What’s a progressive, anyway?
The term has a long and unruly history, which I’ll be getting to. But the common-sense meaning of “progressive” is someone who is pretty darn liberal. In fact, you might even say that it signifies politics that are distinctly to the left of liberal. That, at least, has been the contemporary connotation of the word for as long as I’ve been following politics. Increasingly these days, the term is being dumbed down into utter meaninglessness.
Take, for instance, Thad Williamson’s curious and confusing In These Times piece, which praised Hillary Clinton’s selection of Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. In his article, Williamson minimizes the importance of ideology as a criterion for judging political candidates. Ideological considerations, he says, amount to little more than litmus tests that are “useless in making more complex judgments” about candidate quality. Yet at the same time, he refers to Kaine as “progressive” (a term he doesn’t define) and plays up Kaine’s record as supposedly “the most progressive governor in Virginia’s history.” Arguing that: a) ideology doesn’t matter much, but b) Tim Kaine’s “progressive” record is one of the reasons he’s such a swell candidate makes no sense.