Is Louisville Progressive -- Or Just Nice? Skip to content

Is Louisville Progressive -- Or Just Nice?

2 min read

Time for a thought experiment. What images, thoughts, or emotions do these words bring forth?

Compassionate City  —  Omni Project  —  Fairness Ordinance  —  air quality  —  mosque vandalism and restoration  —  West End Walmart  —  bike lanes  —  Cordish Company  —  immigration rally  —  Ohio River pollution

Any contrasts? Any sense of “this does not go with that”?

Which ones make you proud to live here? Which ones cause frustration or consternation?

Do you see a pattern? Like, in some areas we seem to lean to the “left,” while in others it looks more like a tilt to the “right”?

I’ve been thinking about these things, and pondering the patterns I see, and I’ve come to a conclusion:

Louisville is pretty liberal – but not especially progressive.


I’ve been directly involved in Louisville politics in one way or another for about twelve years, and an observer for another twelve years before that. I’ve watched the decisions our elected officials have made, and for the most part it seems clear to me that we are an open, caring city, with a history of compassion that has only been enhanced by our current mayor’s emphasis on it. (Which I support wholeheartedly, by the way.)

I’ve also watched as we have made business deals that seemed slanted to favor the business owners more than the city. I’ve seen us ignore our own urban planning guidelines to land a corporate tenant, or go all wishy-washy when it came to standing with unions. And I’ve seen us look the other way when large corporations run afoul of various regulations, even while mom-and-pop businesses have to toe the line.

In an earlier backgrounder I explained the difference between liberal and progressive. For those not wishing to dig into that tome, here’s the gist:

Essentially, liberalism is antithetical to aristocracy and authoritarianism, while progressivism is antithetical towards plutocracy and corporatism.

We are a liberal city. We support human rights, civil rights, sexual equality, immigrants, and caring for others. We can be justly proud of our record in these areas, even as we know there is still work to do.

But when it comes to progressive issues, we have less to be proud of and more to work on. The environment? We’re glad to protect it, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience an employer. The value, indeed the necessity, of collective bargaining? We give it lip service, but even most Democratic officials only pay attention to unions at election time. Progressive taxation, income inequality, money in politics, outsourcing and off-shoring? Not a word from anyone, and certainly nothing substantive in terms of legislation or policy.

You see? We are liberal, we are compassionate, we care for all … until it comes up against the dollar. Then, we’re not liberal – we’re neoliberal. And that’s the opposite of progressive.

When I first started this site, I wondered if we really needed something called Progress Louisville. Now I know the answer: Absolutely.

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Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

A very light news day, with most of the focus on the arrest of the golfer at the PGA last week. Of note, though, is Heather Cox Richardson’s summary of President Biden’s commencement speech at Morehouse.

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