What is progressivism? Why should I be progressive?
What is progressivism? What is progress? To some, this notion is appealing. “Yes, this world is full of wrongs and I must right them! Let us march onward in pursuit of social justice for all!” To others, progressivism is a dirty word. “Why can’t we go back to the good ole’ days, when things were simpler?”
Let’s start from the beginning, by breaking down the definition. Progressivism is defined as support for or advocacy of social reform.
You might be thinking, “wow, social reform sounds big. And nebulous.” And you are right, social reform IS big. Who is the authority on determining which social issues deserve to be reformed and which issues are fine as they are?
Well, in order to consider progressive issues, you might have to assume a progressive perspective. To the people who believe progressivism is a dirty word, ‘a progressive’ may seem even more threatening. “A filthy liberal! A damn hippie! Get off my lawn!” In truth, though, a progressive mindset is largely universal.
Equality for all
A progressive believes that the key to social reform lies in securing equal treatment for people, regardless of race, sex, religion, beliefs, etc. This is not limited to human beings either—a progressive will also often believe in sustainability and environmentalism, understanding that issues such as climate change will eventually result in societal consequences, such as contributing to the rise of child brides in Malawi.
Of course, this means that in order to be progressive, you must first acknowledge that the world is rife with inequalities. “I don’t see color” or “I don’t like hearing people talk about political issues” are unacceptable dismissals of the pain and suffering of those less fortunate. A progressive person is actively engaged in social reform issues, even when they are not directly affected by these issues.
A non-black progressive can still support Black Lives Matter. A male can (and should) be a feminist. A Christian progressive can understand, respect, and support a Muslim and vice-versa. To a progressive person, the end goal is to build an equal platform on which all of humanity can stand, even when these compromises can reduce one’s own power.
Why should I be progressive?
This world is much bigger than the problems that confront you or me on a daily basis, and a progressive person recognizes this. Have you ever heard the argument, “I am not voting to increase funding to my local public schools because I do not have a child in public school.” This argument supposes that parents of public school attending children are the only ones to benefit from increased spending, rather than understanding that the whole society benefits from well-educated children, and to educate a child well costs money.
This brings us to the political aspect of the argument. Is a progressive person inherently liberal? This article suggests that the answer is no. While a liberal person is more focused on increased government spending (i.e. taxpayer money) in order to balance social inequality, a progressive is more focused on swaying government power to the same end.
For example, a liberal solution to healthcare would involve spending a lot of taxpayer money on programs that would increase spending on medication and health services for the poor, while a progressive policy would involve regulating prices and restricting pharmaceutical price-gouging. In this way, the progressive solution is also the fiscally conservative solution in spite of how ‘liberal’ it sounds.
So why should I be progressive? Progressivism makes the world a better, fairer place. Changes to the social stratification are universally good in American history from the emancipation of the slaves to women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement to gay marriage. Each one of these battles was hard won by the hands and hearts of progressive citizens. Don’t you want to be on the right side of history?