Progressive Ideals:

Rooted in American Values

By Peter Phillips, PhD

Director, Project Censored

Special to

The term progressive is widely used by contemporary writers, politicians, and liberals, but an understanding of what makes up a progressive agenda is generally unknown.


Many people have a vague sense that progressives are left-of-center folks mostly concerned with societal fairness and governmental transparency. This notion is rooted in the Progressive movement that occurred in the US between 1900 and 1914. According to Richard Hofstadfer in his book The Progressive Movement, 100 years ago our grandparents and great grandparents faced the accumulated evils of political bosses, banking trusts, railroad greed/overcharging, unjust taxation, millionaire senators, yellow-dog journalism, and cities filled with pollution and tenements. A nationwide multi-party political movement of mostly middle class working people emerged that sought political reform, increased governmental regulation, city sanitation, and objective media. The movement was closely tied into women suffrage and the formation of the NAACP.

Progressives in the 21st century continue in this tradition of democracy building and open transparency of corporate and political power. Progressive values are rooted in the American traditions of equality, fairness, due process, and democratic decision making at the deepest level possible. Progressives recognize that institutional power, both public and private, has created inequalities of race, class and gender, and that democratic governmental regulation is needed to make necessary social justice corrections for humanity worldwide. Progressives believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Bill of Rights, open access to corporate and governmental information, democratic media and individual human freedom. Progressives believe that human freedom includes the freedom from hunger, homelessness, unemployment, environmental pollution, discrimination based on physical attributes and long imprisonment for non-violent crimes.

Progressives encourage socio-economic/political systems that maximize individual participation, self-actualization, loving interpersonal relationships and healthy environments.

Progressives are a diversified bunch, who come from all political parties with a full range of human characteristics.

More importantly, progressives seek personal life styles that reflect their core values. Simplicity is highly valued through a life of slower natural foods, sustainable consumption, efficient living spaces, and a daily consciousness of striving for human betterment through social action.

Social action based on progressive values is possible locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. It is action emerging from real internalized values that lead people to self-actualization and right livelihood. One step at a time can lead us to a progressive future.

Imagine a society with regionally sustainable economies, self-actualizing people, crimelessness, and general equality. Such a life is possible, not just for us but for the world.


Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at
Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored a media research group at