People Want to Define “Progressive” Because Progressives Matter

Vice President Henry Wallace, Progressive Party nominee for President, 1948

Vice President Henry Wallace, Progressive Party nominee for President, 1948 (U.S. Department of Commerce via Wikimedia Commons)

Something else occurred to me about the squabbling over who’s progressive and who isn’t. Perhaps the reason all the Democratic candidates for governor, for Mayor of Providence, and even Buddy Cianci want to use the label “progressive” is that people who call themselves progressive matter as voters. There’s no similar rush by anyone to call themselves “libertarian” or “socialist” because neither of those groups matter politically in Rhode Island. Progressives are important, even in general elections, because people who call themselves “progressive” tend to turn out to vote, to volunteer, and to offer their opinions on candidates to their friends.

I’d expect Allan Fung to back away from the conservative label now that the Republican primary is over, because the only people who care about whether someone defines themself as conservative candidate is a relatively small group of Republican voters. Instead, I expect he’ll attempt to stake out the middle ground as the “moderate” choice in an attempt to win over independents who consider themselves moderate.

What’s striking in light of this thought is that most of the statewide candidates within the Democratic Party made a conscious choice to court the progressive vote, while when the battle for Speaker of the House raged, there was a conscious choice to isolate the progressives and instead set up an alliance of conservatives and “moderates”. One more reason why I believe the majority of the Democrats in the General Assembly are out of step with the average Democratic voter in Rhode Island.

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