How the once-transgressive left tries to criminalize fun
For Reason.com, Matt Welch writes: When I first started hearing people on the political left describe themselves with some frequency as progressive back in the 1990s, the term did not seem tethered to the epoch-defining, early-20th-century spasm of moral crusading and government centralization that helped give us everything from trust busting to Prohibition to the Federal Reserve. As articulated by champions like Ralph Nader and Molly Ivins, the progressive label was both a way to get out from under the generation-old baggage of liberal-a term Ronald Reagan and others had turned into an epithet-and to differentiate lefties from seemingly apologetic triangulators like Bill Clinton and that now-vanished tribe known as the New Democrats.
From a libertarian perspective, ’90s progressives were good on issues the New Democrats stunk up (particularly criminal justice and the drug war) and bad on those that made the Clintonites worthwhile, such as lowering trade barriers and restraining federal budget growth. At their best, such as at the “shadow conventions” organized by Arianna Huffington in 2000, progressives of the era challenged both parties to address long-neglected issues and reverse government policies that actively damaged people’s lives.
Since many of the people who self-identified that way came of political age in the ’60s and ’70s, progressives on the whole clearly belonged to the longhaired side of the culture war. They were the ones mocking the squares, pushing the envelope on free expression, and taking up arms in the sexual revolution. The more progressive the publication, the kinkier the sex classifieds in the back.