Progressive? By what standard?

Along the lines of the theme posted in “Left is Right” down the page from here, the current polarization of the world’s politicos and the manner in which they style themselves deserves more than a little scrutiny and critical thought.  The two main groups of combatants-via-proxy, the Republicans and the Democrats,  assign epithets to themselves, presumably to project a desired image to those people stupid or gullible enough to actually believe that either group either endorses or acts in the manners so indicated by the lapel pins they fasten to each other in the Congressional wash rooms.

The terms right wing and left wing are completely neutral in that they have no connotation other than the convention we have adopted. It’s no different than choosing which side of the road any country will drive on.  No, the two that confuse me and prompted this post are conservative and progressive.  Let’s take them one at a time, using  simple definitions from as our reference point.


disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change;

having the power or tendency to conserve or preserve.


favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are;

making progress toward better conditions, employing or advocating more enlightened or liberal ideas, new or experimental methods;

characterized by progress or by continuous improvement.

However, a plain understanding of these categorizing labels is wholly out of kilter with how the people who rally under their respective banners actually think and behave. Looking at those definitions it is impossible to conclude that Democrats are progressive. Here is just a smattering of the examples I came up with over the course of ten minutes.

Society: We can increase crop yields by using a 100% degradable pesticide which doesn’t bio-accumulate.

Progressive Response: No good. We only want organic farming, the way it was done centuries ago.

Society: Modern fertilizers could allow us to feed the world.

Progressive Response: No, they come from fossil fuels and pollute water-ways with nitrogen. We only want to use natural fertilizers, the way farmers did it centuries ago

Society: Without pesticieds and fertilizers, there is less yield per acre and we would have to revert to crop rotation and removing one third of the acreage from production every year.  

P.R.: That is OK, because it’s sustainable as shown by the way farmers did centuries ago.

Society: To make up for the acreage out of crop production every year, we will have to increase the amount of agricultural land by draining low lying areas, which has the added benefit of reducing disease-carrying insect vectors.

P.R.: No, those are delicate wetland ecosystems that we can’t disturb. They are protected and too vital to disturb. We want to keep the land exactly as it was centuries ago.

Society: We can increase the percentage of dietary protein in starving nations by converting marginal upland into grazing land.

P.R.: No, that’s no good. Grazing animals will ruin that land which is mostly on slopes and cause increased erosion and siltation of our rivers. Besides, livestock produces too much methane and that would exacerbate climate change. We want the climate to revert to what it was centuries ago.

Society: On the existing land we have to farm, we can use new strains of crops to increase crop yields and feed the world.

P.R.: No. Genetically modified foods are dangerous and we won’t have them in any food product, even as a small component. Genetic modification should only come from selective breeding, as it was done centuries ago.

Society: We can cut down on food waste by preserving food so it won’t rot…

P.R.: No good! Chemicals of any kind are bad for us and the environment. We want no more chemicals than were available in nature centuries ago.

Society: We now have the resources and methods to supply domestic industrial production with cheap energy to bring jobs back to America so everyone can afford a better standard of living.

P.R.: No! We don’t want to use frac’d oil or gas for either chemical feedstock or energy. And we don’t want an expanded industrial economy. We only want clean jobs and clean manufacturing using sustainable methods, the way it was centuries ago.

Society: We can use fossil fuels for just the feedstock and use nuclear and hydropower for energy.

P.R.: No. Neither are acceptable. Nuclear is horrifically dangerous and hydro-electric ruins delicate ecosystems. We want our rivers to be just as they’ve always been, and we want to remove dams so all of them will be just as they were centuries ago. 

Society: We can use fossil fuels to make more life-saving and life-prolonging medications.

P.R.: No we don’t need fossil fuels for that. We can use herbal cures and medicinal plants, just as we did centuries ago. 

Society: We have to utilize all forms of energy to run the world.

P.R.: No. Wind power with solar will be enough, just as it was centuries ago.

Society: Wind and solar can’t fulfill the energy needs of all the people in the world.

P.R.: There are too many people. We want the population to be just as it was…CENTURIES AGO.

Society: We can use genetic engineering to prolong human life to as much as 100 or even 120 years, or would you prefer the average life span of 42 years as it was centuries ago?

P.R.: …………… (chirp, chirp, chirp)

Is that progress? Because it smacks an awful lot like someone trying their damnedest to be conservative.

So, apply for a permit to construct a single, two-acre natural gas well site which can draw gas from a deep geologic formation from an area of more than a square mile. Progressives will scream that it will ruin the landscape, the ecosystem, poison water, kill fish, make them sick even if they don’t live nearby (I know, I’ve been through this many times).

But! Propose to cover the mountaintop ridge of a state forest with a wind farm of thirty turbines, each with a forest cleared footprint of several acres, connected by ridge-top access roads and electric transmission line clearing – (hundreds of acres of forest clearing) and they will cheer because we are going back to a dilute, intermittent, unreliable, non-scalable energy source abandoned by our ancestors CENTURIES AGO as being  too limited to provide for PROGRESS.

conc 8

This is protected State Forest in Pennsylvania and the then-Progressive State Government waived all environmental permitting, such as erosion control studies, to get it built.  Here’s another:

conc 9

The Progressive environmental strategy: Save the environment by ruining the environment.




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