Saturday, April 3, 2010

What is a "progressive?"

Ever since Michael Dukakis almost singlehandedly made "liberal" a label of derision, liberals have been trying to find something else to call themselves. A while ago they seemed to have settled on "progressive." When folks like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Madow go on the air to share the Democratic Party talking points, they refer to themselves and fellow leftists as "progressives."

Along comes Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who became one of the stars of the health care reform debate by demonstrating his deep knowledge of the subject, and by standing up to the President during the "summit" meeting a few weeks ago. Ryan spoke in Oklahoma this week, and had a few words to say about being a "progressive." He makes some great points, and I'll just hand the floor over to him:

"The Democratic leaders of Congress and in the White House hold a view they call “Progressivism.” Progressivism began in Wisconsin, where I come from. It came into our schools from European universities under the spell of intellectuals such as Hegel and Weber, and the German leader Bismarck.

"The best known Wisconsin Progressive was actually a Republican, Robert LaFollette. Progressivism was a powerful strain in both political parties for many years. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, and Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, both brought the Progressive movement to Washington. Early Progressives wanted to empower and engage the people. They fought for populist reforms like initiative and referendum, recalls, judicial elections, the breakup of monopoly corporations, and the elimination of vote buying and urban patronage.

"But Progressivism turned away from popular control toward central government planning. It lost most Americans and consumed itself in paternalism, arrogance, and snobbish condescension. “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson would have scorned the self-proclaimed “Progressives” of our day for handing out bailout checks to giant corporations, corrupting the Congress to purchase votes for government controlled health care, and funneling billions in Jobs Stimulus money to local politicians to pay for make-work patronage. That’s not “Progressivism,” that’s what real Progressives fought against!"

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