Friday, November 21, 2008

Progressive versus liberal...

This article at Salon caught my attention, because I've personally experienced the varying definitions of what it meant to be "progressive" which is a term that has been used by a variety of groups of Democrats. Most recently progressive has been taken to mean those that are more to the left, when I started using it instead of liberal to describe myself it was to define I was left, but a bit more moderate.

In weighing the arguments of why some should just return to the definition "liberal" I recommend reading the full piece for all 6 reasons why Michael Lind asks, Is it OK to be liberal again, instead of progressive? Two parts I wanted to point out this:
Because liberalism refers to a particular kind of social order, and does not depend on any implied relationship of the present to the past or future, liberals can be either progressive or conservative, depending on whether they seek to move toward a more liberal system or to maintain a liberal system that already exists. For that matter, liberals can be revolutionary, if creating or establishing a liberal society requires a violent revolution. Liberals can even be counterrevolutionary, if they are defending a liberal society from revolutionary radicals, including anti-liberal revolutionaries of the radical right like Timothy McVeigh or Muslim jihadists.

And...the reason why I called myself a Liberal, what I perceive to be a true Liberal before the whole progressive/not progressive discussion even happened:
What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

9 comments:

Robin said...

I've thought that I was a "progressive", but I guess I'm not. I always thought that a person who was a "progressive" was a person who was willing to compromise, go beyond the least possible effort, and work for progress. IMO leaning further to the left isn't progress and it doesn't seem to encourage any kind of compromise or work. Bah... I don't like the word "liberal" either. The right has made it into a dirty word. I guess I would just consider myself a "moderate". We certainly love our labels, don't we?

Lisa Renee said...

Yes we do, you could call yourself "progressively moderate" or "moderately progressive" or...we could just call you...Robin.

:-)

Jill said...

Yeah - I saw that too - I'm glad you wrote about it. I will never forget when I was told I wasn't progressive enough to be on a progressive blog ring (by someone not in the ring - one of our favorite commenters).

But I confessed then and do now - I really had never heard of the word progressive until a few months into blogging in 2005 - I think I asked Jeff Coryell to help me understand it early on - I just really didn't get it.

Do you think that this evolution of the name and the label "progressive" is connected to the netroots' evolution? I've been left of center my whole life, but really had never heard much play with that word before the last three years.

Lisa Renee said...

I'm not sure it was the netroots though they have made the whole definition of "progressive" "liberal" etc., pretty confusing because hardly anyone wants to be called a Liberal anymore. Even back as far as 2005 Congress was using the label "progressive" to define those who were not that moderate.

Example that I blogged about back in 2005...

If I had a dollar for everytime someone said I wasn't liberal enough or progressive enough, I'd have to worry about Obama's tax increases (haha). Few of us are textbook any label since there are always some issues on any platform that not everyone will agree with. I've seen so many episodes of "Democrats eating their own" a good example that is Ellen Tauscher. Kos and some of the bunch decided she was not "progressive enough" and realistically the whole Leiberman Senate race was pretty much the same thing, targeting incumbents rather than the other party.

While I don't think incumbents deserve a free pass, I also think that if the goal that the Democratic Party keeps preaching is the veto proof majority, it seems to be counterproductive to their plan to waste money and time on beating Democrats who are deemed to not be liberal enough. Most of our country is not liberal, not even JFK's definition of liberal...

Jill said...

" it seems to be counterproductive to their plan to waste money and time on beating Democrats who are deemed to not be liberal enough. Most of our country is not liberal, not even JFK's definition of liberal..."

Yes - recalls the OpenLeft or MyDD or whoever was doing that Bush dog campaign against folks including Zach Space and I forget who the other Ohioan was. That was freakish dogma in action.

The News Writer said...

OK, I surrender. I'll be liberal only (I have kinda used both in the past). But Lind invoked the name of god in defense of "liberal," and if Barbara Jordan was proud to be a liberal, then I am too.

But ... I've used both for me because I see liberal as a as an ideology, a political philosophy, and progressive more as a concept, I guess, not quite a simple as Lind's "the progressive wants to move forward," but more a recognition that the world we live in is moving forward, changing in a natural flow toward progress and that working with the flow makes those changes much more palatable than working against it. Rivers aren't meant to be dammed, and regardless of all the "benefits" a dammed river presents -- electricity, recreation, etc -- it causes far more long term problems.

In the same way I often refer to "regressive conservatives" who want to stop or reverse that flow.

Lisa Renee said...

If there was a simple agreed upon description, it'd be easier, I admit I've used progressive in the past too. It does or at least did, create a more action oriented description of a politically ideology.

Then again, the word Liberal has never scared me, else I would have changed the name of this blog - lol.

The News Writer said...

Yeah, I've never really been scared of liberal either, although I will admit to using progressive more often. And it's that action thing that appeals to me.

Robin said...

LOL! Yes, I would much prefer to be called just "Robin". :D