What it means to be Progressive

By YeOldeScribe ~ February 28th, 2011 @ 12:53 am

It’s important to understand what makes someone (or an idea, organization, etc.) progressive. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Someone who is progressive is always moving forward, to something better – right?  Well, it’s not quite that easy. After all, who determines what progress is? Who decides what that something better looks like? Clearly, a more concrete definition of progress is necessary.

While we’ll be giving a more in-depth version of the history of the progressive movement in a future post, let’s do a crash course on progressivism history so we can better define the term. In the US, progressivism was born in the late 19th century, and really took off in the early 1900’s. Progressivism seems to start with Teddy Roosevelt, who would form the Progressive Party of 1912 (otherwise known as the Bull-Moose party), one of the most famous and successful progressive parties in politics. Wisconsin Governor (and later US Senator) Robert “Fighting Bob” La Folette is also seen as a key contributor to progressivism.

The early progressives and the Progressive Party stood for three main ideas: Social and Political reform, Direct Democracy, and to destroy the “Invisible Government”. Some reforms the Progressive party advocated seem commonplace today: social insurance for the unemployed, elderly and disabled, workman’s compensation, women’s suffrage, direct election of senators, primary and recall elections, disclosure of campaign contributions, and the recording and publication of governmental proceedings.

Now that we know what progressivism meant, let’s find out what it means. Broken down to its simplest form, progressivism simply means to advocate change & reform in government and through government action.  But what should be driving that change? While the debate on this issue is never-ending, the best way I can describe it is with this graphic from The Democratic Alliance of Northwest Indiana:


What it means to be Progressive


That sums it up in a nutshell. Progressives are always looking forward, coming up with new ideas to better society – so long as those ideas meet the above criteria. Progressivism is about reform – fixing what’s broken, speaking for those without a voice, and holding government accountable.

This is one of the reasons why we feel a blog like ours is the perfect mouthpiece for progressivism in American Politics – we’re able to review what the government has done/is doing/plans to do, critique, discuss and debate it, and then advocate change when needed. One important aspect of progressivism we haven’t touched on much yet is openness, especially in terms of discourse. Progressives – especially us here at PoliticalProgressives.com – are more than welcome to discuss our beliefs and opinions on issues with anyone; even those who don’t support our standpoints.

In short, look back to many of the social programs and political reforms you take for granted today. Chances are, you can thank a progressive for them. And it’s our sincere hope that future generations will also have progressives to thank for dealing with the problems of our time, and future problems we haven’t even begun to fathom yet.

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