Creeping toward the end here. I think Part IX will be a summary
Part I Is progressivism a grandson of communism, or a cousin?
Part II The Nature of Evil
Part III Expanding Brotherhood
Part IV Social Pressure
Part V A Thought Experiment
Part V-A A Thought Experiment - continued
Part VI How Things Work
I Have A Dream, Imagine there's no countries, Visualize World Peace, I dream things that never were and ask “why not?”, the liberal organization Common Dreams, I Can See A New Day, Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream, New Frontier, Woodstock Nation, Imagine Seven, Teach Peace, What if they gave a war and no one came, half-a-dozen Arlo Guthrie songs, 1-20-09, the Netroots site Progressive Vision, HuffPo's Mike Lux always talking about Obama's Progressive Vision. Even the magazine titles show this: American Prospect, New Republic, versus the conservative American Spectator, National Review, Weekly Standard.
Envisioning some utopia and moving toward that is of enormous importance to progressives. It has been a recurring theme since Rousseau, through Marx, the utopian communities of the 19th C, the Bolshevik and Nazi New Men, and exploded in popularity during the 60's. Even those who are older and more cynical respond to this rhetoric, just tempering it with a doubt whether the baddies will ever let it be.
Consider also: those in the arts who make their living by envisioning something and making it appear are overwhelmingly liberal. In university math departments, the theoretical mathematicians are liberal, applied mathematicians more conservative. The social sciences, including education at the graduate level, is comprised of people who have a vision of how things are supposed to be, with theories clung to tenaciously despite slight evidence. Even in religion, where we might expect more conservatives, we find that the New Agers are all on the left, and the Christian Left is heavily into visions of a new society that lives by Jesus rules.
It's not accidental that progressives have fewer children. It's hard to keep convincing yourself of this vision thing when you've raised more than one child past the age of eight. Imagining and dreaming helps, but the adjustments are constant.
It would be easy to mock this, and I am sure some snark has crept into my description. But envisioning is not itself a bad thing. It is a core human ability that separates us from other creatures. All humans do a significant amount of envisioning - imagining, dreaming - in order to organise our lives. Conservatives do a lot of envisioning as well, to carry out our ideas and plans. It is not at all to be despised.
Yet it seems to have peculiar force among liberals. My guess is that they are much better at it than others, and so lean on that strategy more. Core liberals tend to have higher SATV than SATM, higher verbal than performance IQ's. They go into fields that require abstraction, verbal fluency, word pictures. In art, you can make things come out the way you want. In engineering, not so much. In applied sciences, you are making constant tradeoffs of cost vs. strength vs time constraints vs. flexibility, and the trick is to make something that works, not to hold true to the original vision.
Their visions have more reality for them than these do for other people. Not an either-or, but a matter of degree, and I suspect it is tied to a brain ability. As a strong imaginer myself, I think I have some understanding of this - and it perhaps explains why I started out on the left. In the arts and theoretical mathematics to boot.
A curiosity of all this - and here I will have to go a bit negative - is that if you do not believe in their vision, progressives think there is something wrong with you. You must subscribe to some evil or lesser vision, or be too stupid or fearful to embrace their vision. I don't pretend to understand this, and it is certainly not universal among liberals. But it is common, and plays strongly in the national dialogue. Perhaps someday you'll join us... Clinging to their guns and religion... the ongoing anti-military rhetoric. Something about the progressive attachment to visions of a better world makes it hard for them to see others as merely wrong - they have to ascribe pathology and evil motive to them.