To dispel some of the confusion of political correctness I would like to historically define the term liberal and especially the term progressive and how the two labels relate to current political efforts by the left-headed in America.
The American left has taken of late to rebranding themselves “progressives.” Before that they were generally known as “liberals.” So, what’s the difference between the two? Really it’s more about the left-headed trying to lay claim to ideas and concepts they have little real clue as to their meanings, and even less right to, in terms of their actually adhering to or practicing the principles.
First, “liberalism” as the left used it was a complete bastardization of the term. Wikipedia defines “classical liberalism” as “a philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and free markets.” Read that slowly. Do those sound like the ideals of the current day American left-head? No, not at all, but it sure sounds like a 100% accurate description of the Framer’s founding principles written into the US Constitution. Odd?
To properly understand this we must step back 100 or so years. Teddy Roosevelt was a proud progressive. Progressivism was the American version of Marxist principles of collectivism and statism…a set of principles and policies ” of concentrating extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty .” (Dictionary.com) In my mind it translates to individuals being too untrustworthy to handle their own autonomy. The foregoing is key to understanding this entire discussion.
Classical liberalism felt free men left with the unfettered right to pursue their own happiness and prosperity would lead to the whole prospering in the general sense. It felt that but for the illegal acts of the few, an entire nation of souls working to better themselves would in turn better the nation as a whole. The concept as put into practice by the Constitution proved to work very well, but the politically and socially imaginative American felt Marxism was called for here too. Of course as immigration was rampant with Europeans coming here, some of their social and political ideas from Europe came with them.
Out of European Marxist remedies rose American progressivism. Progressives sought similar ends in the US as Marxists sought in Europe. The problem was the US did not have the same problems as Europe. We did not have class struggle in the main and we did not have the same problems with demographics as Europe. We had far fewer people and much more land area, therefore the same fixes needn’t be used. Regardless, it came here and the trouble manifest itself.
Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive. He left office in 1909 and in 1913 Woodrow Wilson, the most ardent American progressive until that time, became president. Wilson was a progressive in every sense of the word, thus he was one deeply desirous of Marxist relief. A look back over Wilson’s administration makes clear he would fit in like a pea in a pod with today’s American progressives.
It should be noted Wilson was a eugenicist, a virulent racist and a man who had his political detractors jailed – look it up before disagreeing. He was the main force behind the failed League of Nations, the Treaty of Versailles that crippled post WWI Germany with reparations and punitive actions, and thus was the main cause of Hitler’s rise to popularity and WWII. The League of Nations created states in Europe that Hitler and many classical Europeans sought to end. It divided ancient empires and created nations out of thin air to address the ills it saw as the cause of European strife.
The bigger the fix the more chance for things to go wrong, and boy did they. We saw the wrongheadedness of Wilson’s ideas and soon after he left office we reinstalled more classical liberal thought of liberty and capitalism and the nation was awash in prosperity, hence the “Roaring 20’s.”
Then came the 1929 crash and the Depression, which as Glenn Beck so correctly highlights, was only known as the “Great Depression” here in the US as it took us almost twice as long as the rest of the world to emerge from it. This is directly because of the programs of the progressive favorite son, FDR.
So, that’s it for the basic back story. What happened then was that as liberalism was a classical idea of “individual liberty and limited government” those seeking a new way rebranded themselves, and in fairness, they did so accurately by calling themselves progressives.
After FDR and the conservative 1950’s we see a return to more radical thought in America. These new radicals sought things not remotely familiar to Americans, but to lend themselves some gravitas and to disassociate their efforts from the abortion that was early 20th Century American progressivism, they sought to rebrand themselves, so they began calling themselves “liberals.”
All through the 60’s and 70’s they held dear to that moniker, but with the coming of Reagan and the neo-cons and the success of conservatism, they sought to throw off the yoke associated with the 1960’s impression of liberal political action that was violence, protest, bombs and radicalism. By the late 1990’s the term “progressive” crept back into the lexicon, and again, in fairness, progressives are true to the early 20th Century ideals of their movement.
For progressives to have ever to identified their movement as “liberal” is akin to me identifying myself as a girl named Betty – just a damned lie and a really poorly conceived one at that!
In truth, the Tea Party types and real conservatives are in fact “classical liberals.” Indeed, in the time of monarchy the concepts of individual freedom, autonomy, limited government and capitalism were liberal ideas, thus our Founder’s were liberals and for modern day progressives to claim that lofty title is a lie. It’s thievery of the highest and most foul kind. From now til the end of time these people are progressives and that means they are that unique thing otherwise known as an “American Marxist.” Look it up!
SOURCES: see hyperlink