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Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Liberals, are we using the term Progressive now to describe our politics?

Asked by Imadethisupwithnoforethought (14669points) August 18th, 2011

I am aware that for many more conservative folks, the terms “liberal” and “socialist” have become emotionally loaded in a negative way.

Conservative folks seem to use them as slurs or shorthand in conversation when describing persons not holding their worldviews.

In the last year or so, I have noted the resurgence of the term “Progressive”. Is this a conscious relabeling decision? Am I reading this correctly?

I am all for it, FYI, if that is indeed the case. I am just wondering if it is my imagination or a real, intended effort to re-brand.

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42 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I started using the word more often because I think it is an accurate and fitting term. Everything on this planet is progressive, essentially.

Cruiser's avatar

Even though I am largely conservative I can still appreciate the positives of being a liberal. But WTH is positive about being a Socialist?

bkcunningham's avatar

The Progressive Party has been around since the early 1900s and the days of Theodore Roosevelt. Many Democrats are openly Progressive. There is actually a group called Progressive Democrats of America which boasts the names of some pretty influencial and affluent people, including US Reps. and US Senators, among their board members. They have an agenda clearly spelled out in writing.

Qingu's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought I think it’s a bit of both. Though Glenn Beck has tried his darndest to make “progressive” a slur as well.

I prefer “progressive” because I think it’s more descriptive than “liberal.” Who doesn’t claim to love liberty? Calling yourself a liberal doesn’t really tell you much of anything in and of itself. Whereas if you are a “progressive,” that tells me that you believe the future can and should be better than the past—unlike “conservatives” who want to conserve traditions and who tend to venerate the past.

josie's avatar

A rose by any other name.
The members of the Progressive Caucus in the HOR include Barney Frank, Maxine Waters, Dennis Kucinich, Henry Waxman, Barbara Lee, Pete Stark etc.
Need we say more?

bkcunningham's avatar

@josie, no. That speaks volumes.

Qingu's avatar

What exactly do you think it speaks? I’m confused as to what exactly is the sinister insinuation here.

bkcunningham's avatar

It isn’t a sinister insinuation, @Qingu, as you said. If you look at the voting record and listen to the voices of the members of the PDA, you will see their fascist agenda. Many people are Progressives and that is fine. Just know what it means and what you are supporting before you say you are a Progressive. The Progressives are upset with Obama because he hasn’t pushed their agenda hard and far enough.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@bkcunningham please don’t say fascist. It tends to end thoughtful discussion

Qingu's avatar

Fascist agenda, huh. Mind elaborating?

bkcunningham's avatar

Do you know the history of the political Progressive movement, @Qingu?

Qingu's avatar

Not as told by Glenn Beck. Care to enlighten me?

bkcunningham's avatar

It is really interesting and much too long to go into in this thread. A good start is to read about the Bull-Moose Party or the Roosevelt Progressives of 1912. It is really the history of The New Deal.

Qingu's avatar

@bkcunningham, what do you think the word “fascism” means?

bkcunningham's avatar

Merriam-Webster: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Qingu's avatar

And the feature of fascism that distinguishes it from communism?

Qingu's avatar

Um, no… both fascists and communists have powerful states.

The difference is the existence of corporations. Fascists allow and encourage private industry and are opposed to labor unions.

But don’t let that stop you from drawing connections between your political opponents and Nazis.

swuesquire's avatar

For the OP, yes, I now identify as progressive. If someone asked me, I’d say I was liberal as well, but I would say I prefer progressive. Six of one half a dozen of the other. Plenty of progressives I disagree with, so I’m not sure the label is a clear delineator.

swuesquire's avatar

@bkcunningham “exalts nation and often race above the individual” – please explain how this applies to the actions of the Progressive Caucus Members above.

As a progressive, I’d say the central idea is to do our best to liberate and improve the lives of every individual. When markets work, they are the right tool (I guess this makes me neoliberal) and when markets fail, we try to design the most efficient system available to shore up the weak spots.

The two key ideas for me are the primacy of individuals over corporations and a skepticism that unregulated markets are always and everywhere the best solution.

Are you saying that this somehow means I am a nationalist or racist trying to conscript my fellow humans into the smothering embrace of big bad daddy government?

bkcunningham's avatar

@Qingu,“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power,” Benito Mussolini.

bkcunningham's avatar

Also, @Qingu, communism’s is rooted in the philosophical framework of a stateless utopia.

Qingu's avatar

So I’m still confused about why you think progressives are rooted in fascism. The new deal supported labor. Progressives today support labor and unions against corporate power, support freedom of speech and religion, and strongly oppose discrimination against minority groups.

bkcunningham's avatar

If you look at the history of the Progressives in America, you will see their ties to Fascism. Remember, @Qingu, Mussolini wasn’t always considered to be an evil person by others leaders in the world.

swuesquire's avatar

@bkcunningham This is the fourth or fifth time that you’ve said Progressives are fascist without providing any reason why you believe this. When asked why you think that, you say go look it up.

I’m sorry but I don’t find this helpful for seeing your point of view or potentially changing my mind.

I therefore offer the following counter construction:

“Hayek was a socialist. Go read a book and you’ll understand why.”

Qingu's avatar

So some progressives (along with others) didn’t think Mussolini was evil, therefore progressivism has its roots in fascism? Is that your argument?

bkcunningham's avatar

Of course not, @Qingu. Many early American Progressives, like Roosevelt, embraced some of Mussolin’s ideologies, policies and philosophies. Power of the state to promote social values sort of thing. Both are really corporatism.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I describe my ideas as progressive. I guess I do have plenty liberal ideas. But they’re not one and the same, to me.

Qingu's avatar

@bkcunningham, doesn’t your religion tell you not to bear false witness? Why do you think it’s okay to just make these allegations without providing a single shred of evidence to support them?

bkcunningham's avatar

What do you think the New Deal was @Qingu? What do you think Eleanor Roosevelt’s Authurdale Project was all about? How about the Pure Food and Drug’s movement, eugenics and Margaret Sanger? Have you read about the Flexner Report, the Interstate Commerce Act? These ideas of government control for the good of the people wasn’t new to America and the Progressives. I would recommend you read, “Three New Deals” by Wolfgang Schivelbusch before you call me a liar. That is ludicrous.

Qingu's avatar

The New Deal was about lessening unemployment and providing a measure of social security to Americans who were starving to death en masse. You can deride it as “socialism” if you like but it was not fascist; businesses hated the New Deal.

I’ve never heard of the Authurdale Project and neither has Google apparently:
http://www.google.com/search?q=Authurdale+Project&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

I just skimmed the Wiki on Flexner Report and found nothing of consequence:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexner_Report

I have no idea what you think Interstate Commerce has to do with fascism.

I looked up the book on Amazon. Here’s their gloss:

“Returning to the Depression, Schivelbusch traces the emergence of a new type of state: bolstered by mass propaganda, led by a charismatic figure, and projecting stability and power. He uncovers stunning similarities among the three regimes: the symbolic importance of gigantic public works programs like the TVA dams and the German autobahn, which not only put people back to work but embodied the state’s authority; the seductive persuasiveness of Roosevelt’s fireside chats and Mussolini’s radio talks; the vogue for monumental architecture stamped on Washington, as on Berlin; and the omnipresent banners enlisting citizens as loyal followers of the state.”

Far from equating Roosevelt, Hitler, and Mussolini or minimizing their acute differences, Schivelbusch proposes that the populist and paternalist qualities common to their states hold the key to the puzzling allegiance once granted to Europe’s most tyrannical regimes.” (emphasis mine)

Only a moron would point to the numerous similarities between industrialized countries in the 1930’s and 40’s and conclude that they were all fascists. It’s like arguing that the Republican party are really Salafi-Islamic extremists because they came to power based on oil money and religious propaganda —just like the Saudi monarchy.

Qingu's avatar

(Just found Arthurdale: a failed planned community to help unemployed people? Who cares? What on earth does that have to do with militant, racist, pro-corporate, dictatorial fascism?)

dappled_leaves's avatar

Seriously, @bkcunningham, you can look at the Democratic party on one side of the room and the Republican party on the other, and the Democratic party is the one that you associate with fascism and corporatism?

Really?

breedmitch's avatar

There is not one name on Josie’s congressional list that I do not admire.
Progressive makes me think of the wonderful Molly Ivans, god rest her beautiful soul.
At the base of it, Progressives just want a better, more humane existence for all of us. What’s so wrong with that? And honestly, we’re much smarter than so many of you, so we have a better idea of how things should happen, and wouldn’t it be so much nicer if you just stayed out of the way and let us improve peoples’ lives?

Qingu's avatar

Hm. Something smells fishy.

ETpro's avatar

@bkcunningham You have fascism about as backwards as you can get it, which isn’t surprising if you get your understanding of it from the likes of Glenn Beck. He redefines it completely and drag elements of its early roots in turn of the Century Italy forward as if they were still there 50 years later to spin his web of propaganda.

Here’s what Fascism was by the 1930s
If you will take the few minutes required to read that article, you will see that the Fascism of Nazi Germany is opposed to unions, opposed to socialism and communism, and pro private for-profit market-driven economics. Does that sound more like the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party or the Far Right in America?

In fact, demonization and false charges were a favorite tool of Fascist to purge and destroy any opposing political ideas and those who held them. Sound familiar?

ETpro's avatar

Back to the OP, I like the term Progressive because it is more definitive. Liberal can mean a lot of things, such as a loose interpretation (liberal interpretation) rather than a strict one. Progressive is more to the point of what the Democratic Party stands for, and its not quite as easy to demonize as the regressives have so capably done with the word “liberal” which they now treat as if it is a pejorative. Not big dictionary users, I guess.

bkcunningham's avatar

Thank you @ETpro for redirecting the discussion and for the link. Explain this to me, please. In the Wiki article you provided, why is it that I read this, just one example, and it seems to say what I am saying but you are apparently seeing it differently than I do:

“In 1919, Alceste De Ambris and Futurist movement leader Filippo Tommaso Marinetti created The Manifesto of the Italian Fasci of Combat (a.k.a. the Fascist Manifesto).[91] The Manifesto was presented on June 6, 1919 in the Fascist newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia. The Manifesto supported the creation of universal suffrage for both men and women (the latter being realized only partly in late 1925, with all opposition parties banned or disbanded[92]); proportional representation on a regional basis; government representation through a corporatist system of “National Councils” of experts, selected from professionals and tradespeople, elected to represent and hold legislative power over their respective areas, including labour, industry, transportation, public health, communications, etc.; and the abolition of the Italian Senate.[93] The Manifesto supported the creation of an eight-hour work day for all workers, a minimum wage, worker representation in industrial management, equal confidence in labour unions as in industrial executives and public servants, reorganization of the transportation sector, revision of the draft law on invalidity insurance, reduction of the retirement age from 65 to 55, a strong progressive tax on capital, confiscation of the property of religious institutions and abolishment of bishoprics, and revision of military contracts to allow the government to seize 85% of their[who?] profits.[94] It also called for the creation of a short-service national militia to serve defensive duties, nationalization of the armaments industry, and a foreign policy designed to be peaceful but also competitive.[95]”

Please, don’t respond with name calling, attempting to be insulting or degrading. I’m not in the mood today. I was hoping to really understand how I can read it one way and you can read it another.

Qingu's avatar

@bkcunningham, only about half of that lines up with “progressivism.” The same can be said for any two historical ideologies. You can take any two political movements, put them in a Venn diagram, point to where they inevitably overlap, and then say “look, Ron Paul is the same as the Japanese Shogunate, because they both like gold-based economies!”

Fascism also clearly evolved throughout its history, just like American political parties evolve (remember when Republicans were champions of the environment under Nixon? Remember when Democrats appealed to white racists before the Civil Rights era?) In the 1930’s (at its height, and what most people think of when they say “fascism,”) I would argue that fascism was marked, more than any particular economic policy, by extremely militant nationalism and dictatorship. That is the polar opposite of what most progressives stand for. Most progressives are extremely anti-war and if they are comfortable with warfare it is generally in the context of working with the international community and obeying international laws. Most progressives also oppose executive overreach and a heavy-handed state apparatus (despite the Glenn Beck caricature that you are apparently taken with).

ETpro's avatar

@bkcunningham Thanks for the civility of your response, and I will respond in kind. There was a long and bitter struggle in Italy for the control and direction of the Fascist Movement. From its roots in the late 1800s up through the time your excerpt describes, the unionists and socialists of Italy, who were part of the movement, tried to take the party in the direction the The Manifesto of the Italian Fasci of Combat supports.

To make a long story short, they lost. Benito Mussolini and the corporatist/militarist branch that hated unions, socialism and communism won. They brutally suppressed their former party members who held differing views from their own. When Adolph Hitler in Germany adopted Fascism, it was the Mussolini brand 100%

The fear that swept the entire world after the Great Depression made socialists, unionists and collectivists of any kind easy game. They were the enemy that put everyone out of work. Of course, the truth was it was fat cats on Wall Street making increasingly risky and extremely leveraged bets that really triggered the collapse. What else isn’t exactly new? But truth never seems to get a foot in the door when fear-driven politics gets involved.

The things that Progressive Democrats in America have always stood for are as anathema as the word anathema can get to what the Axis Powers and the Third Reich stood for.

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