By Dennis Grimski
Exposing the Marxists Roots of the
American Left (Article 6)
Article Focus: Progressivism (Part III)
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I am writing a series for Blue Water Healthy Living on: “Exposing the Marxist Roots of the America Left.” This article is #6 in the series. In my last two articles I have been exploring a movement in America called Progressivism. Progressivism was a movement that changed both our politics and our nation; however, it is still a political philosophy playing out today. Although the Progressive Era by and large took place from 1880-1920, its tentacles reached deep into American politics and society, and still dramatically impacts our lives through modern liberalism.
Today, far too many politicians on both sides of the aisle believe in the concept of a large government; a governmental system that can solve all of America’s problems through legislation, and an accompanying federal bureaucracy (of non-elected personnel) that can promulgate thousands of rules impacting both the private and public sector. Due to Progressivism, laws promulgated by Congress over the past 100 years, aided by a liberalized court system, reach far beyond the limits the Constitution imposes on the federal government. Our federal government has assumed a role never envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
For the most part, Progressives transformed America with their social ideas enacted by the federal government. Progressives discarded the Constitutional system of government, and replaced it with a federal bureaucracy that reaches deep into our society. This article examines the key principles of governance implemented by our Founding Fathers, against the new and still emerging concepts of a progressive government system. Today, many “true” conservative Republicans are trying to restore our government back to its Constitutional roots. But liberals of all kinds (political, media, college and business) are fighting against any limits being imposed on government, especially as it pertains to their desire to further change society toward a more liberal, socialistic and globalized America. Specifically, this article explores how a Constitutional conservative government differs from a progressive government.
Progressivism is Transforming America
According to William A. Schambra and Thomas West in their book, “The Progressive Revolution in Politics and Political Science,” the Progressive Era transformed American politics as we knew it. What was that transformation? The authors believe it was a total rejection in theory, and in practice, of the principles and policies on which America had been founded.
“We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” —Barack Obama, October 30, 2008
“We are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.” — Michelle Obama, May 14, 2008
Progressives believe the existing constitutional system was outdated and must be made into a dynamic, evolving instrument of social change, aided by scientific knowledge and the development of a large administrative bureaucracy.
Historically, Progressive presidential leadership provided the unity of direction — the vision — needed for the implementation of a true progressive government. As Woodrow Wilson wrote:
“All that progressives ask or desire is permission — in an era when development, evolution, is a scientific word — to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not bound to historical decisions.”
The authors of The Progressive Revolution believe the “power house” behind the Progressive movement were two Marxists social engineering beliefs called “political correctness” and “social justice.” Both concepts have impacted every segment of American society, business and institution.
When you see the government trying to enact Marxist beliefs like ‘social justice’ and ‘political correctness’ you see the total annihilation of the Constitution and the principles inaugurated by our Founders. This statement comes from the foretelling book: “Forbidden Grounds,” written by Richard Epstein, a Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. In his book, Epstein presents powerful empirical arguments for the repeal of the anti-discrimination laws. Epstein demonstrates that these laws set one group against another, impose limits on freedom of choice, unleash bureaucratic excesses, mandate inefficient employment practices, and cause far more invidious discrimination than they prevent. Epstein urges a return to the now-rejected “natural law” principles of individual autonomy that permit all persons to improve their position through trade, contract, and bargain … free of government constraint.
Epstein also notes how progressive politicians initiated the concept of “group rights” based upon the aforementioned two Marxist concepts (SJ/PC). Until the affirmative action, anti-discrimination, civil rights and disability laws were promulgated, the granting of “group rights” was not part of the Constitution. Until the 1960s, “equal protection” had always referred to the government’s duty to protect individuals and property, but never groups. Epstein notes that these anti-discrimination laws totally annihilated the Constitution, and has caused more divisiveness in America than ever anticipated. Epstein uses empirical data to show that these laws are failed progressive policies, and do much more harm than any purported good.
Fast forward 60 years, and you can see how America is now hobbled by too many preference hustles, by every group that can lay claim to some kind of historical “discrimination” or another. This has nothing to do with the “individual justice” to which the Constitution refers, but a new kind of justice called “social justice.” Claims to “social justice” by “group category” carry with them too many manipulable assumptions. The American system is about protecting individual autonomy. In doing so, it protects diversity of ideas, lifestyles, religions and cultures. Harm cannot ever be a literary historical concept. What our Constitution refers to is actual remediable harms to a person, or property, from force and fraud. Granting rights to “groups” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution, but yet that is exactly what progressive politicians and judges have proffered.
Over the years, Progressivism, and its view of an active government has become a powerful tool used by politicians (Democrats and Republicans alike), during the past century. Under a progressive worldview, politicians and liberal judges are no longer limited by the parameters of the Constitution. This approach has elevated both politicians and judges into an “elite” class who no longer has to serve the people. Progressivism allows politicians to make decisions on what they think is best, regardless of the beliefs of the majority of the populace. Progressive social justice decisions have led to an extremely large and invasive government, with an unquenchable national debt that has put a severe burden on future generations, let alone has put us on a road to national bankruptcy.
Progressives, (aka: today’s Liberals) believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no marginalized group is in need, no matter the resource cost to the nation (taxpayers). Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve all of society’s problems, not only in America, but also across the world (i.e. globalism), even if American resources need to be redirected to other third-world countries. This latter action comes about through inferior trade agreements and treaties which are tailored to America’s disadvantage, in order to implement the Progressive policy of America’s resource redirection. President Trump has recently brought many of these agreements to national attention, but with much progressive push-back.
Moreover, many liberals live with “guilt” that their forefathers may have exploited “marginalized” groups, when defined by today’s values. Still others believe in the concept of “white privilege,” and that “white males” should be disenfranchised so that other groups (e.g. minorities, women, illegals,’ etc.) can better benefit. As stated by Charles Clymer, a writer for the liberal magazine The Huffington Post:
“You are absolutely right: I am white, I am liberal, and I feel guilty — as in complicit — that I live in a society that affords me greater privilege because of my gender and skin color.”
But with any decision to discard one system of government, and replace it with another, there are consequences, both intentional and unintentional. For example, an unintentional consequence of the “social welfare” state has witnessed the dissolution of the black family in America. In 1963, before the “war on poverty,” only 14% of black families were “single parent.” Fast forward to 2017, and now 72% of black families are now “single parent.” That is almost 3 in 4 black families having no father. Moreover, the amount of people in poverty, and on government subsidization has remained almost stagnant over 60 years, despite “trillions of dollars” being spent on welfare and family subsidizations. For example: “The official poverty rate increased from 12.5% in 2007 to 15.0% in 2012; and the child poverty rate increased from 18.0% in 2007 to 21.8% in 2012.” Conservatives see the “war on poverty” as another failed progressive policy. Conversely, liberals’ believe American businesses and institutions are prejudicial, and continue to hold people in poverty, due to conscience and unconscious bias. In this regard, Liberals believe we just have not yet implemented enough social policies, or redistributed enough wealth to “uplift” people out of poverty. As you can see, these are two disparate worldviews. But the progressive view is only built on the emotionalism of liberal beliefs, and not empirical data.
Despite failed policies per empirical data noted by such research-based authors like Epstein and the government’s own issued reports, Progressives (i.e. politicians, media, college professors, intellectual elites) still believe the government can transform America into a “utopian” state. All we need to do is to redirect more of our wealth and resources to entitlement programs, and enact more social policies, to “uplift” all marginalized groups.
Because of its “utopian” promise, Progressivism strongly exists amongst today’s modern liberals. Liberalism has become the predominant view in our current American education, media, popular culture, and political systems. The sad part is the progressives’ promised utopia will never be realized, because its beliefs and social policies are flawed. All forms of socialism, no matter what the government-based system is called: socialism, communism, democratic socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, etc, have all failed throughout the world. Socialism always bankrupts countries due to its social entitlement policies; and ultimately leads to the establishment of a totalitarian military regime. This fact was proven by Friedrich Hayek and his insightful book: “The Road to Serfdom.” Yet, liberals today believe “socialism” is the system America should be striving to achieve as a replacement to our Constitutional Republic and our current free-trade economic system.
In this context, the purpose of this article is to help you to assess these two worldviews: Conservatism and Progressivism (Liberalism). I believe it is important to evaluate how these two worldviews compare and contrast, and to see how they functionally operate. If traditional principles are being replaced, it is important to know what beliefs are being discarded, and what liberal beliefs are becoming their replacements. As such, the remaining sections of this article provide you with a comparative analysis of both worldviews. My goal is to put you in a position to make better informed decisions on what political worldview you want to endorse, why, and what politician(s) at all levels you want to support in the future.
Conservative vs. Progressive Beliefs
The Progressive Rejection of the Founding Fathers Beliefs
Shortly after the end of the Civil War, the vast majority of Americans shared a set of beliefs concerning the purpose of government, its structure, and its most important public policies. This was true, no matter what side of the aisle you sat. Constitutional amendments were passed abolishing slavery and giving the national government the authority to protect the basic civil rights of every person. Here was a legal foundation on which the promise of the American Revolution could be realized in the South, beyond its already existing implementation in the Northern and Western states.
This post-Civil War consensus was animated by the principles of the American founding. In the section that follows, I will cover several features of that approach to government and contrast them with the new Progressive approach that emerged between 1880 and 1920. With the advent of Progressivism, the earlier orientation of traditional Constitutionalism gradually began to be replaced by the new political orientation: Progressivism (or what we call “liberalism” today). Although the Progressive Era ended about 1920, its views and policies did not. In the New Deal period of the 1930s, and later even more decisively in the 1960s and ’70s, the Progressive view increasingly radicalized and transformed itself into contemporary liberalism. Today, liberalism has become the predominant amongst American elites. We see this liberal view being played out today in Washington politics, across most of the mainstream media, Hollywood, and in most college campuses. Progressivism (liberalism) has taken hold wherever so called “intellectual elites” are predominant.
You can see the progressive elitist philosophy today when President Obama made a comment referring to working-class voters (non elites) decimated by job losses in Pennsylvania, when he said:
“They get bitter, they cling to guns, or religion; they have antipathy to people who aren’t like them; they have an anti-immigrant sentiment, and an anti-global sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Candidate Hillary Clinton, during the 2016 campaign had even stronger views on people who don’t adhere to the liberal (progressive) worldview:
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. They are characterized as racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that…”
As you can see, there are certainly two worldviews in America, and, for the most, if you are conservative and don’t agree with the liberal viewpoint, you are then labeled as ignorant, racist, sexist, or even deplorable, because you don’t hold to the more “intelligent” or “progressive” view. It is in this context that I use the word “elitist,” because it is a “better than thou attitude,” and everyone who does not adhere to it is ridiculed and personally demeaned. Such personal attacks are a purposeful technique and a common strategy amongst the modern liberal. Unfortunately, it gets used too often when a liberal looses an argument with a conservative, or when a person doesn’t agree with their stance.
In this section, I hope to clearly show you that two worldviews exist in America today. To explain the “differences” of these two worldviews, I have drawn from the following article: “The Progressive Movement and the Transformation of American Politics”, and from other sources noted in the Reference Section.
- God and Religion
The Founders conceived of God in one of two ways. Christians and Jews believed in the God of the Bible as the author of liberty but also as the author of the moral law by which human beings are guided toward their duties and, ultimately, toward their happiness. Nonbelievers (Washington called them “mere politicians” in his Farewell Address) thought of God merely as a creative principle or force behind the natural order of things. Not all the Founding Fathers were Christian. Some were deists, and some were even atheists. But all believed in “natural law” as defining the world in which we lived.
For most of America’s history, both sides agreed that there is a God of nature who endows men with natural rights and assigns them duties under the law of nature. This belief was called “natural law.” Believers added that the God of nature is also the God of the Bible, while secular thinkers denied that God was anything more than the God of nature. Everyone saw liberty as a “sacred cause,” and everyone believed that man had certain “inalienable rights” (or natural rights) that government could neither provide nor restrain.
On the other hand, Progressives want to remove both God and Christian religion from American society. Progressive leaders believed that if Americans depended more upon their government then God, they would have a much easier time implementing their new policies to transform America. What emerged from this concept was a phrase that is nowhere to be found in the Constitution: “Separation of Church and State.” For the record, the Constitution only forbids the State from establishing a formal state religion, or favoring one religion over another. There is no clause that calls for the “separation of church and state.” But that all changed in the mid 20th Century. In the mid-1940s, under a FDR appointed progressive Supreme Court, the “separation of church and state” became constitutional canon with the modern Court’s first Establishment Clause holding, in Everson v. Board of Education (1947). For the majority, Justice Hugo Black wrote:
The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another […] No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion […] In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between Church and State.”
Based upon on this one liberal SCOTUS ruling, a whole progressive belief system emerged. This one court decision was then followed by numerous other Court decisions over the next 40 years that further erected “a wall of separation between Church and State.” Today, most Americans falsely believe that such a “euphemism” exists in the Constitution thanks to the liberal mainstream media and politicians that want to advance their God-less political and social agenda. The underlying progressive goal is to always promote secular humanism by the removal of God from the public square.
Historically, Progressives redefined God as human freedom achieved through the right political philosophy (and allegiance to the correct government organization), and not to religion of any sort. For most Progressives, God was either to be rejected as a myth; or to be put into a corner far away from the public square. This idea was crystallized by the atheistic Hegel and Marx way back in the 1800s, whose philosophy strongly influenced the Progressives in the 20th Century. As Marx wrote: “the state is the only divine idea as it exists on earth.” John Burgess, a prominent Progressive political scientist, and advent follower of Karl Marx, wrote, “the purpose of the state is the ‘perfection of humanity’, the civilization of the world; the perfect development of the human reason and its attainment to universal command over individualism; the apotheosis of man” (man becoming God).
- Progressive Rejection of God and Natural Law.
The Founders believed that all men are created equal and that they have certain inalienable rights granted to all men by the Almighty Creator. All are obliged to obey God’s (or nature’s) natural laws, under which we have not only rights but duties. We are obliged “to respect those rights of others which we value in ourselves” (Jefferson). The main rights were thought to be life and liberty, including the liberty to organize one’s own church, to associate at work or at home with whomever one pleases, and to use one’s talents to acquire and keep property. For the Founders, then, there is a natural moral order — rules discovered by human reason that transcend all time, and promote human well-being, Rules that can and should guide human life and politics.
The Progressives rejected the claims of God’s ordained laws, or even transcendent natural laws, as naive and unhistorical. In their view, human beings are not born free, and are not endowed with certain rights by a Creator. Only the government can endow men with rights. John Dewey, the most thoughtful of the Progressives, wrote:
“Freedom is not ‘something that individuals have as a ready-made possession, endowed by some higher entity. It is something to be achieved and only granted by government.”
In the Progressive view, freedom is not a gift of God or nature. It is a product of human making, and always a gift of the governmental state. Thus, man is a product of his own history, through which he collectively creates himself. Since human beings are not naturally free, there can be no natural rights or natural law. Therefore, Dewey wrote:
“Natural rights and natural liberties exist only in the kingdom of mythological social zoology.”
Since the Progressives held that nature (or God) gives man nothing and that everything of value to human life is made by man, they concluded that there are no permanent standards of absolute right or absolute truth. Absolutes of right and wrong were totally dismissed, and left to each man to determine for himself, or as determined by the laws of government, who have enlightened men to determine what is right for society.
In this regard, Dewey spoke of “historical relativity.” However, in one sense, the Progressives did believe that human beings are oriented toward freedom, not by nature (which, as the merely primitive, contains nothing human), but by the historical process, which has the character of progressing toward increasing freedom. So the “relativity” in question means that in all times, people have views of right and wrong that are only tied to their particular times. Progressives, such as Dewey, also believed the views of the most enlightened are true because they are the most progressive and in conformity with where history is going. Thus a historic document like the Constitution, must always be interpreted by the “most enlightened” of the present time to determine its true meaning, and always by the most progressive beliefs of the current time.
The Founders believed it was best that individuals and civil society be free to organize affairs on their own. They realized that in a free society there would be inequality of wealth, based on the free choices of individuals, and ameliorated in large part by family, church, and civic society in assistance to those who could not take care of themselves even with best efforts. Churches and families played major roles in helping the most desolate of society. If private help was unavailable, the Founders saw a place for government provision of minimal assistance (but always by local governments, who were best able to assess the situation). Government should protect the exercise of unequal talents and protect individual rights and freedoms. Personal failure is an incentive to more responsible future action. The Founders never confused political equality with economic equality.
Conversely, Progressives purport that their concept of positive freedom is merely an extension of negative freedom. Again, John Dewey, wrote:
“…after early liberalism had done its work, society faced a new problem, that of social organization. Its work was to now liberate a group of marginalized individuals, representing the new science and the new forces of productivity, from customs, ways of thinking, institutions, that were oppressive of the new modes of social action…”
For Progressives, the only possible way to realize “positive” freedom is to take away the “negative” freedom of unalienable rights promised in our Founding documents. In the Progressive view, “positive” freedom is always at someone else’s expense, and is always determined by the government.
When President Obama said, “You didn’t build that,” he was reflecting the Progressive idea that it is up to government to create individuals and society. Progressives’ belief God or nature gives us nothing at birth; and man is incapable of achieving anything without government. It is only government that can facilitate human effort into productive outcomes. Progressives earnestly believe that without government, you are alone and helpless, and incapable of accomplishing anything on your own. President Obama earnestly believed “private sector” business could not exist with government sanction, controls and support.
Conversely, the Founders believed that the way to help those behind is not to take from those who are ahead through coercive government power, but to create a society in which every person is free to sell his labor or go into business in a “free market” system—a system where all should be on equal terms with no government favoritism. The most capable will create efficient businesses that will be able to employ the rest of us. And America took root and grew not because of the Progressive welfare state, but because of its absence.
- Purpose of Government.
The Founders believed that government must be limited, but still strong in areas where it is meant to be strong: national defense (including protecting our borders from invasion), tough law enforcement, and the protection of private property —all as applications of the protection of personal rights and the “free market” system.
Conversely, Progressivism is dedicated to an unlimited government that is to do good as its enlightened leaders determine appropriate to advance those most marginalized in society, such as giving rights and benefits to illegal aliens. To accomplish their end, Progressives have denigrated the Founding idea of government legitimacy through the consent of the governed in a representative republic. Progressives believe most voters are not “enlightened” enough to determine society direction or priorities. A voter can be a slave to his instincts. For Dewey and other Progressives, government authority must extend to all areas and ways of living among the people. It is of secondary interest whether such expansion into private life is approved by elected officials. It is this belief that allows most government “rules” to be written by administrative or bureaucratic personnel, and not elected officials.
In this regard, the most important contribution of Progressivism to our current government is the growing power of the administrative state, separated from political control and oversight. Today, most federal departments operate without elected official oversight, and many are in open defiance to Congressional oversight. Under this government system, “separation of powers” is replaced by “separation of administration” from politics. Today, we see such bureaucratic control playing out, when leaders in the federal Departments of the FBI, CIA, DOJ, and DIA self-determine during the 2016 presidential election that Donald Trump was not a worthy candidate for the type of America they wanted. As such, these “Deep State” leaders attempted a coupe to influence the 2016 election; and when that failed, they then created a false narrative (i.e. Russian Collusion) and a follow-up “witch-hunt” in the words of Donald Trump to delegitimize his presidency.
For the Founders, thinking about government began with the recognition that what man is given by God, or by nature — his capacity for reason and the moral law discovered by reason — is, in the most important respect, more valuable than anything government can ever give him. Not that nature provides him with his needs. In fact, the Founders thought that civilization is indispensable for human well-being. Although government can be a threat to liberty, government is also necessary for the security of liberty. As Madison wrote,
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” But since men are not angels, without government, human beings would live in “a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger.”
For the Founders, then, the individual’s existence and freedom in this crucial respect are not a gift of government. They are a gift of God, or at least a gift from nature. Government is therefore always and fundamentally in the service of the individual, not the other way around. The purpose of government, then, is to enforce the natural law for the members of the political community by securing the people’s natural rights. It does so by preserving their lives and liberties against the violence of others. In the founding, the liberty to be secured by government is not freedom from necessity or poverty. It is freedom from the despotic and predatory domination of some human beings over others.
Government’s main duty for the Founders is to secure that freedom — at home through the making and enforcement of criminal and civil law, abroad through a strong national defense, including protecting our borders from invaders. The protection of life and liberty is achieved through vigorous prosecutions of crime against person and property or through civil suits for recovery of damages, these cases being decided by a jury of one’s peers.
The Progressives regarded the Founders’ scheme as defective. As Dewey remarked, “they thought that the individual was ready-made by nature.” The Founders‘ supposed failure to recognize the crucial role of society led the Progressives to disparage the Founders’ insistence on limited government. The Progressive goal of politics is freedom, now understood as freedom from the limits imposed by nature and necessity. They rejected the Founders’ conception of freedom as useful for self-preservation for the sake of the individual pursuit of happiness. For the Progressives, freedom is redefined as the fulfillment of human capacities, which becomes the primary task of the state to define and ensure.
To this end, Dewey wrote,
“The state has the responsibility for creating institutions under which individuals can effectively realize the potentialities that are theirs. So although ‘it is true that social arrangements, laws, institutions are made for man, rather than that man is made for them,’ these laws and institutions are not means for obtaining something for individuals, not even happiness. They are means of creating individuals…. Individuality in a social and moral sense is something to be wrought out.”
“Creating individuals” versus “protecting individuals” sums up the difference between the Progressives and Founders’ conception on the overall purpose of government.”
- The Progressives’ Rejection of Consent and the Social Compact as the Basis of Society
In accordance with their conviction that all human beings are by nature free, the Founders thought that political society is:
“… formed by a voluntary association of individuals: It is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good” (Massachusetts Constitution of 1780).
For the Founders, the consent principle extended beyond the founding of society into its ordinary operation. Government was to be conducted under laws, and laws were to be made by locally elected officials, accountable through frequent elections to those who chose them. The people would be directly involved in governing through their participation in juries selected by lot.
The Progressives treated the social compact idea with scorn. Charles Merriam, a leading Progressive political scientist, wrote:
“The individualistic ideas of the “natural right” school of political theory, endorsed in the Revolution, are discredited and repudiated …. The origin of the state is regarded, not as the result of a deliberate agreement among men, but as the result of historical development, instinctive rather than conscious; and rights are considered to have their source not in nature, but are given to men via state promulgated law of the federal government.”
For the Progressives, then, it was of no great importance whether or not government begins in consent of the public, as long as it serves its proper end of remolding man in such a way as to bring out his real capacities and aspirations, as determined by the most enlightened and progressive minds of the time (i.e. the “elites, such as in Media, Hollywood and Washington). As Merriam wrote, “it was the idea of the state that supplanted the social contract as the ground of political right.” Democracy and public consent are not absolutely rejected by the Progressives, but their importance is greatly diminished, as we will see when we come to the Progressive conception of the governmental bureaucratic structure.
- Limits on Government and the Integrity of the Private Sphere
For the Founders, the purpose of government is to protect the private sphere, which they regarded as the proper home of both the high and the low, of the important and the merely urgent, of God, religion, and science, as well as providing for the needs of the body. The experience of religious persecution had convinced the Founders that government was incompetent at directing man in his highest endeavors. The requirements of liberty, they thought, meant that self-interested private associations had to be permitted, not because they are good in themselves, but because depriving individuals of freedom of association would deny the liberty that is necessary for the health of society and the flourishing of the individual.
For the Founders, government was grounded in divine law (i.e., the laws of nature and of nature’s God), Government was seen as a merely human thing, bound up with all the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. Government had to be limited both because it was dangerous if it got too powerful, but because it was not supposed to provide for the highest thing in life.
Because of the Progressives’ tendency to view the state as divine and the natural as low, they no longer looked upon the private sphere as that which was to be protected by government. Instead, the realm of the private was seen as the realm of selfishness and oppression. Private property was especially singled out for criticism. Many Progressives openly (or covertly) spoke of themselves as socialists; and this belief is even truer today in 2018 America by the liberal left.
- Domestic Policy
The Founders’ ceded most domestic policy to the states. The Founders’ believed the states, closer to the people, were best positioned to provide tough criminal law, civil law to deal with contract violations and civil wrongs, family law protective of women and children, a minimal safety net, and the encouragement of schooling and (non-denomination specific) religious sentiments among the people. The only domestic responsibility of the federal government was the maintenance of a national free market (to prevent states from interfering with trade), and the definition of money as gold and silver (to prevent the government from inflating the currency). Beyond these state and federal functions, the Founders’ believed in leaving citizens alone to tend to their own affairs. Government would advocate for the virtues of justice, moderation, frugality, self reliance, courage, and vigilance in defense of freedom. It would expect citizens to be aware of their basic rights and duties. But government would respect the rights of citizens to chart their own courses, and would protect the liberties that made that possible.
For the Founders, domestic policy concentrated on local laws that secured the persons and properties of the people against violence by means of a tough criminal law against murder, rape, robbery, and so on. Further, the civil law had to provide for the poor to have access to acquiring property by allowing the buying and selling of labor and property through voluntary contracts and a legal means of establishing undisputed ownership. The burden of proof was on government if there was to be any limitation on the free use of that property. Thus, licensing and zoning were rare.
Laws regulating sexual conduct aimed at the formation of lasting marriages so that children would be born and provided for by those whose interest and love was most likely to lead to their proper care, with minimal government involvement needed because most families would be intact.
Finally, the Founders tried to promote the moral conditions of an independent, hard-working citizenry by laws and educational institutions that would encourage such virtues as honesty, moderation, justice, patriotism, courage, frugality, and industry. Government support of religion (typically generic Protestantism) was generally practiced with a view to these ends. One can see the Founders’ view of the connection between religion and morality in such early laws as the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which said that government should promote education because “[r]eligion, morality, and knowledge [are] necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind.”
In Progressivism, the domestic policy of government has two main purposes.
- First,government must protect the poor and other victims of capitalism through redistribution of wealth and resources. It is up to the government to enact anti-trust laws, and for the government to assume control over the details of commerce and production (i.e., dictating at what prices things must be sold, methods of manufacture, government participation in the banking and manufacturing system, and so on).
- Second,government must be involved in the “spiritual” development of its citizens — not, of course, through promotion of religion, but through protecting the environment (“conservation”), education (understood as education to personal creativity), and spiritual uplift through welfare subsidy, combined with the promotion of the arts and culture to help disadvantaged persons advance. Again, we see these progressive priorities being played out today by our congress with the passage of any budget bill that has a huge domestic policy and public welfare (entitlement) allocation.
The Progressives policy vision is quite different from the Founders. Their positive freedom requires ever more income and wealth redistribution, more welfare for all those who truly need to be made equal, more publicly funded social services, and more business regulation to stop what Washington bureaucrats consider “unfair” trade practices—something too often suspected of any successful business.
For the federal government, the Progressive concept of “Uplift” would be provided by ever greater support to schools and universities; and more investment in more and more lewd cultural arts. In particular, due to federal funding, and the policies of the Department of Education (DOE), for the past 50 years, schools have been reorganized to promote Progressive doctrine through re-crafted curricula. At the college level, Universities have become the modern churches of Progressivism. The professors at Universities, and the teachers in High Schools (now even middle school) are the high priests who teach Progressive doctrine to the rising generation of teachers, bureaucrats, and citizens. Slowly, in the true concept of progress, America is becoming more “liberalized” due to the constant teaching of Progressive doctrine.
- Foreign Policy
The Founders believed that foreign policy served the same objective as domestic policy: protection of the rights of citizens (Note, this does not include illegal aliens). Foreign attack was to be deterred by having a strong army, or repulsed by force. Alliances were to be entered into with the understanding that a self-governing nation must keep itself aloof from the quarrels of other nations, except as needed for national defense. Government had no right to spend the taxes or lives of its own citizens to spread democracy to other nations, to protect democracy on a world-wide scale, or to engage in enterprises aiming at imperialistic hegemony.
The Founders were not isolationists, as they were willing to make alliances with foreign powers (France, during the Revolutionary War, for example) if in service to national defense purposes. The Founders did not think it the responsibility of the federal government to secure the rights of people in other nations, nor for America to act as the “police force” for the world. Another country, no matter how bad its government, was an enemy in war and a friend in peace. Overseas nation building would have been inconceivable to the Founding Fathers.
Progressives advocated “benevolent imperialism.” Many Progressives believed America has a mission to engage nation building for the benefit of the uncivilized societies, and to help these societies to further progress. Under Progressive Presidents, the U.S. acquired colonies in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. So how did this all work out, this bringing of civilization and democracy to foreign shores? Cuba today is communist, Puerto Rico is extremely poor, and the Philippines continues to be badly governed—all this despite the best efforts of Progressive “experts” sent to reform those societies.
The Progressives believed that its concept of “historical process” was leading all mankind to freedom. Following Hegel, they thought of the march of freedom in history as their basis to colonize other lands. Progressives therefore embraced a much more active and indeed imperialistic foreign policy than the Founders did. In his book “Expansion and Peace” (1899), Theodore Roosevelt wrote that the best policy is imperialism on a global scale: “every expansion of a great civilized power means a victory for law, order, and righteousness.” Thus, the American occupation of the Philippines, T.R. wrote: “would enable one more fair spot of the world’s surface to be ‘snatched from the forces of darkness.’ Fundamentally the cause of expansion is the cause of peace.”
Woodrow Wilson advocated American entry into World War I, boasting that America’s national interest had nothing to do with it. Wilson had no difficulty sending American troops to die in order to make the world safe for democracy, regardless of whether or not it would make America more safe or less. The trend to turn power over to multinational organizations also begins via the Progressive philosophy, as may be seen in Wilson’s plan for a League of Nations, under whose rules America would have delegated control over the deployment of its own armed forces to that body. Wilson’s beliefs became reality under Franklin Roosevelt, and America’s commitment to the United Nations.
Fast forwarding in American history, we see how such Progressive beliefs were carried out through the likes of Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Johnson. With the belief that it was America’s world-wide role to make the world safer for Democracy, America became heavily entangled in the Korean conflict, and the Viet Nam War, and even Iraq, all under the guise of “making the world safer for democracy.” Under Progressive Presidents, America has expanded its military presence throughout the world. This has included opening and manning various military bases throughout the world, including Germany, Turkey, S. Korea, and so forth. America has become the “police force” for the world, all the while spending trillions of taxpayer funds in countries that, for the most part, hate America.
Under Progressive Presidential leadership, we also see the US highly supporting the United Nations, including giving up American rights and resources to promote the concept of globalization (i.e. one world market under a one world government). Over the past 70 years, America has entered into treaties and trade clauses that were not in the best interests of America, but served a more progressive outcome called: Globalism and redistribution of America’s wealth to other nations. Globalism is just the next step in world progress; and a necessary step to help America and the rest of the world to further progress. When Donald Trump campaigned that America should put “American interests first” and our trade agreements should also be “good for America,” Progressives opposed these perspectives because they were anti-global, thus anti-progressive.
- Who Should Rule: Experts or Representatives?
The Founders thought that laws should be made by a body of elected officials with roots in local communities. They should not be “experts,” but they should have “most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society” (Madison). The wisdom in question was the kind on display in The Federalist, which relentlessly dissected the political errors of the previous decade in terms accessible to any person of intelligence and common sense.
The Progressives wanted to sweep away what they regarded as amateurism in politics. They had confidence that modern science had superseded the perspective of the liberally educated statesman. Only those educated in the top “liberal arts” universities, preferably in the social sciences, were thought to be capable of governing (Merriam). Politics was regarded as too complex for the common man to cope with (W. Wilson). Government had taken on the vast responsibility not merely of protecting the people against injuries, but of managing the entire economy as well as providing for the people’s spiritual well-being. Only government agencies staffed by experts informed by the most advanced modern science could manage tasks previously handled within the private sphere (Wilson). Government, it was thought, needed to be led by those who see where history is going, who understand the ever-evolving idea of human dignity (Wilson).
The Progressives did not intend to abolish democracy, to be sure. They wanted the people’s will to be more efficiently translated into federal government policy. But what democracy meant for the Progressives is that the people would take power out of the hands of elected officials and political parties, and place it instead into the hands of the central government, which would in turn establish administrative agencies run by neutral experts, scientifically trained, to translate the people’s inchoate will into concrete policies. Local politicians would be replaced by neutral managers presiding over neutral technically trained staffs. Politics in the sense of favoritism and self-interest would disappear and be replaced by the universal rule of an enlightened bureaucracy.
Fast forward this belief system of a large central federal government within the context of the 21st Century, and we see that there are just fewer than 3.0 million of federal employees; and they are anything but neutral. In the 2016 presidential election, The Hill reported that it checked Federal Election Commission records and reported:
“… Roughly $2 million was given by federal personnel in 14 agencies, or $1.9 million. Of this, 95%, went to Clinton, the Democrat. It said that Department of Justice political donors gave 99% of their money to Clinton, the State Department she once headed, and only 1% of the reported political contributions went to candidate Trump. Of the political contributions reported from records of the Internal Revenue Service workers, 95% of all contributions went to Clinton and other Democrat Party candidates.”
Given the disparity of federal employees being heavily tilted toward the liberal Democrat Party, you can only guess what kind of policies and rules are being promulgated by these so called “neutral” administrators, and if their decision making is truly “fair and balanced.” Most scholars today believe the 4th branch of government (the unelected federal bureaucracy) is very liberal in its beliefs. In truth, you can see the wisdom of Madison when he stated: “Men are not angels.” Most people are wired to be self-serving, and Progressives are no different when it comes to the implementation of their progressive policies and agenda; but they get to use the force and power of the federal government to implement their agenda.
As I close this article, I desire to show how the original concepts and beliefs of Progressivism are continuing to exist in America today. Progressivism not only exists today, it is evolving. Progressivism is always evolving and transforming; it seeks to have government get bigger, more controlling, and with no end to its outreach.
As noted in previous articles, Progressivism took hold in America in the early 1900s, increased in power during the Presidencies of Wilson and FDR, grew massively under the Great Society of LBJ, and reached its current apex with the “Affordable Care Act” (Obamacare) under President Obama, where government took over 23% of the economy with one law.
In the 1960s, Progressivism transformed itself into liberalism, because it was considered a more modern term. Most Progressives today refer to themselves as liberals; and most liberal politicians refer to themselves as progressives. Today, the two words are interchangeable. Modern liberals continue the vast majority of Progressive beliefs, but they enhance them by putting a somewhat different spin on them. In this closing section I hope to show you how progressivism has morphed (evolved), as it continues to spread its tentacles across our society.
For example, in 2018, new liberal terms abound. Today, it is not uncommon to hear such terms as: multiculturalism, social justice, political correctness, sexual liberation, sexual freedom, gay rights/LGBTQ, globalism, environmentalism, and others. Please realize these are all historical Cultural Marxist terms, but with new packaging to make it easier to sell to an unsuspecting American public. Selling the public on change usually comes through our intellectual elite, and through our transformed youth. Unfortunately, these concepts are all part of “Cultural Marxism” tactics to further divide and ultimately turn America toward “socialism,” or a society controlled by the government. These terms infiltrated America in the 1930s, and became the bedrock mantra of the new liberalism that emerged from the radical 1960s. Overall, these concepts have reached a state of transcendent purpose under current day modern liberalism.
The original Progressives believed they were promoting the values of science and education. These concepts are still very active amongst the left within our state-funded colleges, but Modern liberals have also elevated various groups to “victim” status as its current day mission. In this regard, the old progressive concept of “Uplift” has been replaced by two new Cultural Marxist terms: “diversity” and “multiculturalism.” At its core, both terms are the same Marxist tactic of “class warfare,” as a means of dividing society to revolt against its traditions, religion, and societal controls.
When it comes to terms like diversity and multiculturalism, and its attacks on current American society, I must admit there is a scary beauty of using terms like “racist” and “sexist” by today’s culture attackers — such sins and labels are easily extended far beyond individuals to include institutions, literature, language, history, laws, customs, and entire civilizations. In other words, they can attack our entire society as a whole as being “racist.” Moreover, the charge of “institutional racism” is no different from the original Marxists declaring an entire economic class an enemy of the people. It’s the same attack tactic, just being repackaged for today’s culture. In this case, “racism” and “sexism” are multiculturalism’s assault weapons. Just as “class warfare” was the assault weapon for Communists. Multiculturalism is nothing more than the Socialists assault weapon of today, with the aim to further transform our culture and society toward a socialist/communist system.
But there is one key difference as the above tactic has morphed. Under liberalism today, beneficiaries of government sponsored “diversity” and “multicultural” efforts are no longer expected to exhibit good behavior as a part of social ethics. Instead, they are encouraged to “resist,” and to riot and conduct mass protests as acceptable tactics, as liberals look to “right the wrongs” of other identified sub-groups. Under the new definition of multiculturalism, any “group with less” is automatically considered a victim of the wealthy. This definition continually opens up the door to new groups that need government intervention and “uplift.” As new groups are identified, the government welfare and entitlements expand, and the government grows. It’s a never ending cycle. Modern liberalism is progressivism on steroids.
Furthermore, the Liberals of today do not support the idea of family. The modern liberal considers sexual liberation a main value, and is unconcerned about the impact of policies on family stability. Thus public support of abortion as part of women’s healthcare is a critical liberal mission. Further, sex of any kind, inside or outside the marriage institution, and sex with anyone you want is now the modern interpretation of “acceptable“society behavior. Again, both public policies erode the family unit in America. A weakened family unit cannot offer the necessary supports to its family members. The end result means more people will need to rely on government programs for their needs; and more reliance on government “freebies” means more people who will vote liberal, or Democrat. Thus the voting trend is assured to continue.
Finally, the environmentalism of the modern liberal goes far beyond anything contemplated by the original Progressives. Progressive conservationist Gilbert Pinchot argued that public lands needed to be managed for the current and future use of humanity. The outcome of this belief is shown by the federal government owning 75% of the land in western America.
Modern Liberals have taken environmentalism to a whole new level. Liberals today view subhuman life as sacred, while most are indifferent to human life. Pinchot would never have approved the policy implemented in California that denies irrigation water to farmers in order to reduce the decline of the Delta Smelt. Yet putting animal life above human life is the modern liberals’ priority.
Environmentalism today plays out via many agendas (closing coal mines; preventing pipe lines, transit justice, solar energy, urban green space, etc.). But perhaps the biggest movement is the global warming effort. Despite scientific data to the contrary, most liberals today believe in “global warming,” and that reducing the human “carbon footprint,” is critical (even though one explosion from Hawaii’s volcano just put 900 million years of carbon footprint reductions into oblivion). Just remember, all global warming efforts are not supported by scientific evidence. Instead, they are simply another progressive effort to redirect America’s wealth. In the case of global warming, it’s redirecting America’s wealth to other nations to implement their notion of “uplift” (i.e. Nation Uplift), which is always to the detriment and cost to America. Liberals have no problem diminishing America, if their larger cause of “helping the world progress” wins out.
As you can see, Progressivism did not end in the 1920s, or even in the 1960s; it just merged with Cultural Marxism. Under Modern Liberalism, new causes and new names have emerged to sell the same story. Which is: “America is racist, and too wealthy and immoral; capitalism is evil and must end; and America must be transformed.”
Not all Republican politicians are part of the liberal mindset that America must be transformed. But, nonetheless, far too many Republican representatives are Progressive when it comes to their belief in an active and large government. In this regard, many people who call themselves Conservative are actually Progressives. To determine if a politician is a Constitutional Conservative or a Progressive, ask them to define their view of “government” by the tenets of the Constitution, and, in particular, Article 10 (i.e. “The powers not explicitly delegated to the United States Government by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”). Their view on Article 10 will tell you a lot. Their view on government budgeting will tell you even more. If they think an expanded role for government is necessary in today’s complex world, they are a Progressive. If they think our government has not overreached during the past 80 years with the amount of Laws, Departments and Agencies they have created, they are Progressive.
People who consider themselves Progressive, including many moderate Republicans must come to understand progressivism is the very abandonment of our Founders’ principles. Progressives stood for historical relativity, assaults on property rights and free markets, a large bureaucratic government, and celebration of a “freedom” detached from human nature. Coincidently, these are the same beliefs of the modern liberal today, just with modern packaging. In today’s language, the terms progressive and liberal are synonymous for all intents and purposes.
The Good News: Modern Conservatism
The good news is the Founding principles and our Constitution are not yet quite dead. When you get beyond the universities and the media, there are still numerous ordinary Americans who have a high regard for God, property rights, virtue of self reliance, the importance of the family, and the unapologetic willingness to use armed forces in defense of the nation. As I noted in my last article, the first great battle for America’s soul was over slavery, and was settled by the Civil War. The next great battle is here now, and it’s the “war” of conservatism vs. liberalism. This war has still yet to be resolved, and most Americans are just now waking up to the subterfuge used by the liberal left on how they are trying to transform our country into a socialistic state.
Fortunately, modern conservatism is the most current movement in the United States. It began under Ronald Reagan who exposed the tactics of the liberal left. The Conservatism Movement of the 2000s owes its success to a recovery of and an effort to root itself in the Founders’ constitutionalism. Today, you can see “conservatism” playing out at the political level on the importance of appointing conservative judges to district, circuit and, most importantly, the Supreme Court; judges who agree to strictly uphold the Constitution.
One of the think tank leaders of the conservative movement is Frank Meyer, an American philosopher and political thinker. Meyer developed his famous doctrine of fusionism — a fusing of libertarian individualism with religious traditionalism. Today, many conservatives at the national level are following his thinking. As Meyer points out, “the real fusionism for contemporary conservatism is supplied by its effort to recover the Founders’ Constitutionalism, which was itself an effort to fuse or blend critical American political principles like liberty and equality, competent governance and majority rule.”
For the better part of the 20th Century, conservatism went into “stealth mode,” as they battled progressivism, which received much more of the liberal media publicity. But because of modern conservatism taking root, the Founders’ constitutionalism has continued to shape American politics and public opinion, especially over the past 25-30 years. Today, there are many noted conservative leaders speaking out, mainly on talk radio and the conservative press.
From an historical standpoint, conservatism was done in a subterranean fashion throughout the 20th century. It was out of sight, and in defiance of the intellectual doctrines and utopian expectations of American Progressive intellectuals. Over the past 25-30 years, however, it has become much more pronounced, which is causing part of the “great divisiveness” in America we see today. Liberals are threatened by conservatives, and Democrats like Maxine Waters call for outright rioting and warfare against conservatives. There is battle going on for America, and people are taking sides.
My real hope is the America can find “talking points” and “agreement” between both sides. However, as long as each side digs in, compromise is not part of the current landscape. The only way compromise can be achieved is if conservatives get stronger and more vocal.
It is my contention that now is the time for true Conservatives to get out of “stealth mode” and into “political action mode.” If you are a Conservative, and you do not vote, you are in essence casting a Democrat Party vote. Moreover, Conservatives must become much more active. For example, I writing this series is my effort to better educate the public.
The days of our passivity must end. We need to seize back the America we desire, and this is only done through the election screening process and the ballot box. Here are some tips on what you can do to become more politically active:
- Read books and articles on Progressivism, Cultural Marxism, Socialism, and Liberalism to better understand the devices, tactics and goals of the left.
- Join a conservative group on social media (i.e. Twitter) to stay in touch with key issues and like-minded people. (Currently, I have over 8,000 Twitter friends of like-minded people).
- Volunteer and get involved in local/state campaigns of true conservative candidates. (Currently, John James for US Senate is great candidate to get behind).
- Talk to your friends about what you learned in this article. Share information on what it means to be a liberal vs. a conservative. Educate your friends and family.
- Pray for our Nation and leaders.
Modern Conservatives must be much wiser with the candidates we chose to vote for at the local, state and federal level. Also, local and college school boards are frocked with liberals who support Progressivism. School Boards have a huge influence on youth via school policy and curricula approval. Passivity in our voting process is no longer an option. We are playing for the “soul” of our nation. Progressives are dead serious on the future they want: “A Godless Society, with an untethered Government.” As such, Conservatives must be equally clear on the future we want: “A “limited government” that is based on Constitutional and Founding principles.”
Modern Conservatives need to “re-theorize,” the constitutional substructure that our Constitution demands. This does not include a huge federal bureaucracy. We also need to create a political movement that, unlike Progressivism, will sail with rather than against the prevailing winds of American Exceptionalism. Such a “headwind” will surely make for smoother sailing than the course we have been traveling for the past 80 years under Progressivism.
As I close this article, let me leave you with some self-assessment questions:
- To what “worldview” do you subscribe? Are you more aligned with the Progressive philosophy of government as it has evolved in America; or are you closer to the traditional principles upon which our nation was founded? There really is a clear choice between the two worldviews in America today, with very little in between. Either you:
- Subscribe to an expansive role for our government … a government that desires to remove God (or Natural Law) as the cornerstone of our Nation, and replace Him with government sponsored programs, services, and a new transformed definition of our society;
- Subscribe to the notion of limited government … a government that is based on “Gods Standards” or “Natural Law;” a government that is based on Constitutional principles; a government that protects the rights of individuals and property; and a government that serves a purpose by allowing individuals to succeed without government intrusion and oversight.
- If you consider yourself a “Liberal” or “Democrat,” do you agree with your Party’s philosophical vision, direction, and priorities? If not, it may be time to decide what kind of candidates you desire to vote for and elect in the future? The Democrat Party of today is no longer the party of JFK, nor is it the Party your parents or grandparents supported. It has a socialism agenda, and a radical view of group rights in America.
- If you consider yourself a “Conservative” or a “Republican,” or even a “Libertarian,” it may be time to start asking “hard questions” of your political candidates on their beliefs, values and view of government. As I noted, far too many Republican candidates say they are “conservative,” but in truth, they are closer to a Progressive view of government, than having a Constitutional Conservative perspective. Make sure you know for whom (and what) you are voting.
- What criteria do you use to evaluate a potential political candidate?
I might suggest evaluating the candidate’s worldview. To do this, you could use the following features of modern liberalism as your candidate assessment tool:
- Their views on the need for a large government (or governmental programs) as the solution to today’s problems;
- Their views that the Constitution is a living document and should change with the times, as opposed through formal amendment;
- Their views on the need for minorities, women, illegals, and other supposed victim groups requiring special government intervention to affect their station in life;
- Their views on sexual expression being a basic right, including a “anything goes” attitude in the public square as long as it does not harm anyone;
- Their views that the treatment of animals, plants, and the earth are sacred and more important than human life; and
- Their views and perspective on unborn babies, and whether government should be paying for abortions and contraceptives.
All of the above are barometers to determine the progressiveness of the person. If you find your candidate answering yes to any of these questions, it may be time to run from them.
As I end my segments on Progressivism, I hope you have received some “food for thought” that has made you much more aware of the political world in which America now exists. The time to chose is now: “Which worldview do you endorse?”
Thanks for reading this lengthy but very important article.
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Dennis is a 40+ year resident of the Blue Water area. He is a retired Executive Officer for two regional healthcare organizations; and was the CEO for his own successful Management Consulting firm. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History from Western Michigan University; a Masters Degree in Professional Counseling from WMU; and a Specialist Degree in Psychology/Behavior Modification from the UM. Dennis is a Christ-follower, husband, father, grandfather, and loves golf, board games, and discussing politics and religion. He is a leader in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF); disciples several men; and has been an Elder, children’s bible teacher, Sunday school teacher, Life Group leader, and Men’s ministry leader in his church.