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Progressivism (or Progressive Ideology) is a narrow ideology that puts a heavy emphasis on administration that is centralized, separated from the political process, and has the power and expertise to make quick decisions.[1] Progressives are quick to point to their label and proclaim that they stand for "progress",[2] but they do everything they can to hide the fact that where they want to make progress to is a big government that is in control of every aspect of Americans' lives.

Since the 1960s and the New Left Movement, Progressivism has largely been synonymous with Communism. Earlier Progressivism, while staunchly in favor of Big Government, was equally critical of communist and socialist viewpoints.


Edward Bellamy

Pre-Progressive Era

The dawn of progressive ideology has been traced back to the publication of Looking Backward,[3][4] where author Edward Bellamy uses the label of Nationalism to create a movement aiming toward greater state power at the expense of the individual.

Another book that had far reaching implications for the coming birth of progressive ideology was Henry George's book Progress and Poverty.[5][3] (See section Henry George: Ideological Influence)

Progressive Era

For a more detailed treatment, see Progressive Era.

The "Progressive Era" was a time period in American History in which Progressives made their way into segments of academia, media, and government, and were successful at implementing their policies and cultural changes based on their ideology.


Progressive ideology is marked by a belief in the purity of Public Administration,[6] particularly the concept of the disinterested[7][8] and impartial administrator.[9][10] While progressives generally do not agree on how administrative power should be used,[11] that is less important than the fact that administration must exist.[12] By its very nature, administration is necessarily centralized.[13] What becomes de-centralized within the Administrative State are the specific functions, such as energy, environment, transportation, etc. The reason why progressives look past use and focus simply on existence, is because they want the flexibility to be able to move and change as circumstances change.[12] This generally has a negative effect on citizens, who are not always kept apprised of what is happening and are not afforded the opportunity to voice their beliefs.

In this way, when Progressivism is looked upon as Bureaucratic Despotism,[14] the notion is quite apt since despotic governments generally do not care what the citizens want or believe.

Progressivism or Liberalism?

Most of the time, when we think of Liberals what we are actually thinking about are Progressives.[15] During the era leading up to World War I, progressives had been so successful at implementing their ideas and had so frightened the American People, that after the war progressives had to change their title and take over the word liberal. FDR would be the first major progressive who would become known as a liberal.[15]

Reagan's Warning

Without expressly using the name of "progressivism", Reagan did illustrate the progressives' abuse of regulation and regulatory authority in order to dictate to society, in his speech A Time for Choosing.

Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the - or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.

Name Change

Between the Woodrow Wilson presidency, and the success of conservatism during the Roaring Twenties and the Presidency of Calvin Coolidge, progressivism as an ideology was nearly lost. Then, along came Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At his acceptance speech for the Nomination for President on the Democrat ticket, FDR himself is the one who led the way toward renaming the ideology.

Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the name from Progressivism to Liberalism

During the speech, FDR proclaimed that the party was the party of "real progress, of real justice, of real equality" and that the party should "feel that in everything we do there still lives with us, if not the body, the great indomitable, unquenchable, progressive soul of our Commander-in-Chief, Woodrow Wilson."[16] In addition, FDR made it a point to link progress and liberalism, saying that the Democrat Party "is the bearer of liberalism and of progress", and finally he set the new title in motion:

Yes, the people of this country want a genuine choice this year, not a choice between two names for the same reactionary doctrine. Ours must be a party of liberal thought, of planned action, of enlightened international outlook, and of the greatest good to the greatest number of our citizens.[16]

Progressivism had actively been renamed. From this moment on, it would be known as liberalism. Reagan spoke of a perversion taking place, and that perversion took place on July 2nd, 1932. Previously, the word "liberalism" stood for limited government and liberty, but now the word stood for authoritarian control.

This title shift lasted for nearly a century until Howard Dean revived the term progressive as head of the DNC.[15] Since the time of FDR bringing the ideology under the cloak of "liberalism", progressives have done significant damage to the word "liberal", and have seen a need for yet another name change to a word that isn't as damaged. Having left the word "progressive" dormant for all these years, most Americans have forgotten how terrifying progressivism really is, leaving progressives to freely re-use their original label.

Hillary Clinton would further bring the label of progressive back to the forefront on the national stage at a debate during the 2008 election, when answering a question as to if she would describe herself as a liberal.[17] The title of Progressive is now back in vogue with everybody on the left describing themselves that way, including President Obama.[18]

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Hillary Clinton has openly run her campaign as a progressive, using that specific label.[19]

Understanding Progressive Ideology

The key to understanding progressive ideology is in understanding both sides of the beneficiary equation. The following table, based on the 1912 Progressive Party Platform[20] and the proposal by Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a Second Bill of Rights,[21] illustrates:

Proposal Claimed Beneficiary Actual Beneficiary
Amendment of the Constitution "The People" Big Government
Nation and State (State Autonomy)[22] National Cohesion Big Government
Corrupt Practices (Campaign Finance Reform) Electoral Control Big Government
"Living wage" Wage Earners Big Government
Department of Labor Labor Unions Big Government
Federal Involvement in Health "The People" Big Government
National Regulation of Corporations The "Little Guy" Big Government
Commercial Development (Public/Private Cooperation) "The People" Big Government
Conservation Parks, "The Environment" Big Government
Inheritance (The Death Tax) "The People" Big Government
Income Tax "The People" Big Government
The Right to a Job Families Big Government
The Right to Food Moms Big Government
The Right to Clothing The Children Big Government
The Right to Leisure Dads Big Government
The Right to "Fair Income" Wage Earners Big Government
"Freedom" from "Unfair Competition" "The Little Guy" Big Government
The Right to a Decent Home Families Big Government
The Right to Medical Care "The People" Big Government
The Right to Old Age Pension coverage The Elderly Big Government
The Right to Good Education The Children Big Government
Prohibition Battered wives, the children[23] Big Government

Whatever "the issue" of the day is, is not really the issue. "The issue" is a cloak to camouflage both the real means as well as the goal. Growing government is always the issue. Control over the citizens is always the foundational issue underlying everything that motivates progressives.

See also


  1. Woodrow Wilson on Administration
  2. The Power of Progress: How America's Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate, and Our Country, John Podesta
  3. 3.0 3.1 42a. Roots of the Movement, Progressivism Sweeps the Nation
  4. (2008) Liberal Fascism. Random House, 215. “It's hard to fix a specific starting date for the progressive race for the Great Society, but a good guess might be 1888, the year Edward Bellamy's novel Looking Backward burst on the American scene. One of the most influential works of progressive propaganda ever conceived.” 
  5. Henry George and the Beginnings of Revolutionary Socialism in the United States, The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
  6. Progressivism (Public Administration)
  7. The Trouble Isn't Liberals. It's Progressives., by Charles Murray, Wall Street Journal
  8. By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission
  9. Reflections on American Progressivism
  10. Progressive Democracy, by Herbert Croly, "In almost every case it(the law) depends for its success upon the ability and disinterestedness with which the law is administered."
  11. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Ten Years of the Claremont Review of Books
  12. 12.0 12.1 Progressivism and the Administrative State
  13. The Paradox of Southern Progressivism, 1880-1930
  14. Constitution 201: The Progressive Rejection of the Founding and the Rise of Bureaucratic Despotism
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 The Trouble Isn't Liberals; It's Progressives, by Nick Sorrentino,
  16. 16.0 16.1 Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, July 2, 1932
  17. YouTube Debate: Hillary - Are You a Liberal?, "You know, it is a word that originally meant that you were for freedom, that you were for the freedom to achieve, that you were willing to stand against big power and on behalf of the individual,Unfortunately, in the last 30, 40 years, it has been turned up on its head, and it's been made to seem as though it is a word that describes big government, totally contrary to what its meaning was in the 19th and early 20th century. I prefer the word 'progressive,' which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a modern progressive – someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we're working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life, get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family. So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that's the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.
  18. Obama Says His Critics Haven’t Been Listening, The New York Times, "I am someone who is no doubt progressive"
  19. What 'progressive' means to Hillary Clinton vs. What 'progressive' means to Bernie Sanders, CNN
  20. Progressive Party Platform of 1912
  21. State of the Union Message to Congress, January 11, 1944
  22. President Teddy Roosevelt's New Nationalism Speech, "As for the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic, they deserve honor and recognition such as is paid to no other citizens of the Republic; for to them the republic owes it all; for to them it owes its very existence. It is because of what you and your comrades did in the dark years that we of to-day walk, each of us, head erect, and proud that we belong, not to one of a dozen little squabbling contemptible commonwealths, but to the mightiest nation upon which the sun shines."
  23. Prohibition, Proponents of Prohibition ... were concerned about alcohol's link to wife beating and child abuse.

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