- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2007

THE WASHINGTON TIMES Don’t call them liberals. They prefer the term “progressive” and think their brand of politics is where the country is headed.

Historically, “progressive” has been defined as one believing in moderate political change and especially social improvement by governmental action.

For the thousands of liberal activists who gathered in Washington this week and want to “Take Back America,” the meaning of the word is that and more — it’s about taking action.

“It’s a willingness to fight,” said James Boyce, a host for BlogTalkRadio and a longtime Democratic political strategist. “It’s about spine and dogma and a certainty of movement. It’s a way to counter conservatives.”

And just who fits the “progressive” bill?

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the 2008 presidential nomination but not the favorite of this crowd, said she is that kind of politician when bashing Republicans at the conference this week.

“We’re going to send them packing in January 2009 and return progressive leadership to the White House,” the New York Democrat said, to loud applause.

Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, noted the term did not always belong to the Democrats: Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican who formed one of the original progressive parties and even Dwight Eisenhower once described himself as a “progressive Republican.”

Activists say there’s nothing new about the movement, but note its resurgence in the past year.

Jeff Cohen of Progressive Democrats of America co-wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times 21 years ago outlining the role of progressives in abolishing slavery and the women’s suffrage movement.

“It has been so long since progressives were afforded their place in political debate that many have forgotten the rich history of the American left and its contributions to society,” Mr. Cohen wrote. “History teaches us that what is ‘left’ today is often the common wisdom of tomorrow.”

Liberals, Mr. Cohen wrote, “have often been Johnny-come-latelies hovering timidly about the edges of social movements while others put their lives and livelihoods on the line. Typically, the liberals have entered the fray only after the waters were tested and deemed safe.”

Now, most activists whose top priority is getting U.S. troops out of Iraq describe themselves as “progressive” and define the “movement” as standing up to “establishment” Democrats.

Those activists say they are tired of the Washington line about “political realities” that prevent Congress from ending the war.

Mr. Hickey said the movement is driving the political debate among Democrats and forcing presidential hopefuls to the left.

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