Like the author of the attached article I hate to completely give up the term “liberal.” Liberal used to be such a good word. It stood for limited government and human freedom and thought unbridled. Then FDR had to come and screw things up.
But that aside, and I haven’t completely given up the term “liberal”, Charles Murray at AEI puts his finger on an important political distinction on the “Left.” There is a big difference between “liberals” and “progressives.”
I remember, as a kid, growing up with liberal members of my family. I could tell even as a small child that I would grow up and probably not agree with them on many things. However, their general advocacy for legitimate tolerance and a generally peaceniky disposition appealed to me on a basic level. Indeed these folks informed my political evolution in a large way, and it is these relationships (with lefty family and friends) which gave me many of the the insights I needed to come to my small government philosophy.
Sadly this breed of lefty has been overwhelmed by what I consider a small-minded and potentially dangerous political animal, the “progressive.”
It was Howard Dean who started using the word again as the head of the DNC after his ill fated presidential run. It was basically a spin tool used to jettison the term “liberal,” which polling had shown the American people saw as another word for permissive, soft-on-crime wimpiness. Jimmy Carter was a “liberal.” The Dems wanted to kill that perception. So they landed on the word “progressive.”
It was a smart move actually. Who doesn’t want “progress?” To oppose “progress” and “progressivism” one would have to be a backward-thinking troll. It kind of worked for a bit, for some people.
The term came into (re)use just as there was a concurrent (what I perceive as) negative shift on the Left. The politically correct generation came on the scene. A brand of leftism associated with political conformity, with hardcore statism, with an antipathy toward a Constitution written by a bunch of white, land-owning, gun-toting, in some cases slave-holding dead guys even though it was a flower of the enlightenment and a break from centuries of rule by monarch, took hold. The “progressives” were not interested in making a better America. They were interested in “fundamentally transforming” the United States as Barack Obama said in the run up to the 2008 election. They were and are about power. The were and are about shutting off debate. They were and are about intolerance of any thing or person which challenges the statist worldview. They see the Constitution as impediment to change, something which should be marginalized and certainly not celebrated.