Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Progressive Regression

The transformation of “progressive” from a proudly worn badge of honor to a pejorative comes as a sign of progress.

Eight years of Barack Obama has that effect on a word.

“I am someone who is no doubt progressive,” candidate Obama said on the campaign trail in 2008. The use of an anachronistic term to describe a forward-leaning outlook struck as an oxymoron. Whereas Bill Clinton called himself a “New Democrat” and Michael Dukakis embraced “liberal,” Obama borrowed a word dramatically spiking in usage a century earlier and on a precipitous decline for 35 years prior to his election.

If you purchased stock in the word a decade ago and sold today, your portfolio would have enjoyed substantial progress.

“Progressive” did not sound so 1908 eight years ago, if only for the lack of sentient centenarians to recognize the déjà vu. After its Tourette’s-like use on MSNBC and its function as an open-sesame password among Democrat candidates trolling for votes, “progressive” surely sounds so eight years ago now. Had the Obama presidency ended with an electoral affirmation this might not be so.

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