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Progressive Conservatives: The Vogue New Label?

Convinced the liberal label had become an albatross around their neck — liberals have begun labeling themselves: "progressive."

In truth, this is not a new term, but a recycled term used by liberals in the past. For example, in 1948, the Progressive Party nominated former FDR vice president Henry A. Wallace to run against Harry Truman from the Left.

At a reception I attended last night, Jack Kemp made the argument that being progressive (which means advancing) is not an ideological term. Thus, there are many progressive conservatives.

Will this term ever come into vogue? Who knows? Some find it offensive to add a qualifier before the word conservative. For this reason, the term "compassionate conservative" was heavily criticized (even before Iraq and Bush’s government spending became issues).

However, I’ve never heard anyone criticize someone for being a "Reagan Republican," so I have to assume that qualifiers, in and of themselves, are not the problem.

Additionally, many conservatives (who have already conceded the word progressive to the liberals) would object to our using the term, for fear that it implies we are becoming more liberal. Of course, this implies a lack of understanding regarding the entire intellectual exercise.

As stated earlier, if progressive means "advancing," then it has no inherent ideological connotation.

My contention is that it was wise for liberals to re-label themselves "progressive." Conservatives have done a good job over the last twenty-five years of telling America the truth about liberalism, and thus, damaging the brand name. As such, the liberals have had to make a choice: Change policies or change names (and changing names is easier).

Likewise, it would be lunacy for conservatives to ever use the term "progressive" to describe a liberal. Using their language means playing into their hands and allowing them escape their past record of flawed programs.

While I have written in the past about not using the term "progressive," until last night, it didn’t honestly occur to me that we could accurately use the word, ourselves.

Now that is an interesting idea.

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Written By

Mr. Lewis has managed political campaigns and served as director of grassroots for the Leadership Institute, as well as political director for GOPAC. In 2002, Campaigns & Elections magazine selected him as a "Rising Star of Politics." He is the author of "Teaching Elephants to Talk." His blog can be read at MattLewis.org.

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