The Trouble With "Progressive"

Commenter Freddie mentioned something yesterday that I'd like to endorse:

You know, I really dislike the use of "progressive" in the place of "liberal". Among other things, it makes the Jonah Goldberg-style conflation of the Progressives of the 1920s with contemporary American liberalism that much easier.

Quite so only one shouldn't even really blame Jonah Goldberg in this instance. The people who went about rebranding liberals as "progressives" were clearly and deliberately inviting this conflation. But while the historically Progressives did stand for some good things, and are a part of the backstory of contemporary American liberalism, they also stood for some very bad things. Certainly, whatever sins liberalism may have committed in the 1970s as it fell into disrepute were distinctly minor compared to the problems with the Progressives.

"Liberal," by contrast, is an important term with a noble history and a contested legacy. I think the notion that something like contemporary American liberalism is, in fact, the correct instantiation of the historic liberal project for our times is a proposition that's worth fighting for.