I’ve taken this up before, but found a couple examples in two stories on the same Business section page of the Feb.11, 2017, edition of the Boston Globe. Who and what is progressive? Communists use progressive to describe themselves and fellow travelers. Leftists use the word to describe themselves and liberals. Reporters and editors use the word to describe… yeah, who? Can conservatives or Republicans be progressive? OK, we go to the American Heritage Dictionary: “Progressive, adj. 1. Moving forward; ongoing; advancing. 2. Proceeding in steps; continuing steadily by increments. 3. Promoting or favoring political reform; liberal.” By that, according to the first definition, conservatives or Republicans certainly could call themselves progressive. Who is against moving forward and advancing?
Here are examples: A story by STAT (a pharmaceutical news organization owned by the Globe’s owner, John Henry) about Trump’s proposed tax holiday for drug companies’ profits held abroad, quotes “Chye-Ching Huang, deputy director of the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.” And there’s a story that the inevitable “tensions rise” when trade unions picketed the home of a local developer. The Globe reports: “The protests were an unusually personal attack on Keene, a longtime Ashmont resident who is well thought of in progressive circles.”
So it boils down to progressive meaning what the reporter thinks it should mean, without his or her saying so. It’s a wink, wink, nudge, nudge adjective meaning the good guys, liberals.