Given the current slate of policy proposals that are popular today across the country, one could argue the Democratic Party could rename itself the “Progressive Democratic Party.” From the policies and public rhetoric of leaders in the Obama administration to New York mayorial candidate Bill de Blasio, we can see that progressivism is back in a new way.
According to the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University, progressivism is a term applied to a variety of responses to the economic and social problems that rapid industrialization introduced to America spanning from around 1890 to 1920. Progressivism began primarily as a social movement but later morphed into public policy initiatives and even into a political party in 1912. The early progressives rejected Social Darwinism, believing that “the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare) could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change.”
Does this sound familiar? President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was not so much a platform for “liberals” as it was an introduction to America’s neo-progressivism. Today’s neo-progressivism has the same views of the role of elites to govern society, the role of government to run economies with a twist on social agendas, and so on. There are differences, however. The progressivism of old was explicitly racist at times and supported programs like eugenics to rid America of those who might impede national progress. In fact, Margaret Sanger helped to launch and systematize abortion as a progressivist weapon to that end. While the eugenicist abortion platform has been recast as a “women’s health” issue, today’s neo-progressivism comes with the consecration of minority groups as sacred and therefore justifies the use of government to guarantee them various special rights, protections, and privileges under the law. In the neo-progressivist era, every minority group deserves to have their lifestyles and choices enhanced and protected by the state.
U.S. History.org explains the development of progressivism this way: