WI: Sen. Feingold speaks in support of Barack Obama in Eau Claire, August 24, 2008
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A USA Today/ Gallup poll based on "telephone interviews conducted June 11-13, 2010, with a random sample of 1,014 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S." suggests a majority of the American population does not know if the term "progressive" describes their political views. The poll represents the possibility that many Americans have no idea what it means to be "progressive" or why one might enjoy anointing one's self with the label of "progressive."
One conclusion from these results could be that this provides an explanation for why progressivism has failed so far in the United States. However, that idea seems to ignore the fact that those responsible for advancing progressivism through the passage of legislation, for example, are politicians. Politicians in this country are most certainly aware of the presence of "progressives" and what they stand for, as they are a potential constituency to be won (and divided) in elections.
A failure of understanding among Americans of what a
"progressive" is might have more to do with a political failure among Democrats
to articulate specifically what a
"progressive" stands for. And, is that necessarily a bad thing? In the "Bottom Line" section of the poll results, the analysis reads, "Given the high degree of public uncertainty about what the term means -- as well as the lack of opposition to it from the political center -- that could be a successful strategy, at least if the goal is to avoid being pigeonholed."
In an article posted on Salon.com titled, "Does the left even know what "progressive" means?" Ned Resnikoff, an NYU student, further illuminates the results of this poll. First, he addresses what the term means noting that, after the left allowed conservatives to turn "liberal" into a slur, "progressive" has replaced "liberal." Essentially, "progressive" has been a political faction's attempt at re-branding in this country.
Resnikoff looks at how progressives have failed to define what a "progressive" is and suggests asking what is a "liberal" in order to gain some insight into what a progressive's worldview happens to be. He highlights the modern conservative movement's ability to articulate their worldview and how progressives have quite often been "a morass of factions and interests that sometimes work in harmony and often don't. A ragtag group that can never seem to find a consistent frame for the policy proposals it puts forth."