The Menlo Roundtable

Progressive Pluralism in Social Movements

Our country’s contemporary progressive movement is particularly vulnerable to “progressive performance.”

This means that many leaders prioritize signaling dogmatic ideological adherence, only connecting with the narrow audience of those who share their intellectual and ideological convictions. These leaders lose sight of the ultimate goal of tangible policy change in the process of staying ideologically pure. Bret Stephens, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, calls this performance “wokeness,” saying “it is a prescription, not for genuine dialogue and reform, but for indoctrination and extirpation.” Stephens emphasizes the exclusionary nature of a progressive performance that not only fails but flat-out refuses to acknowledge the validity of dissenting opinions or invite moderates into the progressive fight. This is no way to build a movement with broad influence and impact. This contemporary vision of progressivism needs a pragmatic shift that emphasizes tangible policy gains and captures a wider swath of the electorate. In the quest to get rid of progressive performance, I instead advocate for an approach called “progressive pluralism.”

Photo: Photo by Katie Moum / Unsplash