As local election season comes to a close this spring in La Crosse, it seems like a good time to talk about what a progressive is. It seems like "the left" can be broken down further and further in small political pockets, such as environmentalists, racial justice organizers, socialists, feminists, civil liberties activists, union and labor rights organizers, etc. We all know that it is tough to unite progressives, and clearly define what makes us different from liberals, centrist democrats, new democrats, and all the other non-progressives we may share a party or candidate with at times.
One resource that takes a stab at defining progressives is George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant. He uses the metaphor of the family unit to illustrate progressivism. Lakoff's argument is that progressives believe in nurturing others to pursue what they want in their lives, while conservatives believe in strict obedience and conformity. Consider the simple difference between strict (conservative) and nurturing (progressive) parents.
Lakoff's progressive values include:
Opportunity and prosperity
Open, two way communication
Community building, cooperation and service to the community
Trust and honesty
Progressives value a growth-oriented mindset. When looking at political candidates now and in the future, try to keep this basic framework in mind. The self proclaimed progressive candidates might just be another strict leaders in sheep's clothing.