What is a Progressive?

Progressivism is part of American politics… and has been hotly debated since the end of the 19th century.  As Americans head back to the ballot box to decide the nation’s course for the next four years, economic conditions have made progressives as relevant as ever.  But, what is a progressive?  What do they believe?  Here are three different explanations from some of our great progressive leaders….can you match the words to the man?

“The essential difference, as old as civilized history, is between the men who, with fervor and broad sympathy and imagination, stand for the forward movement, the men who stand for the uplift and betterment of mankind, and who have faith in the people, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, the men of narrow vision and small sympathy, who are not stirred by the wrongs of others. With these latter stand also those other men who distrust the people, and many of whom not merely distrust the people, but wish to keep them helpless so as to exploit them for their own benefit.

“The purpose of protecting the life of our Nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a Nation.  For a century we laboured to settle and to subdue a continent. For half a century we called upon unbounded invention and untiring industry to create an order of plenty for all of our people.  The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.  Your imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.”

“Because, the truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that this is how we were warned it would be. President Reagan told us from very the beginning that he believed in a kind of social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. “Government can’t do everything,” we were told. “So it should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest. Make the rich richer — and what falls from their table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.”  You know, the Republicans called it trickle-down when Hoover tried it.  Now they call it supply side.  But it’s the same shining city for those relative few who are lucky enough to live in its good neighborhoods.  But for the people who are excluded — for the people who are locked out — all they can do is to stare from a distance at that city’s glimmering towers.  It’s an old story.  It’s as old as our history.  The difference between Democrats and Republicans has always been measured in courage and confidence.  The Republicans believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail. The strong, the strong they tell us will inherit the land.  We Democrats believe in something else.  We democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact. And, we have more than once. — to new frontiers of education, housing, peace; the whole family aboard, constantly reaching out to extend and enlarge that family; lifting them up into the wagon on the way; blacks and Hispanics, and people of every ethnic group, and native Americans — all those struggling to build their families and claim some small share of America”

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Theodore Roosevelt

Lyndon B. Johnson

Mario Cuomo

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