Freddie DeBoer states his objections to the title “progressive” being used instead of “liberal”. He has two reasons, the first being that he considers “use of progressive as a capitulation… To run from the term because conservatives tried to stigmatize it is emblematic of all that was wrong with 90s-era liberal politics.” The second is his qualms about “the etymology of progressive, with its confused relationship towards the early 20th century Progressive movement, which had some good and a lot of bad.”
As regular readers know, I have my own system for labeling things in politics. However, given the choice between “liberal” and “progressive”, I am not quite sure which to choose. “Liberal” has the disadvantage of being associated with an economic philosophy of allowing the free-market to work as it may, which is not what the modern group believes.
On the other hand, “progressive”–in addition to the problems DeBoer notes–has the problem of being kind of vague, and sounding, to my ears, as if it is supposed to be covering something up. Labeling something “progressive” sounds to me a little bit like a euphemism for something. But perhaps that is only a subconscious effect of Conservative propaganda.
Still, “progress” ought to have a good connotation, I suppose, although it seems to me that it’s meaningless until one knows towards what one is progressing. It’s similar to how a statement may be logical, but proceed from a flawed premise and thus still be wrong.
The word “liberal” is curious in that it can be used in a few ways. For instance, how is the sentence “I am liberal” is different than the sentence “I am a liberal”? I also wonder about the distinction between “liberalism” and the less-used “liberality”. Are they synonyms? Certainly, the conservatives object to liberalism because–among other reasons–of its liberality with public money to aid the poor.
On the whole, I think I prefer “liberal”. The Latin root, after all, means “free”. And I think that is ultimately a better kind of branding than the rather ill-defined “progressive”.