What does it mean to be a Progressive? A long time ago, those in America who thought it best to work for the greater good, defined themselves as Liberals. However, in the late 1980s that term was given a negative connotation. Liberals lost their way. Then, they [we] progressed. The tem Liberal went through a metamorphosis. Now, those who actively express their concern for society as a whole identify themselves as Progressive.
Progressives are part of a Party. They advocate social, economic, or political reform gradually. The conventional wisdom is, unlike the Liberal, generous, freethinking, broadminded persons, a Progressive will not pursue change solely for change sake. A Progressive will plot and plan and perhaps, not move much at all. Indeed, may Americans now believe those on the Left are identical to those on the right. The pendulum no longer swings; nor are we left standing at the pinnacle as a Buddhist might muse. We, no matter our political, social, or economic bent we stand still and stagnate. One merely needs to look at the newer Congress to realize Americans are unsure what it means to be a Progressive.
The distortions, degradation of the term, and the traits, have a history. To Progress we must understand.
Liberal a bad word? In the French sense, it became so
Special to the News & Observer
I did a Google search on "liberal" and "dirty word." They occur together more than 220,000 times.
So is liberalism a politically viable viewpoint in the United States today?
Origins tell us something. The oldest sense is "liberal arts," intellectual pursuits without practical purpose, suited for free citizens with free minds. The first uses of "liberal" in English described someone who was generous in bestowing wealth or gifts. Nothing dirty so far, right?
It was with the twin revolutions at the end of the 18th century in America and France that the word developed two senses, and they were often in tension.
In Britain and America, to be liberal meant to be tolerant of other points of view, to be free from prejudice. The clearest exponent of this view, still a hero of the libertarian right, was John Stuart Mill.
The French liberal, however, implied not forbearance but action. For proponents, liberal simply meant an advocate for freedom and democracy, including economic equality. But to many American conservatives, liberal meant a pursuit of lawlessness, a French-inspired disrespect for tradition and a desire for radical leveling of wealth and status.
By the end of the 19th century in the United States, the meanings of liberal and liberal had been absorbed by a powerful political force: progressivism. Progressives believed in the evolution of human affairs. They advocated women's suffrage, the temperance movement, anti-trust regulation and the creation of a professional Civil Service.
But embracing these progressive ideas got liberals into trouble and changed what they stood for.
The turning point in ideas about government was the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. It changed our character, it ended for many people the sense of optimistic self-sufficiency they had been brought up with and it turned us back from progressivism toward liberalism. Liberalism came to mean that concern for the poor is not just a sentiment, but a motivation for policy. Liberals fought for reforms that built a wall of government resources around those who were least well-off, a dam holding back a tide of poverty, ignorance, starvation and disease.
Imagine to stave off callowness, hunger, and sickness might be a bad thing. How could that be?
Currently, Conservatives wish to explain they are compassionate. They claim Conventionalists can care for people, money, and attend to policy cautiously. Hence, we might extrapolate; tradition and thoughtfulness can co-exist within one Party or a single person.
More recently, however, liberalism has stopped working. Many of the core beliefs of liberals are still present in American thought and culture, but for a politician to call herself a "liberal" is suicide in most jurisdictions. The reason is that the French sense won the war of meaning, and Americans rejected that view of political life. Doctrinaire ideologues, insisting on a particular conception of equality at the expense of liberty and on a narrow secular interpretation of the rhetorical space of public discourse, hijacked liberalism.
It was a Pyrrhic victory: In winning control of the Democratic party, they lost the confidence of voters. Liberalism was reduced to an interest group code phrase: "Vote for me, and I'll give you other people's money."
It doesn't have to be that way. Thousands of Americans are struggling to return liberal ideas to our public discourse. These views may seem rusty and in need of some oil. But their essential power is unchanged, and their appeal is timeless. A celebration of individual liberties, a tolerance for all points of view, an openness to change and a fundamental belief in the promise of human cooperation live still at the core of American liberalism.
Today, those on the Left are still forward thinking, open-minded, and tolerant. However, they may be guarded to their detriment. Liberals, uncertain of how to describe their beliefs search for a way to communicate what it means to be a modern-day Progressive, one who does not act with reckless disregard, is aware, and observant of consequences. Liberals, Progressives are attentive and wish to make their intentions known.
The Center For American Progress invites our assistance. They request that together, we tell our story and illustrate what America means to us. Progressives, those that lean Left, and are Liberal must make known what we stand for, not just what we stand against.
Four videos are presented for your review. Please view each and vote for the one that you believe best communicates what it means to be a Progressive. I offer two of these productions for your pleasure.
We are creating a long-term, progressive vision for America-a vision that policy makers, thought-leaders and activists can use to shape the national debate and pass laws that make a difference.
As progressives, we believe that America should be a country of boundless opportunity-where all people can better themselves through education, hard work, and the freedom to pursue their dreams. We believe this will only be achieved with an open and effective government that champions the common good over narrow self-interest, harnesses the strength of our diversity, and secures the rights and safety of its people.
Hmmmm? What do you think? For me, the decision was not an easy one. I thought the compilation placed in the introduction of this treatise was well done. I also enjoyed another creation. Please consider another audio-visual opus. Interesting?
Which of these public announcements helps you to understand what it means to be a Progressive? Perchance the two not shown would be more to your liking. Please explore, vote, and contribute, if you choose. Tell those lost in the space of ten, thirty, and sixty-second sound bites what it really means to be Left, Liberal, and in pursuit of shared liberty.