Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I've become more enamored of late of using "progressive" as a stand-in for "liberal", which has become quite the muddy name of late. But Matt Yglesias authors a dissenting opinion to that trend.

I have to say that, while the term "progressive" is meant at some level to evoke the 1920s political movement, I think the term transcends that, and it's a bit silly to try and link contemporary self-identified progressives, Jonah Goldberg-style, to their turn of the last century peers.


Anonymous said...

I just think that progressive refers to something different than liberal. In my mind, it calls up a kind of populist-colored politics that is rooted in community-based politics (Wellstone was a progressive exemplar). I don't really think it should become a euphemism for "liberal." John Edward was the most progressive candidate in the race, by far, but who's the most "liberal" encompasses many more factors and is thus a lot harder to pin down.

Anonymous said...

PS: As a queer liberal, I really like this comment from Yglesias' blog (by Grand Moff Texan? We could be soulmates!)

""Liberal" is the new "queer." Using it as self-description requires that you meet the sneers head-on, which usually has interesting effects"

PG said...

I have identified as a liberal since I was in high school, although there was a brief flirtation with "progressive" when I started blogging back in 2002 and it was a very popular term. But I really do identify with what's considered the "liberal" tradition in modern political philosophy (Rawls, Dworkin), in feminism (e.g. I'm pro-legalization for pornography), and I have a slight tendency toward libertarianism, or "classical liberalism."

Besides, it looks so lame to re-label oneself. Sort of like what Matt says, except I would substitute the word "homosexual," which isn't an inherent insult. (I get that "queer" is useful to encompass the broad spectrum of sexual and gender identity, but it's still based on calling someone weird and abnormal.) Just because some people are automatically sneering at homosexuals is not a reason not to use the word. Heck, since Lawrence it's no longer even per se defamation to identify someone as homosexual. Let those who sneer be forced to defend their sneers instead of us running away from them and hiding between new terms.

There's a mild ring of what the various incarnations the American Trial Lawyers Association (I don't remember what their latest name is) has gone through, and that looks pathetic.

I'd rather cut out some of the new growths on liberalism instead of abandoning the tradition. Let the Limbaughs sneer at the notion of defending Nazis' right to speak in public, but let's not fall into the error of preventing others' speech in the public square.