Progressivism on the Rise – Shawn Williams in Dallas Morning News

Here’s the text of an article that I wrote which appears in Monday’s Dallas Morning News. It wasn’t up on the web yet.

The 2008 election marked the death of liberalism, or at the very least, hastened its demise.

Since the victory of Barack Obama and Democrats nationwide, an abundance of print space and airtime has been devoted to the plight of the conservative movement in America:

Was this election America’s apology for slavery? Why were so many Republicans booted from office? Who will lead the GOP out of the wilderness?

Many Republicans paint an overly rosy picture for a group so soundly defeated in a replay of its 2006 embarrassment. They argue in unison that the country is still ideologically right of center and that liberal fanaticism will be the country’s undoing.

William Kristol points to recent polls that show only 22 percent of voters called themselves liberal compared to 34 percent who considered themselves conservative. This, in part, leads Mr. Kristol to the conclusion that Republicans are in good shape for the 2010 election cycle.

Recently, House Republicans Eric Cantor and Mike Pence made the same argument, lampooning liberalism and the high taxes and moral laxity that they claim comes with it.

But what conservatives and pollsters fail to realize is that the term liberal is becoming obsolete. It’s similar to how Martin Luther King is referred to as “the last Negro” because he never embraced the term “black” in reference to African-Americans. Just as Negro would eventually give way to black, the term liberal is making way for the more popular moniker of progressive.

In an interview during the Democratic National Convention, I was asked about my political affiliation. I told the reporter that I did not affiliate with a party but consider myself progressive-minded.

To my dismay, when the interview appeared, the word progressive was substituted with liberal. I made an immediate phone call to the journalist who wrote the article asking that the error be corrected immediately.

Conservatives have demonized the word liberal to the point that I steer clear of it at all cost. The progressive movement is rooted in liberalism, harking back to John F. Kennedy, who identified health care, housing, schools, jobs, civil rights and civil liberties as liberal causes.

The Democratic focus on these issues – especially jobs and healthcare – has led to growing majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.

Progressivism is not about big government programs trying to solve the nation’s social ills. And the movement embraces broad and diverse ideologies that in the past were viewed as mutually exclusive.

For instance, some progressives are pro-life – and at the same time adopt a green lifestyle. A progressive may tout fiscal responsibility as well as tougher hate crime laws. And many progressives in California voted for Barak Obama as president as well as for Proposition 8 banning same sex marriage.

Too many conservatives, by contrast, have taken a “my way or the highway” approach. That’s why John McCain is customarily relegated to the fringe of his party. And it’s why Log Cabin Republicans are never afforded national attention by the GOP.

Conservative pundits wrongly assume that moderates continue to reside to the right of center, even as more evidence suggests that the move is to the left. But the base of the Republican Party has no use for the center, be it left, right or otherwise.

Now that the Democrats have control of both houses of Congress and the White House, they may be tempted to veer left towards their liberal roots. Talk of reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine is evidence of this potential lapse in judgment.

I have little use for the partisan cesspool of conservative talk radio, but I would join with other progressives in defending the rights of those hosts and their listeners.

To their credit, progressives have found a way for people of varying ideologies to coexist in the name of larger interests, like winning elections. Let’s hope the term liberal may now die in dignity.

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