The progressive mindset has ebbed and flowed at various times since its heyday in the earliest decades of the 20th century. Its most notable incarnations have been on display in the policies of President Woodrow Wilson; the New Deal measures of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; the Great Society apparatus erected by Lyndon Baines Johnson; and, most recently, the big-government agendas of Barack Obama. Obama has described himself as a “pragmatic progressive,” and has lauded the Progressive Movement that began “a century ago” as a springboard to the “politics of hope.”
Similarly, in a July 23, 2007 Democratic presidential-primary debate, Hillary Clinton was asked whether she would describe herself as a liberal. She replied:
“I prefer the word 'progressive,' which has a real American meaning, going back to the Progressive Era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a modern progressive – someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we're working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life, get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family. So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that's the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.”
Perhaps the most influential progressive coalition in contemporary American politics is the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, an organization of several dozen congressmen founded in 1991 by the self-identified socialist Bernie Sanders. This Caucus abjures “economic inequality,” “income and wealth disparities,” and “the concentration of wealth.” Conversely, it advocates socialized medicine, radical environmentalism, the redistribution of wealth, and higher rates of taxation to be borne chiefly by middle- to high-income households. Historically, the Progressive Caucus has had ties to the Democratic Socialists of America.
The self-described “progressive” Ken Brociner wrote in the March 2, 2008 edition of In These Times:
“The term 'progressive' has evolved a great deal over the past 35 years. By the ’70s, many ’60s veterans had concluded that working 'within the system' had become a viable option. As a result, many leftists stopped using rhetoric and slogans that had marginalized them from the political mainstream. Labels like 'radical', 'leftist', and 'revolutionary' sounded stale and gratuitously provocative. And so, gradually, activists began to use the much less threatening 'progressive.' Today, 'progressive' is the term of choice for practically everyone who has a politics that used to be called 'radical.'”
Modern progressives, like their ideological forebears, firmly believe that they are intellectually and morally superior to the population of Americans at large, and that they should thus be permitted to institute the political and social policies which they deem beneficial to society -- even if those policies are inconsistent with the principles outlined in the U.S. Constitution.