Conservatives, Liberals and Progressives: What’s the difference?

What does it mean to be a “progressive” anyway? What’s the difference between a liberal and a progressive?

These are questions I get asked frequently, and more recently specifically from my 87-year-old mother, an “Obama Democrat” living in Alabama.

The answer as I explained to my mother revolves around the degree of urgency one perceives the challenges facing our planet and the people who reside thereon, and the boldness and nature of the solutions being proposed to resolve those challenges.

What about conservatives?

Conservatives believe we live in a world governed by the law of the jungle and “it’s every man for himself” with results driven by “survival of the fittest.”

Liberals and progressives believe, “we are all in this together,” and that to a great extent “we are our brothers’ keepers.” We are responsible for helping, supporting, and protecting each other and the planet we call home.

And of course there are many different “labels within labels” such as those that call themselves “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” To most of those, I say hogwash.

We are all so-called “fiscally conservative” as in, none of us want to waste or spend money foolishly. Those politicians who espouse to be liberal or progressive but fiscally conservative, are trying to ride a horse with two saddles.

For the purpose of today’s column my focus is on discussing the difference between liberals and progressives.

All will profess to support a just and fair society.

Liberals will acknowledge that we need to do more to reduce poverty, protect the environment, and achieve equality among peoples of different faiths, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc.

However, liberals are also more accepting of the status quo, more forgiving of the corporate institutional structure that provides them with the benefits of a comfortable lifestyle, and more cynical that anything really can be done to resolve the problems of poverty, environmental protection, and social justice. Liberals, while espousing a belief in justice for all, generally avoid rocking the boat, and resist making noise or pushing back against the status quo in order to achieve that justice.

Progressives, to the contrary, believe the world is burning, both literally and figuratively. They believe climate change is a disaster that is happening here and now, not something that may or may not occur at some distant time in the future.

Progressives see the massive economic disparity between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, as criminal, and a reality resulting in millions of people on every continent being locked into a dehumanizing poverty.

Progressives see the status quo as a con game being run by corporate oligarchs who control big business and big government, who convince the masses they are free and independent citizens all the while luring them into a culture of unbridled consumerism resulting in their perpetual dependence on banks, credit cards, PayDay lenders and student loan institutions.

The liberals’ default position is to believe the corporate propaganda of Monsanto, DOW/Dupont, Syngenta and BASF when they say their technology and chemicals are needed to feed the world.

Progressives know that the corporate message is one of carefully crafted deceit intended to perpetuate their profits, while they pillage and poison our health and our planet.

Liberals will sometimes push back against overseas military intervention and regime change, but will rarely every support aggressive cuts in military spending, either foreign or domestic.

Progressives will decry the fact that America is the largest arms dealer on the planet and advocate loudly against the obscene amounts of money spent on missiles, bombs, and tanks, to the detriment of schools, hospitals, and homes.

Liberals will sigh and accept, perhaps with some resignation, the undebatable evidence of a declining civil society and a natural environment already damaged beyond repair. But they will then insist that there is nothing much to do about it, except perhaps to rely on big technology, big business, and big government to adapt and bail us all out of the dilemma.

Progressives refuse to accept the status quo and need no further evidence to know that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. Progressives know that the answer is for everyday people to organize together and to take back control of our government from the corporate interests that now run the show.

Progressives know that it does not have to be this way and that other countries and other civil societies do in fact exercise citizen control over the polluters and the banks.

Progressives know that in many countries, health care is seen as a fundamental right and is provided to those in need regardless of their ability to pay.

Progressives know that in many countries the government tightly regulates the chemical industry and prohibits the use of a wide range of pesticides and other chemicals, with no detrimental impacts to their economy or to the food supply.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ message during the 2016 presidential elections awoke the progressive message and the resulting movement, across America and in Hawaii. His unapologetic and strong call for increased banking regulation, for health care for all, for a $15 minimum wage, and for many other progressive reforms shook the world of policy and politics.

There is no going back now.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. gordon oswald August 22, 2018 2:39 am Reply

    What a pathetic loser Hooser is! Conservatives believe in the “law of the jungle”, really? If one doesn’t realize that human nature is a tad bit self serving, then one is an idiot. Give “free” stuff to those able to work for it and you create a monster of deceit and manipulation that eventually destroys the producers of jobs and economic development who are willing to work tirelessly to gain their own rewards. Liberals and Progressives are nothing more than parasite mentality naïve slaves looking for a big Government master to live their life for them. For that I say “NO THANKS” to loser Hooser!

  2. RG DeSoto August 22, 2018 8:51 am Reply

    Come on Gary…just say it out loud. Progressive = Socialist…and Socialism = abject failure, death and poverty. Great system, just ask the Venezuelans many of whom are leaving their country to avoid starving to death.
    What a load of drivel you’ve heaped on us.
    RG DeSoto

  3. RG DeSoto August 22, 2018 9:03 am Reply

    Gary the description below seems to shine a light on your progressive diatribe and reflects the mentality of the progressive groups like Antifa.

    “The dominant feature of Nazism was a fierce hatred of anything capitalistic — “individual profit seeking, large-scale enterprise, banks, joint stock companies, department stores, international fiance and loan capital, the system of ‘interest slavery,’ in general.” Nazi policy, wrote Hayek, was nothing less than “a violent anti-capitalistic attack.”
    “The Jews were singled out for special hatred by the Nazis, who viewed them as symbols of capitalism. “The party . . . combats the Jewish-materialist spirit within and without us,” they wrote in their “25-Point Platform of the Nazi Party.” And as Nazi apologist Paul Lensch wrote in his book, Three Years of World Revolution (p. 176), the ideas of “freedom and civic right, of constitutionalism and parliamentarianism . . . derived from that individualistic conception of the world,” must be gotten “rid of to assist in the growth of a new conception of State and Society. In this sphere also Socialism must present a conscious and determined opposition to individualism”

    RG DeSoto

    1. Just Saying August 22, 2018 2:06 pm Reply

      You’ll notice that the modern day xenophobes and racists are getting rather uncomfortable with the accurate comparisons to the Third Reich. So they’ve come up with a new explanation for the Holocaust: “The Nazis weren’t xenophobes and racists, it was The Economy; stupid!”

      1. RG DeSoto August 23, 2018 9:00 am Reply

        Ah, yes, the racism thing. Always the first stone cast by the shallow without a cogent or rational argument.
        RG DeSoto

        1. Just Saying August 23, 2018 2:18 pm Reply

          Nazis believed their Master Race could be biologically infected and diminished by other races. The Holocaust was meant to protect the Master Race. I’ve selected the one page
          NAZI RACISM – AN OVERVIEW from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum web page

          because that’s the length of reading a trumpster, or trump himself, would possibly read and process part of.

  4. LMat August 22, 2018 9:40 am Reply

    Simmer down Gary.
    It’s already blatantly clear to all of us what you choose to label [pigeonhole] yourself as. I hope the folks reading this will do their own research on the differences between “liberals” and “progressives”, as it isn’t nearly as black and white as Gary tries to portray. And while I hold true to the adage “Question everything, trust no one”, Gary’s above attempt at “clarification” reads more like alarmist propaganda aimed at scaring (or shaming) readers into joining him on his one-sided crusades, usually aimed at the Ag industry.

    TGI, how did Gary manage to get his thinly veiled HAPA ad marketed and printed as an op-ed and force-fed to the public…?

  5. Rk669 August 22, 2018 10:07 am Reply

    Starving Venezuelans eating the Zoo Animals? Socialism at its finest!

    1. james August 23, 2018 6:14 am Reply

      Trumpettes always trot out Venezuela as their example of a failing semi-socialistic system because that’s what they hear on Fox. What about Denmark, Sweden, England, Norway, Germany, France, Canada, Australia, etc. ? All are considered democratic socialist based. All have healthcare and other social programs being attacked by Republicans. But those e-mails………PS Witch hunt? How many guilty pleas now?

      1. RG DeSoto August 24, 2018 8:44 am Reply

        You’ve bought into the Nordic myth of socialism. Here are several FACTS:

        One of the most common fallacies of the new populists is to say that their model is the “Nordic” one and that those countries are successful examples of how “socialism works”. When I mentioned it to the Finnish Finance Minister Petteri Orpo at a recent ECR dinner, he could not believe it.

        Expropriations, massive tax increases, appropriation of savings and subordinating the growth model to political control is what populists defend. The same as Venezuela, which all of them praised — from Bernie Sanders to Owen Jones or Corbyn and Chomsky — until it collapsed. Then they moved on to the fallacy of “the Nordic model”.

        Do you know what interventionists forget about the Nordic nations?

        They are leaders in the economic freedom index (Heritage) and ease of doing business according to the World Bank.

        Private property is guaranteed by law and citizens’ savings are fully private and free of government control. All Nordic countries have been lowering the tax wedge and — until the recent US tax cuts — had lower corporate tax rates than the US.

        The state does not dictate or impose schooling and healthcare (most have co-payment schemes). It simply administers and promotes choice between private and state-run services.

        They are leaders in private banking, which finances the vast majority of economic activity (80%).

        They are leaders in attracting capital, guaranteeing legal security and private investment.

        Nordic countries are also leaders in the privatization of inefficient state-owned entities and applying world-class private company corporate governance and defending shareholder interests in semi-state owned companies (Statoil, etc).

        RG DeSoto

        1. james August 25, 2018 6:55 am Reply

          Last I heard Germany, Australia, New Zealand, France, England, Canada, Austria and Switzerland were not Nordic countries, but you always seem to think you know more than anyone else so maybe I’m wrong. In fact, 155 countries provide free healthcare to their populations. Gee, I guess they are all on the wrong track, or, wait, maybe we are!

  6. Stan Lake August 22, 2018 1:57 pm Reply

    The classical liberal no longer exists. John F. Kennedy would not be allowed into the modern democrat party as he was a champion of lower taxes. It wasn’t too many years ago that Chuck Schumer, Diane Feinstein, Hillary and Bill Clinton all called for tighter enforcement of our borders. The internet never forgets. Progressives envision a Marxist utopia that has failed everywhere it has been tried and before you counter with certain Scandinavian countries with small populations, get your definitions straight, they are Not socialist countries. Even the prime minister of Denmark said he wanted to make one thing clear. “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy, Denmark is a market economy. “ Socialism is nothing more than communism-light. Look to Venezuela, Maoist China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea for the real world results of socialism. It fails every time. What’s that famous definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results?
    Of course these words fall on deaf ears, the fixed opinions of the left will not allow themselves to be bothered by facts and factually, progressivism is a cancer. Their policies are just as destructive as their adherents who beat others who disagree with them, hate law enforcement, destroy public and private property in their protests yet refuse to engage in dialogue with others who have a different opinion. The current darling of the left, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said republicans won’t debate her yet when noted conservative Ben Shapiro offered to donate$10,000 to her campaign or favorite charity to come on her show for a debate she flatly refused. Progressive ideas disintegrate upon close inspection and so cannot be scrutinized.
    And by the way, Mr. Hooser couldn’t identify a conservative principal if he was staring at it. Here are a few – Conservatives believe in giving everyone an equal chance but know there will not be equal outcomes. People are responsible for themselves and their own actions and success. We believe in competition and thereby the free market economy and capitalism which has brought more wealth to the world than any other system in history. We believe in lower taxes and limited government so people can best choose how to spend the money they earn. We believe there is no room for racism or reverse racism, we believe in free speech even if we don’t agree with it, we believe in the sanctity of life and marriage and family values, the deterioration of which has wrought much pain and grief on our country. We also believe in the Constitution as the law of the land and the Second Amendment in particular as our right to self-preservation even if the democrat legislature of Hawaii disagrees. This is not all inclusive but a good sampling.

    1. Just Saying August 24, 2018 5:38 am Reply

      Gary Hooser has written a description of the democratic party as having two major parts, the liberal/moderate one that wants to gradually correct the status quo, and the progressive one that is more rad and impatient. These two parts were clearly demonstrated in the 2016 primaries and I agree with this description and also that both parts are having trouble getting along despite a common opposition that is simply evil, untruthful, racist, xenophobic, and bigoted. Gary is going with the progs while I’m sticking with the mods. I like it that nobody in either one of the parts can be described as aging, white males who think they, have something of a culture that is being replaced, lost their job to someone darker, know more than the well qualified experts, have some creepy control of much younger women’s bodies, need to have those who don’t look like them or pray like them rounded up and moved anywhere not near them. We know right where those people are. Their party just circled the wagons with 85% approval!
      Now Stan Lake, I’m sure, actually processed at one time that there was this big group of Clinton voters and another big group of Sanders voters and that this might mean something or provide him with an insight. But then he relapsed into the “Monolithic Left” of FOX News. You see, he has a FOX News Lexicon and he truly can’t express his way out of the cognitive dissonance. To Stan, there must just be one big glob of opposition. It is all leftist, all socialist, all admiring Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, all admiring Venezuela (which I’ve never heard anybody do), and all unwelcome to JFK! This means Stan Lake isn’t tethered to the truth and that Fresno isn’t sending us their best!

      1. Stan Lake August 25, 2018 7:42 am Reply

        I’m surprised you’ve never heard any Leftists/Progressives admiring Venezuela. Here’s a sampling:

        Bernie Sanders “These days,the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as …Venezuela, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger.”
        MIT professor Noam Chomsky was a supporter of Chavez’s Venezuela and his anti-Americanism saying he brought forth the “historic liberation of Latin America”
        Sean Penn described Chavez as a “fascinating guy” who did “incredible things for the 80% of the people that are very poor there.”
        Michael Moore praised Chavez for eliminating 75% of extreme poverty while providing free health care and education for all.
        Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz praised Chavez’s socialist policies while visiting Caracas in 2007.
        Danny Glover a huge supporter of Chavez gave a speech next to Maduro asking him to “continue Chavez’s vision”
        Author Naomi Klein who signed a petition headlined, “We would vote for Hugo Chavez.”
        Jesse Jackson praised Chavez “Hugo fed the hungry. He lifted the poor. He raised their hopes…”
        Oliver Stone on the death of Chavez “I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people.”

        All progressives have been duped but don’t feel bad, you have plenty of company. The rich and famous as well as the scholarly have been gleefully swept up in admiration for the unattainable utopia the Left promises. Socialism always fails. Always has, always will.

        1. Just Saying August 26, 2018 2:22 pm Reply

          Ok Stan, here are some quotes by right wing celebrities. That means, of course, that ALL right wingers, including you, believe these same things:

          ”When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining.”—Glenn Beck
          ”The only way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons is to use them.”—Rush Limbaugh
          ”My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.”—Ann Coulter
          ”I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out, and I wouldn’t have rescued them.”—Bill O’Reilly
          I love the women’s movement — especially when walking behind it.”—Rush Limbaugh
          “There isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”—Rep. Michelle Bachmann
          “I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I’m not making this stuff up.” GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell
          ”I even accept for the sake of argument that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged.”—Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

  7. Stan Lake August 22, 2018 2:31 pm Reply

    Progressives for Hawaii. The native Indians of North America were the once proud dominant people inhabiting the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The US government went to war with many of them and those that weren’t slaughtered were herded onto reservations. Beaten into submission they came to rely on government aid for their survival. They lost many of their freedoms but that’s what happens when you give government more power, your freedoms erode. What does this have to do with Hawaii? Hawaii too once had a proud dominant people inhabiting the land until once again, the US government flexed its muscles and took over the islands. The inhabitants have gone from a fierce, proud kingdom to a blue state, a democratic state, a government controlled left leaning progressive state where more and more the citizens clamor for government to fix all their problems, problems by and large created by democrat government, democrat regulations and democrat cronyism. It’s all about control, keep the little guy down, throw him a few scraps and tell them how terrible it would be without the government’s help. All that’s needed to fix everything is to get the rich to pay their fair share even if no one can define what that is, just raise taxes a bit more to fund another government program, a few more regulations, remove a few more of your liberties. Just close your eyes, you won’t feel a thing. Progressivism, socialism always collapse with a whimper or a bang but they always collapse.

    1. Just Saying August 24, 2018 5:51 am Reply

      I’m afraid that there was far less than universal approval for the “Indian Wars” and oppression as well as for the actions taken against Pacific Islanders. Those responsible had the same arrogant attitudes as the xenophobic nativists finding such a cozy, snuggly home these days in the republican party!

  8. punaperson August 22, 2018 3:23 pm Reply

    Mr. Hooser knows his “hogwash” for sure. This is a classic case of “projection”. Hogwash is as hogwash does.

    I especially like his use of the term “citizen control” as the euphemism for a socialists utopia such as we have now operating beautifully and according to plan in Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea. Good job Mr. Hooser. And good luck.

  9. harry oyama August 23, 2018 12:48 pm Reply

    Just like some herd mentality, “where’s my trough”! Typical government attitude of free loaders with open door policies for useless parasites that are ruining this nation.

    1. Just Saying August 24, 2018 5:58 am Reply

      This is great big fun and takes Harry’s mind off the fact that as of this week, trump’s tiny feet fit perfectly into Nixon’s footsteps leading towards jail or pardon!

  10. j August 23, 2018 8:33 pm Reply


  11. Natalie Kranjcevich August 24, 2018 6:20 am Reply

    The main difference I found in business, conservatives pay their lawyers and bankers 1st and delay paying contractors until threatened by lawyers and bankers, liberals always pay people first so vote according to which side of the paycheck you receive.

  12. Chester Mazurowski August 24, 2018 9:56 am Reply

    Very well said Gary. God bless you.


  13. More BS from Da Hoos' August 26, 2018 8:44 am Reply

    There you go, Folks: you heard it first, from a “has been” that “never was”. Honestly, Hooser has already spewed more manure than any 4 dairies! His “lets demonize” chemical companies” is really getting old…and as usual: no references and NO proof! Well, you’re not in local politics anymore because of a conscious vote cast by those who were and are tired of your innuendos, and lies! And many are still waitng for you to disclose who funds your H.A.P.A “charity”…is that the one you “volunteer” your time to? Really, TGI, how about a little bit of investigative journalism aimed at this fraud, instead of you incessant butt kissing! His constant pontificating is nauseating…as if the voters are students in his class, and we dont get it…..Believe me, Hoosier, we get it…..a long time ago, and in a galaxy far, far away!

  14. Don Hamilton September 14, 2018 10:25 am Reply

    His definition of a conservative is like no one I know. Conservatives charities built most of the hospitals in this country. They donate and work in the soup kitchens. They help people find places to live and work….etc, etc. We are called to be a good steward of our world and environment. Basically conservatives are everything nice he said about liberals in terms of we are all in this together. If we quit calling each other names and calling each other liars, bigots, racists, etc….we might actually agree on the problems and then come together with better solutions on how to fix things. Now…what I just said was fact. I think the verbal and physical attacks on conservatives by liberals such as this person’s is because they want us to die and go away so that they can have the power to force on all of us their solutions which they believe is the only way to fix the problems. That is downright scary. It is the exact bigotry that they used to accuse christians of portraying.

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