iowans start considering a new way to look at presidential hopefuls. Iowans should no longer just hear the labels “Democrat” or “Republican” and instantly make judgments on the candidate or idea. Instead, listen to what they say and what they propose while asking yourself any and all of these questions: 

• “Does that sound like a progressive idea or a regressive one?”

• “Does their idea include all Americans or just a few at the top?”

• “Does their idea move the country forward or pull it back?”

Let’s let candidates and parties with the most regressive ideas fall out of relevance while moving out of the way for the candidates and parties that want to move our country forward.

We Iowans already have the spotlight on us for the next year or so, we might as well make the best of it. We won’t all agree on everything all of the time, but let’s at least disagree while moving our country forward, not pulling it backwards.