COLUMN: From here and back again

Jim Coufal

Progressivism II: What progressives believe

Part I looked at what Republicans believe and indicated that there are several such beliefs that progressives can agree with.   These are, (1) our constitution must be honored, upheld, and valued, (2) leaders should serve people, not special interests, (3) paychecks should not be wasted on poorly run government, and (4) culture should respect and protect life. There were other Republican beliefs that provided some commonality, but these four seemed to stand out. What follows is a brief synopsis of what progressives believe.

The best brief sound-bite version of progressive beliefs I found was by John Halpin and Ray Teixeira, from 2013. They said:
Our approach is simple to summarize and is built upon the ideas of generations of progressives from Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack 

Obama: everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. As progressives, we believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at a decent, fulfilling, and economically secure life. We believe that everyone should do his or her fair share to build this life through education and hard work and through active participation in public life. And we believe that everyone should play by the same set of rules with no special privileges for the well-connected or wealthy.

They note that modern progressivism began in the later 1800’s. The progressive movement in the U.S. lasted into the 1930s with upswings periodically since then and sought to protect social welfare, promote fairness, control big business, uphold moral values and promote greater efficiency of government and business. This resulted in national, state and local laws establishing cleaner and healthier cities, safer workplaces and better treatment of workers and customers by businesses. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft were instrumental in social and political reforms. Under President Woodrow Wilson, Congress passed four constitutional amendments advancing progressive causes. Amendment 16 introduced an income tax, and Amendment 17 provided for the direct election of U.S. senators by the people. The 19th Amendment gave women the right vote. The 22nd Amendment gave Native Americans the right to vote. Under President  Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Social Security Act was passed, as were other progressive acts to work through the great depression. President Truman began integration of the military.
Looking at the more current situation, author Peter Phillips, PhD, said:
Progressives in the 21st century continue in this tradition of democracy building and open transparency of corporate and political power. Progressive values are rooted in the American traditions of equality, fairness, due process, and democratic decision making at the deepest level possible. Progressives recognize that institutional power, both public and private, has created inequalities of race, class and gender, and that democratic governmental regulation is needed to make necessary social justice corrections for humanity worldwide. Progressives believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Bill of Rights, open access to corporate and governmental information, democratic media and individual human freedom. Progressives believe that human freedom includes the freedom from hunger, homelessness, unemployment, environmental pollution, discrimination based on physical attributes and long imprisonment for non-violent crimes.
The Civil Rights Act, the current move to protect LBGT people and that to bring justice to immigrants, people of color and the disadvantaged are progressive at root. If there was a progressive administration, jobs would not be America’s largest export.
With one tweak, the progressive brand flows directly from the Declaration of Independence that says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal (before the law), that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends. He can be reached at

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.