So who is a progressive? You might be one if ...
You think health care is a basic human right, and that single-payer national health insurance is a worthwhile reform on our way toward creating a non-profit national health care service.
You think that human rights ought always to trump property rights.
You think U.S. military spending is an obscene waste of resources, and that the only freedom this spending protects is the freedom of economic elites to exploit working people all around the planet.
You think U.S. troops should be brought home from Afghanistan and Iraq, and most of the 130 countries in which the U.S. has military bases.
You think political leaders who engage in "preemptive war" and invasions should be brought to trial for crimes against humanity and judged against the standards of international law established at Nuremberg after World War Two.
You think public education should be free, not just from kindergarten through high school, but as far as a person is willing and able to go.
You think that electoral reform should include instant run-off voting, publicly-financed elections, easy ballot access for all parties, and proportional representation.
You think that electoral democracy is not enough, and that democracy must also be participatory and extend to workplaces.
You think that strengthening the rights of all workers to unionize and bargain collectively is a useful step toward full economic democracy.
You think that as a society we have a collective obligation to provide everyone who is willing and able to work with a job that pays a living wage and offers dignity.
You think that regulating big corporations is a necessity in a Democracy.
You think that the legal doctrine granting corporations the same constitutional rights as natural persons is absurd and must be overturned.
You think it's crazy to use the Old Testament as a policy guide for the 21st century.
You believe in celebrating diversity, while also recognizing that having women and people of color proportionately represented.
You think that the state has no right to kill, and that putting people to death to show that killing is wrong will always be a self-defeating policy.
You think that instead of more leaders, we need fewer followers.
You think that national borders, while sometimes establishing territories of safety, more often establish territories of exploitation, much like gang turf.
You are open to considering how the privileges you enjoy because of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and/or physical ability might come at the expense of others.
You believe that voting every few years is a weak form of political participation, and that achieving social justice requires concerted effort before, during, and after elections.
You recognize that an economic system which requires continuous expansion, destroys the environment, relies on rapidly-depleting fossil fuels, exacerbates inequality, and leads to war after war is unsustainable and must be replaced. Score a bonus point if you understand that sticking to the existing system is what's unrealistic.
No doubt some readers will say this list is incomplete. It is. Many policy issues of importance to progressives go unmentioned. Others might say that the list leans too far to the left, or not far enough. It could also be said that some items are vague (what does it mean to say that human rights ought always to trump property rights?). These are all useful responses. If we hope to work together to transform the social world, we need to know what we agree on, what we don't agree on, and what needs further hashing-out.
In the end, however, it's not labels and identities and criteria for bestowing them that really matter. Political terms have consequences, but only because of how we use them. Which suggests another item for the list. You might be a progressive if you think that it's important to take seriously the meaning of political identities, but that what really matters is living out those identities in ways that help to create more peace, justice, and equality.
From Common Dreams, edited by Steve Souza, by Michael Schwalbe who is a professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. His most recent book is Rigging the Game: How Inequality Is Reproduced in Everyday Life (Oxford, 2008).