Alex Massie

Two tribes go to war: progressives and, er, liberals...

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This eyebrow-raising quote comes from Ezra Klein:

"Insofar as there's a tension between the army and progressives, it's cultural and ideological...Progressives are quite skeptical of using military force, if not of those who make up the military ad that creates his own frictions. To say that the argument is between progressives and the military is to personalize what's actually an ideological dispute. The issue is much more about differing conceptions of the use of force and our capability and responsibility to carry out certain missions than it is about the groups involved. The same arguments and tensions and frictions occur between progressives and the liberal hawks."

Really? But what happens when the progressives are the liberal hawks?

Ezra says progressives are "quite skeptical of using military force." Double really? If you were to ask an average person to name a couple of progressive politicians, I suspect Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson would poll better than most. Neither of them can be accused of being hesitant or instinctively skeptical about using military force. Rather the opposite in fact...

Indeed I rather thought that Hillary Clinton prefers being called a progressive than a liberal was precisely because liberal is overloaded with connotations of weakness, hesitancy and a reluctance to use the American military to pursue the national interest. Progressives, by contrast, are - at least in Clinton's mind - not associated with that weakness, preferring to advocate a muscular internationalism that is quite happy to send the 101st and the 82nd off to distant parts of the world.

But perhaps Ezra is talking about a different sort of progressive. Then again, I'm minded to recall that it's Democrats who are much more likely, these days, to object to the proliferation of ballot initiatives and referenda that  were once one of the progressive great calling cards in the western states. That all leaves one wondering how much progressivism you can dump while remaining anything like a, well, progressive?

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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