Y’know, back when people thought Glenn Beck had important things to say (why they thought that I’ll never understand), he had a show on Fox News. The few clips I ever saw from Beck’s show often railed on against those godawful, terrible liberals. That’s something I rather expected as he was, after all, a pundit on Fox News. But in several of the clips, he would also rant and rave about the evils of progressives.
…which, really, confused me to no end.
I suppose I can understand it somewhat. See, progressivism and liberalism have essentially been equated in the modern day vernacular. The terms “progressive,” “liberal” and “conservative” have all lost their original meanings and have been boiled down to a basic philosophical stance amongst the everyday American. I’m sure if you asked a PoliSci professor about the differences between the conservatism of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, you’d get a lengthy lecture on the transformative power Reagan had on the Republican party and the softening of certain ideals that the neo-conservative Dubbya nestled into to transform even more.
Probably. I’ve never really taken any PoliSci classes.
But at the core of the everyman’s understanding, conservatives want to keep things the same and revert to an older style of governance (limited Federal power, state power, limited taxation, limited spending, etc.). The neo-conservatives coming in with Dubbya decided to alter that slightly, particularly on a social level, actually expanding the Federal power in relation to social, moral issues (no gay marriage, War on Drugs, USA PATRIOT Act, etc.), but that’s neither here nor there right now. Liberals, on the other hand, have been defined by their social programs, spending and taxing programs, creating more governance in the name of socioeconomic equality (welfare, Medicare, not being really big on tax breaks, etc.). Liberals want to change things and like a stronger central government, not necessarily so it can invade private lives, but more because they like to make sure everything is ordered and defined and there aren’t any loopholes screwing people over.
And then progressives get shoved in with liberals for some reason.
But let’s look at the bare naked roots of the words. Conservatives wish to conserve, keep, not change. Liberals wish to liberate, change.
If I were to use the Bible as an example (simply because it’s one of the most well known books and has decent examples for this), I’d say that the Pharisees of the New Testament were conservatives. (This is not meant to say conservatives of today hate Jesus. Unless they do.) The Pharisees were strict in their adherence to the laws, stoned those that stepped out of line. An example of a liberal would be Jesus. (Again, not saying Jesus would support policies taken on by liberals today. Unless he does.) Jesus flipped the tables in the temple, stopped the Pharisees from stoning the loose lady and constantly taught new, different ways of the law that flew in the face of the traditions and teachings of the Pharisees.
Then there’s progressives. The root of that word is progress. To move forward.
Biblically, there are so many examples of what one could consider progressive it’s not even funny. Moses, John the Baptist, Paul…
So… if progressivism is a drive to move forward, to not accept stagnation, why do we have people rallying against it?
In America, it’s the progressives that did things like champion trust-busting, which people generally like, and the Prohibition, which people generally did not like.
I’m not going to say progressivism is perfect or anything. But if we take it at its roots, its etymological core… how can we be against the long march toward perfection? To be against that would be to root for stagnation. Stubbornly staying put. Refusing to move.
Of course, it’s like the old joke says. If pro is the opposite of con, what’s the opposite of progress?