Thursday, April 14, 2016

Are Liberals And Progressives One In The Same?

Are Liberals And Progressives One In The Same?

Photo Courtney of

In modern politics particularly in the United States the terms Liberal and Progressive are often used interchangeably. These political positions are often treated as if they were one in the same. However, in fact, these terms are mutually exclusive.  Never has this truth become more apparent than in the present 2016 Democratic Party presidential race.

For the sake of clarity, definitions are in order.

Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Whereas classical liberalism emphasizes the role of liberty, social liberalism stresses the importance of equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, they support ideas and programs such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, and international cooperation[See Source]

One of the major concepts of liberalism is self-ownership or individualism. This individualism includes personal liberty, equal opportunity, and the rule of law, economic freedom, free markets, and free trade. The liberal values freedom of expression and the right to assemble. Of course, this includes freedom of the press.

There should always be a quest for political freedom within a democratic society. 

Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the moral worth of the individual.  Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance and advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state or a social group while opposing external interference upon one's own interests by society or institutions such as the government. Individualism is often contrasted with totalitarianism or collectivism.[See Source]

In short, Individualism is the root of being liberal. There is no greater desire of anyone who calls themselves a liberal than that of personal liberty. By definition, personal liberty is the freedom of the individual to do as he pleases limited only by the authority of politically organized society to regulate his action to secure the public health, safety, or morals or of other recognized social interests. [See Source]

So What Does Being A Progressive Mean Today?

This writer has no problem with labeling myself a progressive. However, regardless how I choose to label myself it's important to understand that labels are just that labels. Labels are nothing more than a word or words used to describe a concept or belief. Concepts and beliefs in and of themselves are not absolute truths. They are ideas we utilize in an attempt to describe shared experiences. Labels work well as guidepost but are extremely limited in being able to depict the human condition. For example, I may label myself to be progressive because most of my positions concerning politics tend to lean that way so the label tends to provide a point of reference. 

What Is The Central Message Of The Progressive?

The central message of the “Progressive Movement" is one of fairness and equality. From Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and now Bernie Sanders Progressives feel that everyone gets a fair shot and that everyone plays by the same rules. What we mean by “fair shot" everyone deserves an equal shot at securing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What we are not talking about is free handouts. It is the desire to seek and achieve the common welfare for all. Progressives believe we all must do our fair share to help obtain this common good. This is achieved through education, hard work, and active participation in one's community. What Progressives mean by playing by the same set of rules is that there should be no special privileges for the rich and well connected. 


The most profound belief of the Progressive is freedom. The concept of freedom may mean different things to different people. Freedom is a double edged sword. Freedom from and freedom to. All real Progressives believe that privacy is not a crime and that government intrusion in how they carry out their private affairs should be off limits. For example the right for a woman to have an abortion or the right to marry someone of the same sex or to smoke marijuana. Like Liberals, the Progressives have a strong belief in the concepts of freedom of speech, associations, and religion. Also, like Liberals the Progressives cherish their rights to make their own choices about their bodies and personal lives. 

Progressives also believe that all humans have the right to live a fulfilling life supported by the basic foundation of both economic and physical security. This belief holds that we all should be protected against bodily harm as well as adequate income from a fair and just living wage. Progressives believe that healthcare is a human right and that all citizens should get a solid advanced education. The real Progressive understands the importance of community and social programs like the police , fire departments, and the military. The Progressive has no problem with their taxes going to help rebuild and grow our nation's infrastructure. The real Progressive wants to expand Social Security not privatize it and embraces the need for universal healthcare. 


Any commitment to freedom by a society must provide an equal opportunity for humans that make up that society. Like freedom opportunity has two components. The first is political equality and the others are economic and social arrangements that enhance our lives. Political equality by default should never discriminate against its populist in any way fashion or form. Political equality should strive to achieve that all its citizens should be able to turn their talents and ambitions into a meaningful and productive life regardless of economic status or racial heritage. The second component to opportunity involves the conditions necessary for people to feel secure to reach their goals. Healthcare, education, a job that pays a good living wage workers rights and retirement are all fundamental in creating these conditions. 


With great freedom and opportunity comes great responsibility. Once again there are two factors involved with responsibility. First, is personal responsibility and the second is our responsibility to one another and the common good. Personal responsibility requires us as individuals to do our part to add and not take away from the common good of our communities. Yes, this does entail working hard, educating ourselves and living an honest life. 

Responsibility to others and the common good requires a commitment to putting the public interest ahead of the interest of the rich and powerful and to combat their influence on our political process that has put our democracy on sale to the highest bidder. The real Progressive understands that strong families and communities are the foundation of a strong and productive society. As Progressives, we strive to achieve higher social standards and economic conditions that not only will help us as individuals but also help the community at large. 

This requires that each and every one of us demand an open and transparent governance and that we as a populist engage this attack by the wealthy to disenfranchise us from the process by buying off politicians who enact laws that are contrary to the will of the people. Citizens United ring a bell?


The Progressive understands that there must be cooperation with our political values in that cooperation is the foundation to coinciding with our most important social institutions, families, communities, civic and faith-based groups. Freedom without cooperation leads to a divided society that cannot work together to achieve common goals and improve the lives of all. Cooperation begs us to be open minded and sympathetic to others. Real Progressives know that we are all accountable and responsible for the well-being of all who are in our society. To achieve this cooperation is a must. Progressives believe if we blindly pursue our own needs and ignore those of others our society as a whole will fail like so many in the world's history. Progressives value interdependence on a larger scale and look beyond our own needs to help others while seeking to find global solutions to global problems.

Are You Progressive?

Being progressive is more than just following some ideology there is plenty of cognitive dissonances in both political party’s establishments and their authoritarian followers that being a real Progressive catapulted us from this affliction and what sets us apart from being lumped in with the Liberals.

Being Progressive is more than a way of life or way of thinking it's a way of being. If you are a real Progressive these factors are part of your DNA, not something your mom and dad or teacher or preacher instilled in you. It is your existence that says who you are as a person. Being progressive transcends party identification. [See Article]

Being progressive gets to the heart of what being human is all about in this writer's view. Contrary to what you hear coming from the religious right Progressives value human life above all else our value of a human life does not end after the birth of a human being. It's where it continues and intensifies. Progressives have the view that all people of all origins and backgrounds are connected and all add to the overall human experience. To Progressives there is no them there is only us. However, don't let this kindness be perceived as weakness push a Progressive and expect to be pushed back. Progressives do not react we respond. There is a difference. Being a responder as opposed to a reactor takes a level of restraint and discipline. These factors are vital whenever threat evaluation is part of the equation. By doing so Progressive will almost always land on the right side of history. Bernie Sanders position on the war in Iraq, as opposed to Liberal Hillary Clinton, bears this out. Being a real Progressive is not about being right it's about doing what is right. 

So, Are Liberals And Progressives One In The Same?

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the article; however, I disagree with its premise that equates Bernie Sanders to FDR. As a young man with many young friends I don't see many of them understand or grasp the "hard work" idea or thier truth that everyone in the country is for "the greater good" intresting read but as in life the cart should never be before the horse.