THOSE WHO CANNOT REMEMBER THE PAST ARE CONDEMNED TO QUOTE SANTAYANA: Progressive Dem candidates: Please don’t call us “progressive.”
Left-wing candidates from Pennsylvania to North Carolina to Missouri are shying away from the P-word on the campaign trail, in messaging and online fundraising, and even in media blitzes, signaling an attempt to rebrand their wing of the party as Democrats debate how to win the midterm elections…
While some high-profile contenders still use the moniker, others want to be thought of in different terms. Pennsylvania’s Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who’s seeking the party’s nomination for a coveted Senate seat, prefers a different word: populist…
A source close to another self-styled Midwestern populist described “two lanes of populism” taking hold as contenders look for more accurate ways to portray what’s unfolding in their regions. Voters in these areas, this person said, aren’t consumed with the detailed policy proposals that excite many national progressives in Washington, D.C., and prefer an anti-establishment, against-the-system sentiment…
“It is a reaction to progressivism somehow being attached to socialism or communism,” said [Dwight] Bullard. “You have a lot of apprehension, regression, people who just are scared.”
As Fred Siegel wrote in his 2014 history of the American left, The Revolt Against the Masses:
Liberals were those Progressives who had renamed themselves so as to repudiate Wilson. “The word liberalism,” wrote Walter Lippmann in 1919, “was introduced into the jargon of American politics by that group who were Progressives in 1912 and Wilson Democrats from 1916 to 1918.” The new liberalism was a decisive cultural break with Wilson and Progressivism. While the Progressives had been inspired by a faith in democratic reforms as a salve for the wounds of both industrial civilization and power politics, liberals saw the American democratic ethos as a danger to freedom at home and abroad.
* * * * * * * *
The best short credo of liberalism came from the pen of the once canonical left-wing literary historian Vernon Parrington in the late 1920s. “Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class,” Parrington insisted, referring to both democracy and capitalism, “and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become, what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected.” Alienated from middle-class American life, liberalism drew on an idealized image of “organic” pre-modern folkways and rhapsodized about a future harmony that would reestablish the proper hierarchy of virtue in a post-bourgeois, post-democratic world.
Well, it is the twenties once again, so I’m not at all surprised to see the P-word retired being retired for a second time, to memory hole the excesses of the previous decade.