The use of ‘progressive’ to define the political views of our friends on the liberal left is commonplace. Yet, the label is misleading.
‘Progressive’ is an adjective that can be broadly defined as “favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, especially in political matters.” Under this definition, being progressive should be a positive desire of all political factions.
This is why it is problematic to use the term as specific identification for a single side of the political spectrum. While conservatives are typically viewed as those who ‘conserve’ the status quo, they also consistently advocate for forward motion – tax reform, being one example. Progress can’t be put in a political box.
A greater problem, however, is the simple label of all forward motion as progress. C.S. Lewis identified this problem when writing Mere Christianity. While the book specifically spoke to the spiritual, what was written should be a sobering warning:
“We all want progress…getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
A larger problem than the lopsided application of ‘progressive’ is where we are applying it. Like Lewis pointed out, running down the wrong road, even if you are the fastest runner, is not progress. It is simply moving farther and farther from the goal that needs to be obtained.
Granted, everyone will have different ideas of the goals we should be working to obtain, but when the very definition of ‘progressive’ is taken into consideration alongside our warning from Lewis, much of the political mudslinging comes to an end.
If an unborn child is a human, then overturning Roe v. Wade is not a step backwards like many are trying to label it. It would be one of the most progressive actions that could possibly be taken for the sake of humankind in America. While this logic could be applied elsewhere, we will use only one example for the sake of simplicity.
Overturning rulings and putting an end to bad pieces of legislation are not steps backwards – they are progress towards goals that were veered away from. Although society may think that progress can’t be made without creating new policy and legislation, sometimes, the greatest form of progress happens when you dismantle already established policy and laws that are harming the country.
Progress is not politically exclusive, no matter how much a misapplied label may suggest it is.