Progressive is as progressive does: A quiz.

Consider the generics of the following US political debate I read about in the New York Times in the recent past: Group A wants to change something about US law to affect something we’ve been doing for a long time. Group B wants to keep things exactly as they have been, and suggests those who wish to make the change are “Un-American” and that the change is ill-advised. Group A is hoping to increase the scope of federal government, and Group B is, of course, claiming that this oversteps the constitutional bounds of lawmakers.

Obviously, this sound like a classic fight between progressives and conservatives. For 100 points, what was the specific change and who desires it?

(a) the abolishment of the death penalty by progressives
(b) the increase of the debt ceiling by Republicans under Bush
(c) the increase of the debt ceiling by Democrats under Obama
(d) the abolishment of birthright citizenship by conservatives
(e) all of the above

If you answered (e), you are correct.

2 thoughts on “Progressive is as progressive does: A quiz.

  1. Alain

    Hi Jon,

    I think you may have succumbed to what has recently become a popular tactic. Namely to claim that the other side has claimed that one’s own side is ‘un-American’ for taking position X.

    Can you give any examples in any of the four debates where one side has called another un-American?

    If you can, I will be glad to admit that I was wrong.


    1. Jonathan Post author

      Well, there’s always somebody claiming something is unAmerican, so it’s an easy statement to make. In particular, here is a quote from a NYT article about birthright citizenship:

      Most scholars of the Constitution consider the states’ effort to restrict birth certificates patently unconstitutional. “This is political theater, not a serious effort to create a legal test,” said Gabriel J. Chin, a law professor at the University of Arizona whose grandfather immigrated to the United States from China at a time when ethnic Chinese were excluded from the country. “It strikes me as unwise, un-American and unconstitutional.”

      Anyway, my point was that the idea of “progressives” being “for progress” is ridiculous. Everybody is progressive about things that aren’t the way they want them. And, if a progressive ever gets what they want, they’ll immediately have to become a conservative about that issue. I find the idea that people who want change are somehow more evolved because progress, by definition, involves change is self-serving and specious. While it’s true progress involves change, the converse is not true (change does not always imply progress).

      So, that was the point of the post: all the examples fit the profile of progressives versus conservatives, but half the time the sides were actually reversed. In particular, it was examples (b) and (c) which compelled me to write this.


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