The Progressive Regression
The transformation of “progressive” from a proudly worn badge of honor to a pejorative comes as a sign of progress.
Eight years of Barack Obama has that effect on a word.
“I am someone who is no doubt progressive,” candidate Obama said on the campaign trail in 2008. The use of an anachronistic term to describe a forward-leaning outlook struck as an oxymoron. Whereas Bill Clinton called himself a “New Democrat” and Michael Dukakis embraced “liberal,” Obama borrowed a word dramatically spiking in usage a century earlier and on a precipitous decline for 35 years prior to his election.
If you purchased stock in the word a decade ago and sold today, your portfolio would have enjoyed substantial progress.
“Progressive” did not sound so 1908 eight years ago, if only for the lack of sentient centenarians to recognize the déjà vu. After its Tourette’s-like use on MSNBC and its function as an open-sesame password among Democrat candidates trolling for votes, “progressive” surely sounds so eight years agonow. Had the Obama presidency ended with an electoral affirmation this might not be so.
An Affordable Care Act whose premiums just exploded by more than 20 percent despite massive deductibles, a Nobel Peace Prize-winner meddling in Syria, Libya, and points beyond, and a post-racial presidency coinciding with Ferguson, Baltimore, and Dallas all give lie to the promise of hope and change. For progressives, the going-away present of a President Donald Trump, a GOP House and Senate, just 18 Democratic governors, Republican control of more state legislative chambers than at any time in the party’s history, and a pending Supreme Court nominee likely to tilt the balance rightward on the high bench combine to give the Obama presidency a bitter aftertaste.
“Progressive” soon goes away. The belief behind it? Never able to rethink principles, liberals radicalsprogressives instead reset labels — new bottles, old Mad Dog 20/20. Drunk on ideology, firebrands dump the buzzword. They never kick the habit.