As it happens, I agree with Jonah Goldberg’s response to conservatives who are concerned about the reemergence of the term “progressive” as a trick to maneuver opponents into the rhetorical position of “against progress”:
Re: the need for conservatives to come up with their own label. No thanks. Sure, I’d like to have “liberal” back — at least to describe traditional libertarians — but I would oppose tooth and nail the idea of casting aside the word conservative simply to market it better. That’s the logic of “compassionate conservatism,” Kempism, and other schools of thought which hold that conservatism needs to adopt liberal assumptions in order to be “relevant.” The fact that conservatives are willing to stick by their ideas and label is a sign and source of conservative strength, not weakness. Coming up with some “progressive” sounding label for conservatives merely concedes an argument we need not concede. Conservatism didn’t need the adjective “compassionate” and it doesn’t need any other clever repackaging. It is what it is. If we need to embrace some new reforms that’s fine. Conservatives understand that times change. But just call them conservative reforms. Or just call them reforms conservatives can get behind.
Nonetheless, while I wouldn’t have the Right pursue a deliberate strategy of name-changing (market tested, as it were), I do think it might be helpful to consolidate a rejoinder to the “against progress” slander into a comparative term. The first step is to articulate the problem with marching under the banner of Progress — namely, that it offers no qualifiers addressing toward what, by what means, or with what protections progress ought to be pursued. As anybody who has spent time debating progressives will have observed, they’ve a peculiar certainty that their current views define the future and a frightening faith that it can be dictated with only token efforts to preserve the uncapturable treasures of our tradition.
So what, if not opposite, would be opposed to Progress and progressives? It sounds a tad clunky, but the word to which I keep returning in my search through dictionaries and thesauri is Maturity, which would make us, I suppose, maturists.