Paul  Kengor

Progressivism is all-the-rage nowadays, with liberals having jettisoned the “liberal” label for the less maligned tag of “progressive.” This is tactical as much as philosophical. It’s fascinating that Hillary Clinton, for instance, recently proclaimed herself a “progressive.” I wrote an entire book on Mrs. Clinton, and never once saw her describe herself as progressive.

In truth, however, “progressive” is a better name, more accurately describing the movement and its extremely broad, precariously unpredictable direction.

Here’s the essence of the problem with contemporary progressives and their movement, which is a gigantic problem for America: One of the only things we really know about progressives, and that they know about themselves and their ideology, is that they favor constant “change,” “reform,” an ever-shifting, ongoing “evolution,” or, yes, progression. And therein is an inherent, significant difficulty: progressivism offers no clear, definable end. The goal-post is always moving, forever pushed further away. Ends are never ends; they always “progress,” with culture and society, banking on the ludicrous assumption that the changes are always (or largely) good.

For the rest of us, this ambiguity is troubling bordering on maddening, as we can’t, by the very nature of progressivism, get an answer from progressives as to where, exactly, they intend to stop. It is completely unlike conservatism, where the goalpost was erected circa 1776; we conservatives believe the American founders essentially got it right, and that the American project is to make certain that the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are ensured for everyone.

As for progressivism, such lack of clarity can be disastrous for any group, from a non-profit to a company and its shareholders. For a political movement, however, one that endeavors to run a nation, and to exact policies that increasingly regulate individuals and their lives and property, it is alarming.

Now, that said, here’s where the confusion has the potential to become downright destructive: It can be bad enough when progressives seize fiscal policy. Yet, think about the consequences of their philosophy when applied to the very life and culture of America—especially as modern progressives rapidly secularize. Consider their progression on Culture of Life issues: