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This article is about Progressivism, a political movement. There is also an article on a progressive magazine called The Progressive.

Progressive is a term used to describe certain beliefs on the political left or certain people who hold those beliefs. It might also be called a "label" (negative connotation, implies external application) or "identity" (neutral or positive connotation, implies internal or objective application).



Basic Progressive Vision

The Basic progressive vision is of community—as family, a caring, responsible family. Progressives envision a community where people care about each other, not just themselves, and act responsibly with strength and effectiveness for each other.

Progressive Principles


What citizens and nations owe each other. If you work hard; play by the rules; and serve your family, community, and nation, then the nation should provide a decent standard of living, as well as freedom, security, and opportunity.


Do everything possible to guarantee political equality and avoid imbalances of political power.


Maximize citizen participation; minimize concentrations of political, corporate, and media power. Maximize journalistic standards. Establish publicly financed elections, Invest in public education. Bring corporations under stakeh9older control, not just stockholder control.

Government for a Better Future

Government does what the future requires and what the private sector cannot do—or is not doing—effectively, ethically, or at all. it is the job of government to promote and, if possible, provide sufficient protection, greater democracy, more freedom, a better environment, broader prosperity, better health, greater fulfillment in life, less violence, and the building and maintaining of public infrastructure.

Ethical Business

in the course of making money by providing products and services, businesses should not adversely affect the public good, as defined by the above values.

Values-based Foreign Policy

The same values governing domestic policy should apply to foreign policy whenever possible.

United States

In the United States, the term liberal has for many decades (at least since the New Deal) been used to describe the political left, and conservative the right. Since at least the late 1990s, the term progressive has been employed to describe certain leftist views of one form or another, for at least two reasons.

The first is to create a contrast between center-left and farther-left politics. For example, John Kerry, Al Gore, and the Democratic Party are more likely to be described as or to describe themselves as liberal, whereas Howard Dean (a Democrat), Ralph Nader (endorsed by the Green Party in 2000) and the Green Party are more likely to be described as or to describe themselves as progressive. In addition to progressive third parties like the Greens, there is also a Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, made up of Democrats and an independent Congressman. (Note that the Democratic and Republican parties have not always represented the left and the right. The modern alignment has been strongest since the 1970s.)

The second is to find a term with positive connotations. The intuitive opposite of liberal is conservative, which some people are proud to consider themselves. The intuitive opposite of progressive is regressive, a label with which hardly any person or political ideology would want to be associated. Critics of leftist politics often use the term liberals to describe their opponents, so distancing oneself from that term can be a rhetorical device to distance oneself from that criticism. (Both liberal and conservative can be quite pejorative when used by their critics on the opposite side.) Progressive connotes progress, a notion which is both positive and intuitively orthogonal to a left-right axis.

Progressive and conservative are also intuitive opposites; the former represents change, the other, tradition. This replaces the distinction between large and small government (especially with regard to government spending) evoked by the pairing of liberal / conservative. These distinctions are, however, controversial and often inaccurate in predicting how either side feels about any given issue.

Avoidance of the term liberal has the benefit of being less ambiguous. In other countries, the terms liberal and conservative may have slightly different or even completely opposite meanings than in the United States. Liberal can also mean free, as in freedom and free country. See the article on Liberalism for a full explanation.

For more historical perspective, see the articles on the Progressive Era and the Progressive Party (which actually refers to several different parties of different periods).


The term progressive is also popular in Australia, since many on the left are not supporters the (centre-right) Liberal Party of Australia. Progressives usually support either the Labor Party, the Democrats or the Greens.


The term progressive is also popular in Canada, since some on the left do not support the centrist Liberal Party of Canada. They should not, however, be confused with supporters of the old Progressive Conservatives.

The Progressive Party of Canada briefly rose to prominence in the 1920s. The Progressive Canadians Party, composed mostly of anti-merger Tories, was formed several months prior to the 2004 general election.

New Zealand

Jim Anderton formed the New Zealand Progressive Party by splitting from the Alliance (New Zealand political party).

The Progressive Green Party was formed in 1995 but has now disbanded.

See also


George Lakoff. Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-931498-71-7

External links

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45