The Original “Progressives”

“A well-meaning man may vaguely think of himself as a Progressive without having even the faintest conception of what a Progressive is.” Theodore Roosevelt

In recent years the word “progressive” has had a resurgence in popularity among American leftists (perhaps because the word “liberal” is too well understood by the American public). In 1991 the most liberal members of the United States Congress joined together to form the “Progressive Caucus.” Hosts on the now-defunct Air America radio network billed themselves as “The Aggressive Progressives.” Income tax structures that force high wage earners to pay taxes disproportionate to their income are called “progressive,” while tax structures that require everyone to pay in proportion to income are derided as “regressive.”  Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter what name left wingers use for their agenda. The agenda never changes.

The word “progressive” comes to us from the early twentieth century, when leftists like US Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson used it to portray themselves as agents of progress. History textbooks refer to the period during which these three men ran the government (1901 to 1919), as the “Progressive Era.” Most modern textbooks reflect the leftist bias of their authors by framing this period as a time when enlightened leaders used the power of government to promote “social justice.”1 The other side of the story, generally downplayed by history professors and other leftists, is the way the original “Progressive” politicians trampled on the Constitutional principle of checks and balances, and ushered in an era of unprecedented government power.

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