Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Progressives and Liberals

Day Eight. Wow, it’s going to be a long 100 Days of posts! Some of you are asking, “Why are you going on and on making this distinction between Liberals and Progressives? What do you hope to accomplish? It’s a false dichotomy. They’re the same. I’m both.”

Don’t misperceive. I’m not trashing Liberals. Yeah I know it may sound like it, at moments, on fine points, but I’m not. Liberals are family. I’ve just NEVER thought of myself as a Liberal. I’ve always thought of myself as Progressive. Not that I have any animosity toward Liberalism, and at some moments and contexts I call myself a Liberal. I’m making the distinction for several reasons: 1) because it exists, at least among many people, although there is a lot of overlap between the two, even if it doesn’t exist for you personally; 2) I want all of us, including me as I think about all this fascinating stuff, to clarify our identities for the reasons I outlined in Identity Politics; and 3) there’s something that concerns me about Liberalism, as many Progressives define it, even though you personally may not. I’m not going to get into this in this post. My thoughts are still unclear. It’s a feeling, an intuition. There’s something about Liberalism, as some of us see it, that echoes some of the premises and paradigms of the right wingers, or amoral anchorless Centrism. I don’t know. It’ll emerge as a thread during these 100 Days.

To an extent I am making a forced dichotomy, I wouldn’t say a false one, it’s a matter of degree and nuance. Most of what I’ve been saying about Liberalism, many many people who call themselves Progressives would agree with. But you’re also getting a little of my personal take on the differences and yeah it may be a little theatrical and stretching, but I still think I’m touching, if in metaphors, the differences.

But I will say that there is merit in defining Progressivism broadly, as Kenneth and others are doing, and I am committed to a free ranging, honest, CIVIL discussion. But I get nervous about defining it so broadly that it loses a clear identity, that neither we nor the general public who we are trying to provide STRONG clear leadership for can unambiguously explain what we stand for. Maybe I’m emerging as “on the left” of this redefined Progressive movement, but I swear, I consider myself a Moderate. Then again, maybe none of this matters. Maybe I should forget labels and distinctions. We will see.

What do you think?

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