By: The Common Constitutionalist
If you are a regular reader (even if you’re not), you may have seen me use the the word “Progressive” (in political terms) as a synonym for liberal, which it is.
In fact, during the early Twentieth century, as the term “Progressive” developed a negative connotation, they simply changed it to liberal. We now see, with a negative reaction to the term “Liberal”, they are reverting back to progressive. Neat trick. Interestingly, the founders considered themselves “Classical Liberals”.
After speaking to a few people, I realize I have never really explained “progressive” properly – what it means & why political progressives think the way they do.
To do this I thought it might be instructive to go back and look at one of the founders of the American progressive movement, president Woodrow Wilson, using excerpts from one of his more famous speeches, “What is Progress?“.
In his speech Wilson said, “We think of the future, not the past, as the more glorious time in comparison with which the present is nothing. Progress, development-those are modern words. The modern idea is to leave the past and press onward to something new.”
So far, progress sounds great, or does it? Does progress really mean to leave the past, forget the past, and press on to something new and no doubt glorious?
One could argue, unsuccessfully, that this is not what he meant. In his speech, he will reveal, this is indeed what he meant.
Wilson continues, “What attitude shall progressives take toward the existing order, toward those institutions of conservatism, the Constitution, the laws, and the courts?… Are those thoughtful men who fear that we are now about to disturb the ancient foundations of our institutions justified in their fear?”
You’re darn right they were justified in their fear!
You will notice how Wilson is trying to separate himself and progressives from the founders by describing the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as old dusty, ancient foundations, as if they were crafted on stone tablets thousands of years ago. read more