Editor's note: A longer version of this article first appeared in American Thinker.
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:
Take the example of Planned Parenthood. It took off in the 1920s, initially as the American Birth Control League. At first, Margaret Sanger and friends wanted birth control. They also advocated eugenics. Sanger was a racial eugenicist. She had hideous views, not only toward the poor ("human weeds," she called them), to the mentally slow ("imbeciles" and "morons"), but, among others, to black Americans. Progressives today dare not raise the grim specter of Sanger's "Negro Project" or infamous 1926 speech to a KKK rally.
But what about abortion? That gets to my point in this article: Planned Parenthood's progressives weren't there yet; they had to warm up to that.
It will shock pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike to hear this, but Margaret Sanger initially denounced abortion. "It [abortion] is an alternative that I cannot too strongly condemn," wrote Sanger in the January 27, 1932 edition of The Nation (page 103), "the practice of it merely for limitation of offspring is dangerous and vicious…. [S]ome ill-informed persons have the notion that when we speak of birth control we include abortion as a method. We certainly do not."
Nonetheless, for these progressives, what began as birth control and eugenics–aimed at halting life at conception–needed only a few decades to snuff out life after conception, to where Sanger's organization is now the world's largest abortion provider. Sanger's progressive progeny picked up her torch and burned down the barn.
As with much of what progressives do, where they started wasn't enough. Birth control and eugenics couldn't satiate, as Planned Parenthood's progressives bowed to the next level: "abortion rights."
And, naturally, once legalized abortion came along, it, too, was not enough. Today, progressives tell us abortion should be funded by taxpayers. Here's a new nadir in their evolutionary chain, poised to poison America's very soul.
Still, that, likewise, will not be enough. What might be next in the progression? Death panels? Euthanasia? That's where progressives' European brethren have arrived. Where does the train stop?
I don't mean to be incendiary or needlessly provocative. It serves us all–including unborn future generations–to want answers to some hard questions as far as ultimate objectives are concerned. I sincerely beg progressives for some contours, a vague estimate: Could you please, this time around–where human life is concerned–establish some boundaries, set an end-goal or two, offer an inkling of predictability, a modicum of expectation, some flicker of a suggestion as to where you want to take us?
Unfortunately, I honestly think they can't, as such is the crux of their ever-changing philosophy. And that's quite disconcerting, authorized by millions of Americans who blindly voted for "change."
– Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision Values at Grove City College. His books include "The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand," "God and Ronald Reagan," and "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism."