Thanks to Donald Douglas, I found this article on what “progressive” has actually meant in the past:
‘Progressivism’: the greatest source of death and terror in the twentieth century
By George Neumayr | Sun Feb 16, 2014 20:00 EST
February 14, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The English author George Orwell wrote that “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” In the history of manipulative political language, the term “progressive” surely occupies a high place.
The term is used incessantly to describe policies, political figures, and churchmen, among others, whom a liberal elite deem enlightened. Through repetitive use of “progressive,” modern liberals have hoped to gull the public into equating progressive with progress. But no such equation is justified. The gulf between the rhetoric of “progress” and the reality of progress is glaring.
The darkness of the twentieth century is sufficient to dissuade anyone from confusing “progressive” with progress. Its vilest ideologies were all presented as “progressive.” In the name of bettering humanity, self-described progressives felt emboldened to “progress” beyond the most basic precepts of reason and the natural law.
While some causes labeled “progressive” in the twentieth century qualify as either innocuous or at least debatable, many were unmistakably evil. The century’s eugenic schemes, for example, came not from so-called reactionaries but from proud self-described progressives. The West’s leading judges and university presidents championed eugenics openly before World War II.
In the 1920s, Oliver Wendell Holmes, considered a pillar of progressivism, thought nothing of calling for widespread sterilization of whomever the elite considered inferior. After all, he wrote, “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for the crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
More at the link.
While Mr Neumayr goes through the sad and sorry history of what the “progressives” thought to be progress, I’m interested in this quote he note from Hilary Clinton, during her thankfully-failed 2008 presidential campaign:
I prefer the word ‘progressive,’ which has a real American meaning, going back to the Progressive Era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a modern progressive – someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we’re working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life, get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family. So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that’s the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.
It would be difficult to find a more self-contradictory statement. You cannot both “(believe) strongly in individual rights and freedoms” and “(believe) that we are better as a society when we’re working together,” unless that second belief is one which is subordinate to the first, and hold that the rights of the individual to not go along with what others may want are paramount. The health care plan is a perfect example: Mrs Clinton believes that everyone should work together, to make us better as a society, if all buy health insurance . . . and supported a plan in which the individual’s right to choose not to buy health insurance was simply overridden.
But that is the essential nature of the “progressive:” if the “progressive” decides that something is in everyone’s better interests, then that something should be and must be imposed on everyone by the government, and the rights of those who disagree are simply inconsequential. Liberalism, progressivism, are necessarily incompatible with freedom, because they are based on the notion that state power can legitimately be used to enforce their ideas and policies.