What is a progressive? Politicians, activists and others disagree about what the word means. There's no precise definition. “Progressive” is a category with fuzzy boundaries. Still, in general, a progressive fits certain criteria: someone (usually a Democrat) who prioritizes economic and social equality and strongly supports bold government action and a redistributive tax system to achieve policy goals. Examples of progressives include Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Barbara Lee.
Critics of progressives point out that many of their policy proposals are poorly thought out, impractical, unworkable, or counterproductive. Progressives have also engendered a culture of class warfare, intimidation, intolerance, and contempt for other points of view. Resting on the laurels of their “good intentions”, progressives are prone to the following line of reasoning: “our goals are noble. Only morally-deficient people wouldn’t want universal health care, free tuition, or the elimination of poverty. We are right and if you don’t agree with us, you are a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, and/or [fill in colorful epithet here]. It’s ok to shout you down because your so-called ‘free speech’ thwarts the cause of social justice and harms the fragile core of the oppressed. Besides, whatever you think is wrong with us pales in comparison to the horrors unleashed by Trump and his Republican white supremacist lapdogs.”
A progressive may counter: “oh, come on. We’re only trying to do what many European countries have already done – and their economies seem to be doing just fine. There is nothing wrong with unapologetic advocacy for social justice. Inequality, racism, poverty, and lack of social mobility are huge problems that require bold action. Healthcare, housing, and education are universal rights, which would become universal realities if progressives win the fight against the selfish and the powerful. Ours is a deeply humanistic vision, one that elevates compassion over profit and personal dignity over exploitation.”
So what do you think? Is there something about the modern version of progressive that would undermine the American project? Are progressives simply Democrats by any other name, except that they have the courage of their convictions? Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these and other questions.