What exactly is progressivism? Certain pundits would have you believe that the term ‘progressive’ is analogous to that of a communist, socialist, Marxist, hippie and etc. But again, what exactly does this term mean? According to Merriam-Webster, ‘progressive’ is defined as: “(a) of, relating to, or characterized by progress. (b) making use of or interested in new ideas, findings or opportunities.”
Progressive is defined as: “(a) of, relating to, or characterized by progress. (b) making use of or interested in new ideas, findings or opportunities.”. In essence, progressivism champions the advancement and adoption of new ideas and social reform for the amelioration of society. With the agent: the people, specifically the working class, and the goal: freedom of the individual to compete in fair conditions, whilst championing the progress and improvement of society as a whole, it’s easy for progressives to share different programmatic functions or methods of tangibly executing and obtaining these goals that they all share. The term is fluid and nuance is necessary for understanding each and every varying perspective of those who label themselves as a progressive. But these five enumerated tenets are nearly universally accepted by those who claim to adhere to the ideology.
One: The distrust of concentrated wealth and power in the hands of corporate oligarchy or aristocracy.
“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations that dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country” – Thomas Jefferson. These words, eloquently spoken by one our founding fathers, addresses a major area of concern for progressives. Progressives believe that the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a select few does more to damage the general welfare of the country than to promote it using economic prosperity. A quick glance at the industrial revolution or “gilded age”, gives us insight on the social ills brought upon the country by unfettered capitalism. The regulation of “too big to fail” corporations and the disintegration of monopolies serves to protect the interests of the American people while allowing for a more equal distribution of competition amongst those who seek economic freedom.
Two: Strong proponents of workplace regulations and the living wage.
To further expound on the societal ills exploited by the negative aspects of big business, progressives believe that workplace regulations, such as implementing the forty-hour work week, safety regulations supervised and regulated by OSHA inspectors, the banning of children working in factories (although this isn’t an issue anymore) and fair wages are all key issues progressives strive to protect and uphold. Before these regulations, due to the absence of financial leverage, people (including children), often worked eighty to one hundred hours a week for twenty-five cents an hour, sometimes less. Many progressives coined this abuse to be “wage slavery” and fought to establish a minimum wage that employers were required to pay their employees for what products they produced. With workplace safety regulations fairly fine-tuned and unions representing working bodies all across the country, these issues aren’t as hot of a topic today as they were in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but the federal minimum wage continues to be fervently debated. Of course, progressives believe in livable and sustainable working wages. Wages that differ from current wages that are believed to be artificially suppressed by business owners to accrue the greatest amount of profit, in the face of rising productivity.
Three: Environmental stewardship.
Progressives believe that the health of the environment is imperative for the human species to progress forward. The unregulated emission of carbon into the atmosphere is dangerous and will spell grave consequences for our species if we don’t act to retard and correct the damage that we’ve perpetrated. Progressives believe that all creatures are woven in an interconnected web and man-made causes to global warming has damaged the equilibrium to this metaphorical web. As a species, we could conjure up the most ground breaking technological innovations and political reforms, but all of it is in vain if we (including our posterity), can’t enjoy these feats.
Four: Equality for all citizens, civil rights, and social justice.
One of the most all-encompassing aspects of progressivism is that progressives champion and fight for the equality of all citizens. Minorities, those who are poverty stricken, those within the LGBT community and all other marginalized and subjugated people in-between deserve to have their civil, and human rights respected and observed. The Preamble of the Constitution states that, “We the people of the United States, in order to form “a more perfect” union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ”. Following this declaration, progressives fight for the rights of free and autonomous people to be recognized as fellow citizens of society by societies historically white, male and Christian dominated class. Progressives are strong advocates of police reform regarding minorities, marriage rights regarding gay and lesbian couples, programs that uplift struggling families by offering them a “hand up” as opposed to a “hand out” and champion the rights of women to have full and autonomous control over their own bodies. Progressives do not believe in “moral legislation”, that is, legislation that looks to regulate an individual’s life with respect to a certain religion or personal moralistic standard. Progressives believe in the individual freedom of American citizens, but realize that these freedoms cannot be upheld without fighting for the basic rights of all American citizens. No matter the race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or lifestyle choice.
Five: Investing in America
Progressives value and believe in the fortitude of the United States. The country is a melting pot of diverse people and cultures that coalesce into one of the world’s most powerful superpowers. The tenacity of the working middle class to maintain the health of our GDP does not go unnoticed, and in fact, warrants praise and admiration from droves of countries around the world. Because of this, progressives believe that to reverse some of our economic ills, it’s paramount that we invest in ourselves as a country. In order to do this, progressives pose that enacting increased international tariffs, the immediate halting of the outsourcing of American jobs, spurring job growth by investing in our infrastructure, setting up a single-payer health care system and supporting free education are all steps to improve ourselves as a country and kick start the economy with the American citizen in mind, as opposed to foreign interests. Progressives advocate that everyone pays their fair share (by proportion) in taxes and that offshore tax havens should be abolished because they decrease the revenue our country receives by tax loopholes.
This is a quick glimpse at the key tenets of progressivism, but these values are shared by nearly everyone that adheres to the ideology. This ideology, born in response to the negative aspects of the industrial revolution, still looks to address key problems we face today as a nation. From its humble beginnings in America’s populist party, to its strong Bull Moose platform in the Teddy Roosevelt era, this ideology has historically championed the rights and ideas of the working class – the economic engine of the country. Join in the fight against concentrated corporate power, social injustice, economic class wars exacerbated by debunked trickle-down economic theories and social inequalities that hinder us as a nation from progressing forward. Join the progressive army!