Thursday, December 29, 2011

I often think it's comical

How Nature always does contrive
That every boy and every gal
That's born into this world alive
Is born a little Liberal
Or else a little Conserv--a--tive...

I heard some person-on-the-street reactions to this Pew survey on the radio this morning--to the question, more specifically, of why "progressive" is better than "liberal" in the public eye--and it was pretty interesting. Some of the respondents seemed to be where I would have expected a self-denominated progressive to be, with the view that liberalism is sort of wimpy and ineffective, where progressivism aims to get things done; but there were others....

Another view, certainly related, was that liberals are upper-class and progressives working-class--the implication being perhaps that the issues of liberalism are those of special interests, identity politics issues, things of importance to Hollywood stars, artists, professors, while progressive issues are for everybody. And then a third associated liberals with hippies, and thought progressives were a lot more mainstream.

In this way the word seems to be doing that remarkable thing Obama used to talk about, transcending the traditional divide between left and right; it's left of liberalism, more militant, more broad-based, more ambitious, and right of it, more down-to-earth, more cynical and mistrustful, at the same time.

What it means is unclear, but it is worth noting that "progressive" is more popular than "conservative" as well--it seems as if we have lucked onto a term with a meaning like the one "liberal" used to have a couple of centuries ago, i.e., "good". It may also mean that everybody is going to be a progressive in about fifteen minutes--indeed, I think Newt may have gotten there already...

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