Here is a post for those who think that pointing out the inconsistency between a party’s name and its alleged position on an issue constitutes a decisive refutation of their view. That “conservatives” fail to “conserve” or “preserve” or anything else along those lines does not mean they embody some kind of contradiction. George Will has used this line on ”progressives,” or his army of hollow men in years past. Here he is the other day:
Progressives are remarkably uninterested in progress. Social Security is 78 years old, and myriad social improvements have added 17 years to life expectancy since 1935, yet progressives insist the program remain frozen, like a fly in amber. Medicare is 48 years old, and the competence and role of medicine have been transformed since 1965, yet progressives cling to Medicare “as we know it.” And they say that the Voting Rights Act, another 48-year-old, must remain unchanged, despite dramatic improvements in race relations.
What kind of move is this? I think it’s an equivocation–a rather textbook variety. Clearly “progressive” means something different to “Progressives” (the name a half-hearted attempt at rebranding ”liberal,” by the way). Will’s thought goes something like this:
your name implies you like progress, but here is progress which you don’t like, so you’re not “progressive.” Your self-understanding therefore is laughably contradictory.
The problem with this is that “progress” (1)–things getting better, more just, etc–and “progress” (2)–things changing–mean different things to alleged “progressives”. Besides, what is at issue with voting rights is an empirical question: has progress been made on voting rights? Progressives say, pointing to the recent election, no; (some) conservatives say yes.
*minor edit for clarity.