What Are Progressive Democrats?

A. Leverkuhn

The political category of “progressive Democrats” generally refers to a grass-roots movement that seeks to work within the Democratic Party toward some overall goals and in accordance with principles associated with the “left” of the party, or those not wholly represented by the “rank and file” of the larger Democratic party. A political action committee (PAC) was developed in 2004 to represent these Democrats. This “sub-party” in American politics reaches out to specific constituency that may feel only partially connected to the mainstream Democrats, as well as those seeking a more narrowly defined political agenda than the party mainstream offers.

Progressive Democrats have argued that money spent on wars in Afghanistan should have instead been spent on US infrastructure.
Progressive Democrats have argued that money spent on wars in Afghanistan should have instead been spent on US infrastructure.

In terms of traditional American politics, progressivism is often associated with issues such as civil rights, economic equality, strong public infrastructure, and diplomatic foreign policy. Progressive Democrats may or may not adopt principled stands on these issues. They may identify themselves with the political action committee, or independently according to the generally recognized definition of progressivism.

In terms of the actual progressive Democrat PAC, some principles are outlined on the group’s web site. One of the issues highlighted by these Democrats is American health care for all citizens, where the issue of “universal” coverage has become front and center in the mainstream American political debate as a Democrat administration pushes for a new national health care strategy. In this issue, progressive Democrats might contrast themselves with others who seek to limit government influence and intervention into the existing private health care system.

Another issue identified by progressive Democrats is recent defense spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The progressive Democrat PAC calls for an effort to redirect funding for war efforts toward domestic uses. Some of these Democrats may generally take on the issue of defense spending versus spending on public infrastructure.

Although progressive Democrat candidates have not been traditionally fielded for national offices, this political group has its own identity within the general political landscape of modern America. These Democrats may identify with third-party candidates for offices rather than supporting one of the two candidates supplied by the mainstream Democrat and Republican parties. In the future, progressive or other specialized Democrats may be involved in a reevaluation of the way American politics is set up, as third parties and independent candidates insert themselves into electoral cycles and seek their own support at the polls.

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Discussion Comments


@Melonlity -- it is not unusual for the extremes of a political party to define the party as a whole. In the case of Democrats, Republicans have found success in claiming the progressive end of the opposition represents all Democrats.

Speaking of Republicans, that party has a fringe element as well in the Tea Party. It's not accurate to say that all Republicans subscribe to Tea Party ideals, but that allegation has been made in an attempt to persuade voters to elect Democrats.

Sadly, such blanket stereotyping is politics as usual.


One thing to always keep in mind about progressive Democrats is that they make up only a minority of the Democratic party, but the stereotypical member of that party is a progressive. That hurts Democrats more than it helps them among some voters.

Another thing to consider is that a lot of progressives tend to focus on one or two issues and aren't overly interested in others. For example, some progressives come across as being more interested in issues such as homosexual marriage, marijuana legalization or universal health care than anything else. That image, too, tends to color the image of the Democratic party as a whole.

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