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2008: Who's the most progressive presidential candidate?

 
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jan, 2008 08:46 am
Thomas wrote:
Maybe I missed something, but I don't remember any Americans calling themselves "Progressive" before the presidential campaign of 2004.

You missed something. I vividly remember rather wonky debates in the early 00's on left-leaning intellectual sites like tnr about what the meaning of progressive is and how it relates to and differs from liberal, historically and in terms of current politics. (Since all my bookmarks from the time were stolen along with the laptop they were on, and the TNR archives are off-line, I have no links, but I'm sure you'll take my word for it.)

I'll bet you could easily find similar invocations in the run-up to the 2000 elections as well, during all the acrimony between Nader supporters and those pleading for a Gore vote.

Of course the term progressive disappeared from the political stage for a few decades. First Joe McCarthy's red-baiting had pushed the whole movement into the suspect category, and then the sixties, with all their postmaterialist, libertine fervour, made old school progressivism look stodgy, and led to a heyday of liberalism instead. But the return of progressive as an alternative identifier from liberal did not suddenly pop up again in the 2004 campaign, it has gradually built up over time.

The equation of progressive and liberal, and the argument that progressive is simply a refuge for those who are simply liberals but want to escape that term's negative connotations, is simply ill-informed. Of course there are those people - people for whom progressive as a label is a convenient way to duck the "liberal, liberal, liberal" attacks. But at the root of its resurgence as a term lies an expansive and varied enough debate that has come up on and off again in both the 90s and the 00s, and that very much focused on the differences. A debate that was spurred by the realisation that in the course of the 60s-through-90s, the American left has lost crucial qualities - and crucial electoral constituencies, and by the resulting theories about how to undo the damage.

I think the Clinton years in the 90s have played an important role in this that goes well beyond Rush Limbaugh's attacks of the time. The Clintons themselves represented a political mix where moderate liberalism in substantive policy was wedded to all the negative culture war connotations of "liberal" that involved replaying the battles of the 60s all over again, from "I didnt inhale" to "I'm not someone to stay at home and bake cookies". It left many on the left of the party wondering, what happened to the party whose appeal was primarily socio-economic, and succeeded in attracting middle-class voters and the poor across the country? How did we get in this particular rut? The culture wars were started and effectively exploited by the right, but how did we come to ourselves play the accorded role so persuasively, and swap our FDR-era identity for it?

There's a lot of talk, here, in Edgar's older thread and elsewhere, about progressive being just a fashionable alias for liberals - end. But to believe this you have to be ignorant of the long discussions about the meaning of both terms that have been had, on and off, in left-leaning journals the past fifteen years or so.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jan, 2008 08:53 am
(And while I'm not going to do a nimh-job on this, a simple Google search for <liberal progressive debate meaning left politics roosevelt> seems, at first blush, to turn up lots of related items, both for and against the argument that the two represent substantively different concepts.)
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jan, 2008 09:24 am
Thanks for suggesting the Google search, nimh, but it only reinforces my notion that "progressive" doesn't really mean anything beyond "generally left-wing".

Is Bush's way of treating prisoners in Guantanamo Bay progressive or regressive? If "progressive" means "continuing Roosevelt's heritage", then Bush is progressive, considering Roosevelt's choice of imprisoning 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent without due process. If, on the other hand, "progressive" is a re-branding of "liberal", then Bush's Guantanamo policies are the opposite of "progressive".

Is the war on drugs progressive or not? Again, it is if "progressive" means "continuing the tradition of the early-20th-century progressives"; it's not if "progressive" is re-branded for "liberal".

Are restrictions on immigration progressive or not? Ditto.

The only points on which I know where "progressives" stand on are those where all left-wingers agree: raising the minimum wage, introducing universal healthcare, strengthening unions, and so forth. I cannot, on the other hand, think of any point where a) it is clear which side of it progressives stand on, and b) liberals clearly stand on the other side.

The term "Progressive", then, seems to be so vaguely defined that every left-winger can project onto it whatever they want. And that, in my opinion, is the appeal of the term.
0 Replies
 
okie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jan, 2008 09:18 pm
Thomas wrote:
Thanks for suggesting the Google search, nimh, but it only reinforces my notion that "progressive" doesn't really mean anything beyond "generally left-wing".
...

We agree on something. Socialists and communists like the term, "progressive," because it sounds better. Of course if progress means running a country into the ground with left wing policies, then it becomes an oxymoron, doesn't it?

The way I see it, the sliding scale goes from libertarian to conservative to moderate to liberal to socialist to communist. America has slid to approximately moderate to liberal, on average.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jan, 2008 04:19 am
Thomas wrote:
Thanks for suggesting the Google search, nimh, but it only reinforces my notion that "progressive" doesn't really mean anything beyond "generally left-wing".

Is Bush's way of treating prisoners in Guantanamo Bay progressive or regressive? If "progressive" means "continuing Roosevelt's heritage", then Bush is progressive, considering Roosevelt's choice of imprisoning 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent without due process. If, on the other hand, "progressive" is a re-branding of "liberal", then Bush's Guantanamo policies are the opposite of "progressive".

Is the war on drugs progressive or not? Again, it is if "progressive" means "continuing the tradition of the early-20th-century progressives"; it's not if "progressive" is re-branded for "liberal".

Are restrictions on immigration progressive or not? Ditto.

The only points on which I know where "progressives" stand on are those where all left-wingers agree: raising the minimum wage, introducing universal healthcare, strengthening unions, and so forth. I cannot, on the other hand, think of any point where a) it is clear which side of it progressives stand on, and b) liberals clearly stand on the other side.

The term "Progressive", then, seems to be so vaguely defined that every left-winger can project onto it whatever they want. And that, in my opinion, is the appeal of the term.


Along with the historical uses and referents of such terms as conservative, liberal, progressive etc, they are all fluid over time and from person to person or from interest group to interest group. Ann Coulter's (or okie's) conservatism is something quite different from Eisenhower's conservatism or Christine Todd Whitman's conservatism or Steve Balmer's conservatism or Lincoln's conservatism or Bill Kristol's conservatism etc etc.

Politicians or those seeking to influence political debate will use or avoid these terms in order to imply some philosophical allegiance or difference and they'll do that in the political context of the time and in relation to who sits in their audience. Until the disasterous tenure of Brian Mulroney, one of Canada's two main political parties was named the Progressive Consertative Party.

So, to some great extent, all these terms are sufficiently vague to allow inclusion of a large range of philosphies. Though I think not, it may well be the case that 'conservative' is least susceptible to fluidity but if so, that would merely be the consequence of a certain inherent rigidity those who use this term self-descriptively suffer from - what we might refer to as the little rigor mortis Huckabee recently suggested might be ameliorated with a dose of Metamucil.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jan, 2008 07:35 am
Let me ask it from a different angle then, Blatham: Can you name specific topics on which people who call themselves progressives come down on a different side than people who call themselves liberal?

I understand your point about political concepts being fluid. But in the cases of conservatism, liberalism, and socialism, you have a continuous tradition that changed gradually. In the case of "progressivim", by contrast, you have a tradition that was interrupted for decades, even if it was a decade less than I originally thought. That's not gradual change as in the other examples. When people pick up the banner of a previously extinct tradition, it isn't clear from the movement's history which parts of the tradition the revivers are continuing, and which parts they are discarding. They have to explicitly state it. The recourse, "well, other movements have had their changes too" just doesn't cut it in this case. The other movements have not been revived from practical extinction. Progressivism has.
0 Replies
 
okie
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jan, 2008 10:04 am
blatham wrote:

Along with the historical uses and referents of such terms as conservative, liberal, progressive etc, they are all fluid over time and from person to person or from interest group to interest group. Ann Coulter's (or okie's) conservatism is something quite different from Eisenhower's conservatism or Christine Todd Whitman's conservatism or Steve Balmer's conservatism or Lincoln's conservatism or Bill Kristol's conservatism etc etc.

I agree somewhat, however, I happen to have an article in a 1964 Saturday Evening Post, written by Ike, explaining why he is a Republican and what his political views are in pretty good detail. They happen to be pretty close to mine. As for some of the other people named, Whitman and Kristol are hardly conservative in all points. They may be partially conservative, but being partially conservative does not qualify you to be a good example of a thorough conservative.

To point this out again, Bush is not thoroughly conservative in all aspects, only in some, but he is far more conservative than Gore or Kerry, so that is why conservatives have supported him, but that does not indicate at all that Bush is a pure conservative.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jan, 2008 11:47 am
Thomas wrote:
Let me ask it from a different angle then, Blatham: Can you name specific topics on which people who call themselves progressives come down on a different side than people who call themselves liberal?

I understand your point about political concepts being fluid. But in the cases of conservatism, liberalism, and socialism, you have a continuous tradition that changed gradually. In the case of "progressivim", by contrast, you have a tradition that was interrupted for decades, even if it was a decade less than I originally thought. That's not gradual change as in the other examples. When people pick up the banner of a previously extinct tradition, it isn't clear from the movement's history which parts of the tradition the revivers are continuing, and which parts they are discarding. They have to explicitly state it. The recourse, "well, other movements have had their changes too" just doesn't cut it in this case. The other movements have not been revived from practical extinction. Progressivism has.


thomas

I'm not clear on how your questions aren't finding answers or much satisfaction in the wikipedia piece and in nimh's recounting of his readings. Particularly relevant seem two bits I'll paste in here...
Quote:
From the New Deal to the 1960s, the progressive movement was largely subsumed into modern American liberalism. After the 1960s, however, progressives grew increasingly unhappy with the direction of the liberal movement and the leadership of the Democratic Party. On the one hand, progressives agreed with many of the concerns of the New Left, such as environmental conservation. On the other hand, they preserved their commitment to the original progressive issues, such as workers' rights, which liberals grew less interested in. And finally, progressives also began advocating entirely new ideas - for example electoral reform (including proportional representation) and campaign finance reform. As many American progressives felt disenfranchised from the contemporary American liberal movement, they sought to establish their own separate political organizations. One prominent example is the Vermont Progressive Party.


Quote:
Relation to other political ideologies

[edit] Liberalism
The term "progressive" is today often used in place of "liberal". Although the two are related in some ways, they are separate and distinct political ideologies. According to John Halpin, senior advisor on the staff of the Center for American Progress, "Progressivism is an orientation towards politics, It's not a long-standing ideology like liberalism, but an historically-grounded concept... that accepts the world as dynamic." Progressives see progressivism as an attitude towards the world of politics that is broader than conservatism vs. liberalism, and as an attempt to break free from what they consider to be a false and divisive dichotomy.[8][9]

Cultural Liberalism is ultimately founded on a concept of natural rights and civil liberties, and the belief that the major purpose of the government is to protect those rights. Liberals are often called "left-wing", as opposed to "right-wing" conservatives. The progressive school, as a unique branch of contemporary political thought, tends to advocate certain center-left or left-wing views that may conflict with mainstream liberal views, despite the fact that modern liberalism and progressivism may still both support many of the same policies (such as the concept of war as a general last resort).

American progressives tend to support interventionist economics: they advocate income redistribution, and they oppose the growing influence of corporations. Conversely, European and Australian progressives tend to be more pro-business, and will often have policies that are soft on taxation of large corporations. Progressives are in agreement on an international scale with left-liberalism in that they support organized labor and trade unions, they usually wish to introduce a living wage, and they often support the creation of a universal health care system. Yet progressives tend to be more concerned with environmentalism than mainstream liberals, and are often more skeptical of the government, positioning themselves as whistleblowers and advocates of governmental reform. Finally, liberals are more likely to support the Democratic Party in America and the Labour party in Europe and Australia, while progressives tend to feel disillusioned with any two-party system, and vote more often for third-party candidates.


That said, there's no question (as nimh also perceives) that the use of the term 'progressive' would surely not have attained its present popularity had the right not waged a very successful campaign to rebrand 'liberal'. I tried but failed to locate a Doonsebury cartoon from the 1988 Republican Convention where, while listening to the televised speeches, one character leapt in fright into the arms of another character upon hearing the terrifying term "Liberal!" come out of the TV.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jan, 2008 11:50 am
okie wrote:
blatham wrote:

Along with the historical uses and referents of such terms as conservative, liberal, progressive etc, they are all fluid over time and from person to person or from interest group to interest group. Ann Coulter's (or okie's) conservatism is something quite different from Eisenhower's conservatism or Christine Todd Whitman's conservatism or Steve Balmer's conservatism or Lincoln's conservatism or Bill Kristol's conservatism etc etc.

I agree somewhat, however, I happen to have an article in a 1964 Saturday Evening Post, written by Ike, explaining why he is a Republican and what his political views are in pretty good detail. They happen to be pretty close to mine. As for some of the other people named, Whitman and Kristol are hardly conservative in all points. They may be partially conservative, but being partially conservative does not qualify you to be a good example of a thorough conservative.

To point this out again, Bush is not thoroughly conservative in all aspects, only in some, but he is far more conservative than Gore or Kerry, so that is why conservatives have supported him, but that does not indicate at all that Bush is a pure conservative.


Unfortunately, okie, neither Kristol nor Whitman nor Bush (nor very many others who self-identify as 'conservative') would agree with your claim to possess the deepest understanding of true conservatism or that you stand as a representative for that singular and pure true conservatism.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jan, 2008 07:00 pm
blatham wrote:
I'm not clear on how your questions aren't finding answers or much satisfaction in the wikipedia piece and in nimh's recounting of his readings. Particularly relevant seem two bits I'll paste in here...

Here's why I'm not satisfied with the Wikipedia excerpt you posted: It seems (to me) to misrepresent the position of liberals. If I tentatively trust Wikipedia to correctly describe the "progressive" position, little about it would get any opposition from liberal philosophers like Rawls and Dworkin, or liberal jurists like Sunstein, or liberal economists like Galbraith and Samuelson. Admittedly, I can think of a little residual opposition against "progressive" positions from these fine liberals. But that would come from their professional biases, not their ideological preferences. (For example, liberal economists are more skeptical of the minimum wage than liberal non-economists, because standard economic models predict side effects of it that hurt poor people.) Wikipedia, then, is distinguishing "progressivism" against a strawman version of liberalism. That's why I can't get no satisfaction from this article.
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spendius
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jan, 2008 07:08 pm
Mr Gore is obviously the most progressive candidate for anyone who thinks that GW is the most important issue.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Jan, 2008 10:51 pm
Ultimately, whatever the historical pedigree of a minor ideological movement like Progressivism might be, in the here and now those who lay claim to being a Progressive, in the overwhelming majority, have no clue as to the antecedents of the label they have chosen to diffuse the American public's distaste for the term Liberal.

In typical fashion, blatham rides in on his high horse and smugly declares that any that might disagree with the Mounty is disserviced by their abject idiocy. Oh how we poor miscreants flee the bright light of his cruel judgment!

The common theme among those who veer to the Left; whether they call themselves Liberals, Progressives, or The Grand Anointed Ones is that they have an inherent sense that progression is an end unto itself, that not only is change inherently positive, but that the desire not to change is unspeakably vile.

In practical terms, we have a segment of our society that finds value, just for the sake of it, in attacking tradition and commonly developed wisdom and advancing the antithesis not because it is true, but because it defies the traditional.

Most of us were there when we were quite young. Young Powerful Gods, we thrilled in the ability to confront the decisions that preceded us. Did we care whether or not what we advanced really made any sense? Not at all. We were high on drugs and self-importance and we were convinced of our insight and genius. It was a powerful time, I loved it and don't for a second condemn or begrudge it. This is what the fire of youth is about.

There comes a time though when experience and wisdom pulls back on the string of the wildly flying kite, and appreciates that Progressives are simply trying to return to the fire of their youth. Not so bad, except they get to vote.

I get quite a kick out of the selective conservatism of so many Liberals.

Super-cool Native Americans want to not only preserve, but restore the ancient traditions of their former culture. Man, that's cool and as a Progressive, I am all for it.

The world was better off when we didn't have industrial behemoths fouling the environment and reducing mankind to widgets.

We are stardust, we are golden, and we have to get back to The Garden. Progressive?
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gungasnake
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 06:58 pm
The term "progressive" was originally used by outright communists, particularl,y Henry Wallace and his crowd. I mean, all it would ever have taken would have been for FDR to croak in 41 instad of 45 and we'd have been a commie country. I mean, we'd have had it all, show trials, purges, artificial famines, kids ratting out their parents for hoarding grain, products with no manufacturer's names on shelves when there was anything on shelves at all, shortages of everything, all the time, and the whole nine yards.
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okie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 07:01 pm
gunga, I think the intellectuals are dusting off the term, "progressive," again, because perhaps they may think most younger people don't really know what it is a buzzword for. After all, it sounds good doesn't it, to perhaps alot of people, after all, who doesn't want to progress? Some of us older folks know its an oxymoron.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 07:06 pm
gunga you are such a snake;
Progressivism is a term that refers to a broad school of international social and political philosophies. The term progressive was first widely used in late 19th century America, in reference to a general branch of political thought which arose as a response to the vast changes brought by industrialization, and as an alternative both to the traditional conservative response to social and economic issues and to the various more or less radical streams of socialism and anarchism which opposed them. Political parties such as the American Progressive Party organized at the start of the 20th century, and progressivism made great strides under American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Progressivism historically advocates the advancement of workers' rights and social justice. The progressives were early proponents of anti-trust laws and the regulation of large corporations and monopolies, as well as government-funded environmentalism and the creation of National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.
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okie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 07:10 pm
Do you have 5 relatives living in Nevada, Dys? I think I heard your progressive candidate, Kucinich received 5 votes there.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 07:16 pm
okie wrote:
Some of us older folks
I don't think you will get by with the senile dementia excuse when you're just plain stupid.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 07:18 pm
okie wrote:
Do you have 5 relatives living in Nevada, Dys? I think I heard your progressive candidate, Kucinich received 5 votes there.
Is this the same okie who said that posts should be directed at issues rather than personal attacks of persons? Dickwad!
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okie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 07:19 pm
Wheres your sense of humor, dys, good grief, lighten up.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jan, 2008 08:22 pm
okie wrote:
Wheres your sense of humor, dys, good grief, lighten up.
I would gladly lighten up the instant after you display that you have a brain.
0 Replies
 
 

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