Thursday, June 14, 2007

My "Progressive" Problem.

HTML Menken dips into a minor blog war I'd just as soon avoid, but raises an important point in the process.
...I’ll skip the thing about the war per se right now, and go to the other point this brings up: the definition of “Progressive.” I thought it meant something closer to ‘left-wing’ than ’sensible centrist.’
Most actual leftists who call themselves progressives probably agree. The mainstream liberals who operate under the same label would doubtless demur. Therein lies the rub.

Back in the day, the left end of the American political spectrum ranged from folks who called themselves liberals, somewhere near the center, to folks who called themselves radicals. Radical, though, came to be an umbrella that included groups like the Panthers, the Weather Underground and even the Symbionese Liberation Army. No one was really sure how radical you had to be to be a radical, but it was pretty clear that most weren't going as far as the vanguard insisted was necessary. The more rational elements of the left insisted they didn't want so much to reduce the system to rubble as to make progress toward a more just society. Those radicals adopted the tag progressive.

Meanwhile, the liberal brand was under attack from both the right and left. Were liberals anarchist bomb throwers or hesitant half-steppers? Who knew? A new label was needed, and "progressive" seemed to fit the bill. What we ended up with is a label that was adopted by a broad spectrum of people, most of whom had little relationship to one another outside of opposition to the Republican establishment.

"Progressive," in other words, says practically nothing about who you are or what you believe and almost everything about what you're against. Handy in some instances, but hard to build a movement around.

That's why I prefer to be called a liberal, rather than a progressive. At least liberal means something, even if it doesn't mean what "they" say it means.

Mostly, though, I'm a Democrat. Just a Democrat.

Without prefix. Without suffix. Without apology.

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