Some liberals call themselves “progressives” and do so for several reasons. Some wish to underline their support for certain policies that some centrist liberals do not favor, such as a single-payer health care system, while also steering clear of the loaded word socialist. After all, they know that for many conservatives to be a “socialist” is to be in favor of a government takeover of everything, and contemporary American progressives do not favor such a thing or in any way call for an end to capitalism.

Sometimes when liberals call themselves progressive they also mean to connect themselves to the Progressive movement of the late nineteenth century. Woodrow Wilson (a Democrat) was a Progressive, and so was Teddy Roosevelt (a Republican). The Progressives targeted political machines, political “bosses,” corruption, and the patronage system; and they supported “trust-busting” and the regulation of monopolies.

Many conservatives, however, hear the word “progress” in the word progressive and understandably don’t like how the liberal appropriation of the term implies that conservatives must not care about or want progress. And of course conservatives also do not consider today’s progressive proposals as progress, seeing instead many of those liberal plans as harming communities and shifting society away from traditional family roles.  


- What does the word “progressive” mean to you? How about to other people you know?  

- Are you comfortable with the idea of social change? What does that mean to you?

- How possible is it for human beings to improve themselves and others?



Stephen Morris, Mary Jacksteit, Phil Neisser

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