August 8, 2007

Counteracting "Progressives"

Justin Katz

As it happens, I agree with Jonah Goldberg's response to conservatives who are concerned about the reemergence of the term "progressive" as a trick to maneuver opponents into the rhetorical position of "against progress":

Re: the need for conservatives to come up with their own label. No thanks. Sure, I'd like to have "liberal" back — at least to describe traditional libertarians — but I would oppose tooth and nail the idea of casting aside the word conservative simply to market it better. That's the logic of "compassionate conservatism," Kempism, and other schools of thought which hold that conservatism needs to adopt liberal assumptions in order to be "relevant." The fact that conservatives are willing to stick by their ideas and label is a sign and source of conservative strength, not weakness. Coming up with some "progressive" sounding label for conservatives merely concedes an argument we need not concede. Conservatism didn't need the adjective "compassionate" and it doesn't need any other clever repackaging. It is what it is. If we need to embrace some new reforms that's fine. Conservatives understand that times change. But just call them conservative reforms. Or just call them reforms conservatives can get behind.

Nonetheless, while I wouldn't have the Right pursue a deliberate strategy of name-changing (market tested, as it were), I do think it might be helpful to consolidate a rejoinder to the "against progress" slander into a comparative term. The first step is to articulate the problem with marching under the banner of Progress — namely, that it offers no qualifiers addressing toward what, by what means, or with what protections progress ought to be pursued. As anybody who has spent time debating progressives will have observed, they've a peculiar certainty that their current views define the future and a frightening faith that it can be dictated with only token efforts to preserve the uncapturable treasures of our tradition.

So what, if not opposite, would be opposed to Progress and progressives? It sounds a tad clunky, but the word to which I keep returning in my search through dictionaries and thesauri is Maturity, which would make us, I suppose, maturists.

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Simply counteract 'progressive' by pointing out all the PROGRESS they haven't made on ANYTHING in the past 50 years, 40 of which they controlled Congress.

In Rhode Island it's easy, since they've had an iron grip control over the state for the last 75 years, to point to all the progress they've made running the state right into the ground.

Posted by: Greg at August 8, 2007 7:53 AM

Progress backwards is still progress don't you know. The same is true of progress in circles.

Posted by: smmtheory at August 8, 2007 8:44 AM

Marxists / Leninists.

As the terms they use to define their common political philosophy comes into general disrepute - matching the disrepute that historical experience rightly assigns to their common political philosophy - they change their label.

Once "progressive" inevitably falls into general disrepute, I wonder what will be the next label they adopt?

Posted by: Tom W at August 8, 2007 12:09 PM

Progressives running the state? That's news to me. Forget Carcieri - would you really call either Murphy or Montalbano progressive, liberal, whatever term you choose? Don't think so.
Those weren't progressives jumping in bed with Harrah's last year, that's for sure (and with which big unions foolishly aligned themselves). Those aren't progressives lined up with Carcieri to bar gay marriage, either. Those aren't progressives getting rich thanks to the corporate-lobbyist complex that REALLY controls our state.

Posted by: Rhody at August 8, 2007 4:24 PM

Responsible adults can reeclaim and rehabilitate the word liberal -- i.e. classical liberal -- while the wacky Hilarites and their fellow "Progressives" have let go of it.

Then the their their long march against both conservatives and liberals will lead nowhere they haven't already been, lost in confusions.

The self-identified progressives are free to distinguish themselves as nonliberals and as nonconservatives, both. They can herd themselves under their new banner.

Since they are unhappy with these perfectly good designations -- and these philosophic traditions, then, so be it.

Cut them off. As they wish. Like a cartoonish runaway with a four-cornered hankerkief tied to a pole slung over a shoulder. Stomping down the street all pouty and off ... to ... somewhere.

If they grow up, they can choose to return to bonafide conservativism and liberalism.

Posted by: Chairm at August 8, 2007 11:08 PM

"thanks to the corporate-lobbyist complex that REALLY controls our state."

Ah, if only.

Posted by: SusanD at August 8, 2007 11:21 PM
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