The Progressive Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

wolf in sheeps clothing


What’s in a name? Much more than Juliet could imagine.  Failing to precisely name and define our terms we flail away, taking wrong turns and making bad choices. Words and our reaction to them have immense power.
Alas, among the murkiest terms in the modern lexicon are the political ones, and the most devilishly deceptive term today is progressive.  Who, of course, would be against progress?  Progress must be something spiraling ever upwards and brightly onwards toward a shining future.   Not favoring progress puts one on a par with the man who is asked, “have you stopped beating your wife” – you are trapped and condemned however you answer.    Everyone, of course, wants progress, but the next question that should be raised – and often isn’t – is progress towards what?   To call yourself progressive literally means you are moving towards something and nothing more, but it sounds good.  You may be moving in the direction of quicksand, a hornet’s nest, or the edge of a cliff, but you are progressing.
Who, today, calls themselves progressive?  The answer is the political left.  However, it has not been their label of choice for very long: during most of the last sixty years or more they called themselves liberals – why the switch?  Obviously, the word liberal derives from the word liberty and in the classic definition denotes an attachment to liberty as a first principle, but today’s progressives are not much interested in liberty, especially as delineated by the Constitution.  The main reason, however, they distance themselves from liberal is that it connotes the old, tired, shopworn ideas of the past: the beached, bloated, bilious, carcass of the welfare state.
Progressives then, in Orwellian fashion, have re-christened themselves as the complete opposite of what they are.  Remember that in Orwell’s dystopian future the Ministry of Peace made war and the Ministry of Truth spread lies.  Progressives yearn for the past: they want to go back to the future.  The progressive agenda includes bigger government, higher taxes and spending, more regulations, globalism, and an interventionist foreign policy: tired, old, retrospective ideas that have failed.
Above all, progressives want to move in the direction of socialism.  As an economic system socialism has failed every time it has been tried.  From Russian Communism to the collapse of Venezuela – where the people are eating rats, pets, and zoo animals in what was a formerly prosperous country with the world’s largest petroleum reserves – socialism has produced economic chaos: insufficient supplies of shoddy products at prices nobody can afford.   Socialism in Russia: failure and renunciation. Socialism in Eastern Europe: failure and renunciation. Socialism in China: failure. Socialism in Cuba: failure. Socialism in Venezuela: failure.  Socialism in Western Europe: now failing.  This, of course, does not count the odious human toll of death and murder perpetrated by these regimes.  You did not live in a socialist people’s republic; you endured and survived, if lucky; if not lucky, you were standing in the way of the ineluctable law of historical progress and needed to be eliminated.
The progressive response would be that socialism simply hasn’t been done right…yet…but isn’t a hundred years of failure enough?  When asked, neither former Democrat national chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, nor Hillary Clinton could answer the question: “what is the difference between a Democrat and a socialist”.    Well the right answer is nothing: they are both progressives who want to take us back to the thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies.  Progressive by any other name, liberal, Democrat or socialist is not so sweet.
David W. Rash is a history professor at Everett Community College in Everett, WA

4 comments to The Progressive Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

  • Jeffrey Friedberg

    Very interesting article. “Socialists” or “Progressives” really have nothing new to present. Nothing at all. Problem is: the US “collective” memory is that of maybe a goldfish. They don;t remember a damn thing about “Yetserday,” other than it was a song by the…uh…the WHO?

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