Everything’s coming up “progressive!”

By Martin Bosworth

Chris Bowers at OpenLeft (via commenter AdyBarkan) posts the news that Americans are self-identifying as progressive more now than any time in the recent past. This is great to hear, but as Bowers notes, the word “progressive” can mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean:

That progressive is even viewed more favorably than “moderate” is utterly stunning, since that term consistently leads national polls on ideological self-identification. Undeniably, “progressive” is a term that is fairly nebulous and is defined in many different ways by many different people.

Americans, as I’ve written before, tend to embrace a remarkably solipsistic view of political life, wherein their own particular beliefs constitute the ideological center, and everything radiates out from that. So for this poll to indicate that Americans favor the term “progressive” can mean a great deal, not least which that there are a vast multitude of ideas that may fit under this umbrella term. You might want to read my colleague Brian Angliss’ peerless progressive manifesto as an example of the ideas we’re reaching out to include.

But as Bowers also notes, this should serve as a stinging rebuke to the leagues of bloviating gasbag pundits that insist their views represent the “moderate, centrist majority” of American politics, when in fact it’s really just their own institutional sympathies at work–and the country actually believes the complete opposite. And if you believe this Democracy Corps report, not only are the young wholeheartedly embracing Democratic (and generally progressive) values, but the Republican brand is absolutely toxic to them.

It’s important to take any poll or survey with a few shakerfuls of salt, since they are invariably designed to provide the results the pollster wants, be they positive or negative. But this is good news for those of us who truly believe that forward-thinking, future-minded, innovative–“progressive”–policies are the only way our country will evolve and grow.

4 replies »

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  2. As much as anything, history suggests American Progressivism is more a reaction than a solution. Yet, despite its faults, Progressive impulses to purify are necessary to curb concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few greedy and self-serving tyrants. The danger is that, through tyranny of the majority, Progressivism can become as dangerous as fascism to liberty.

  3. The other day, I was surprised to hear Hillary Clinton identify herself as progressive. To show you how open the word is to interpretation, I had thought it meant left of liberal.

    When, in fact, it takes a liberal interpretation of the word liberal to believe she’s a liberal.

    Mike Mathiesen: Thanks for introducing me to

    Threebells: Thanks for being your usual snarling watchdog for liberty.