The Difference Between Liberal and Progressive
Liberal and Progressive are Different
Pundits use the words liberal and progressive interchangeably. As a self-ascribed Progressive, the practice annoys me. A lot. Those two words are not synonyms. They do not mean the same thing. And people should stop using them as stand-ins for one another.
Liberal and Progressive do NOT Describe the Same Things.
The word liberal usually describes two lines of thinking in modern US Politics. People often times describe themselves as “social liberals”. Sometimes they’ll say, “I’m socially liberal but fiscally conservative”. Social Liberals believe in balancing liberty with social justice. They tend to support gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, protecting the environment and improving equality. They allow certain liberties to be sacrificed (like not allowing landlords to refuse someone based on their race). Alternatively, Liberal can also be used (usually negatively) to describe someone who believes that the government can and should use tax dollars to play an active role in improving communities and promoting the general welfare of the country. In short, the government should collect taxes and spend it to improve communities.
While I generally ascribe to both principles, neither description accurately describes what it means to be a Progressive. And Progressive is how I define my political ideology.
What Makes Progressive Different From Liberal
Progressives recognize problems and try to define and address the systemic rules, laws and traditions that enable and empower the problems in the first place. Additionally, Progressives share a general belief in the interconnections of individuals and the philosophy that “when you hurt, I hurt”.
The Most Important Issue is Money in Politics
The most important issue in most Progressives circles is money in politics – though the climate crisis, social justice and income inequality are pervasive as well. Because money in politics is so influential on our candidates and elected officials, Progressives collectively recognize that our broken campaign finance system affects all issues. Literally, almost no issue goes unaffected by money in politics. Private prisons, gun control, education funding, the climate crisis, the military industrial complex, the over-prescription of pain killers, etc. Very few issues escape the grasp of our oligarchic campaign finance system.
Examples of Differences Between Liberal and Progressive Views
Liberals will pay for body cameras on Police. Progressives may like that idea, but they also want to address the training the cops receive that necessitate the need for the cameras.
Liberals will vote for a stimulus package. Progressives might too, but they’ll also plead for an investigation into why it’s needed, how it will be spent, and if the system will allow for the same problem to happen again.
Liberals will raise millions to beat Republicans despite Republicans having more big donors. Progressives think large donations fundamentally corrupts politics.
Liberals will promote after school programs for inner city youth. Progressives might too, but will also address the minimum wage, lack of jobs, historical housing discrimination and the over-arresting of black youth across the country.
Liberals will raise taxes to pay for our social programs. Progressives will increase tax revenue by closing the tax loopholes that allow corporations to pay little to no income tax.
Liberals might watch MSNBC. Progressives generally agree that the mainstream media is a part of the problem. Including MSNBC. Check out my post on alternative media options for progressives.