News Flash! Progressives Hail 'Founding Fathers,' Praise The Constitution

Mary Grabar
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Posted: Nov 29, 2011 2:35 PM

In a turn-around that made the Dissident Prof’s head spin more than Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist, the Center for American Progress, the think tank co-founded by George Soros, posted several articles and held conferences praising (gasp!) the founding fathers.  The respectful reference comes in an article posted last month on the organization’s web page, and co-authored by the organization’s longtime President and CEO, now chairman of the board, John Podesta, President Clinton’s Chief of Staff.  CAP has been described as first being “the official Hillary Clinton think tank,” and then as the major source of advisors for President Barack Obama.

Dissident Prof discovered that CAP’s public display of this new-found love for the founders goes back to at least 2010, as witness this article in which this shocking sentence was found: “Progressives throughout history have venerated the ideals of America’s Founding, particularly as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.”

What?  Dissident Prof almost choked on her leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Those slave-holding, earth-and-woman (and probably animal) raping xenophobic, reactionary, greedy capitalist patriarchs?  This was not what all the textbooks she had been required to use and all the feminist and postmodernist criticism she had had to read in graduate school had said. 

This was something that she, as the kids like to say, could not wrap her head around (in spite of its dizzying rotation).  But as always, Dissident Prof is worried about the effect on students, for CAP has many student outreach and pedagogical propaganda programs, like Campus Progress.  Have all the teachers across the land been instructed in this new dictum?  Will they be giving bad grades to those students who have diligently been reading their Howard Zinn textbooks and who continue in the old vein when they write their journal entries and present their collaborative projects?  How will their dutifully memorized characterizations about the founding fathers as white privileged European males who plundered the land, who exterminated peace-loving Natives who recycled, and who set up the government to ensure that they as a class would control all the wealth for perpetuity be met by teachers?  Have the memos been sent to all teachers and professors about this new estimation of the founding fathers?

Dissident Prof, after she administered herself smelling salts, re-read the opening line of the article titled “The Constitution Is Inherently Progressive”:

“Progressives disagree strongly with tea party views on government, taxation, public spending, regulations and social welfare policies. But we credit the movement for focusing public debate on our nation’s history, the Constitution and the core beliefs that shape American life.”

Recalling her assigned deep reading of Jacques Derrida, she zeroed in and deconstructed the reference to “tea party.” 

What?  Not tea-baggers?  Not Astro-turfing, fascistic, racist reactionaries?  Did she note a change of tone?

Taking a swig of her cheap white wine, she calmed herself enough to read carefully.  Aha!  She should have known.  She always has to give progressive students a D for content on their papers, for they provide very little support for their claims.  And while she might acknowledge their facility with language and high-flown turns of phrase, she almost always has to bring down their grade for logical contradictions.  Progressive students are the ones most likely to whine about getting a low grade on a paper that has very little red ink on it.  They also have difficulty understanding that a paper with no substance cannot earn a high grade. 

Although Dissident Prof will not recap entire class lectures to John Podesta and fellow CAP scribes, she will give just a hint of the many, many ways they misrepresent the founding fathers. 

First, their contention that the founders were “radicals” is farthest from the truth.  The Constitution is based on a careful study of governments from the ancients on.  It is based on a realistic assessment of history and human nature.  The founding fathers did not work in the academy or think tanks, but had experience in the real world; they worked in professions like the law or ministry.  They were craftsmen, farmers, and inventors, but yet were widely read; they were respectful of tradition and retained a lapsarian view of man. 

Based on his extensive reading and study, Father of the Constitution, James Madison, in Federalist 10, warned about a “pure democracy.”  Anticipating Karl Marx, the SDS, and lice-infested OWS protestors in “general assemblies,” Madison wrote, “Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”  In fact, Madison acknowledges the inevitability of factions that are based on “the various and unequal distribution of property.” 

Progressives, however, herald social programs that increasingly redistribute wealth. The attempt to eliminate factions, or special interests, through equalizing property is an evil that contradicts the purpose of government, which is to protect the individual and his property.  Madison, at the end of Federalist 10, in fact, calls the “equal division of property” a “wicked project.”   

But this is what CAP presents about the Constitution:

 

Much of the conservative rhetoric against progressive treatments of America’s founding revolves around criticism of the belief that the Constitution is “living law”. . . . Progressives have argued since the days of Thomas Jefferson that the Constitution is not a fixed, static document that locks future generations of Americans into late 18th century constitutional interpretations. The genius of the Constitution lies in its ability to adapt to the changing norms and knowledge of new eras. The Founders wanted citizens to draw on the best available evidence and evolving understandings of democracy to keep the spirit of individual liberty and political equality alive.

 

That’s not what Founder George Washington writes in his Farewell Address:

 

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however, specious the pretexts.  One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.

 

Like Madison, Washington urged Americans to rely on experience: “the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion.”   Strict adherence to the Constitution, Washington says, “is sacredly obligatory upon all.”

Podesta, et al, are like many students that Dissident Prof has had over the years: They have not read the assignment.  Yet, these are the same students who expound in class with their “opinions.” 

If she were in a generous mood, and if the progressive student were sufficiently obsequious, she would allow for a rewrite.

But most progressives don’t want to go back and actually read originals.  Instead, having grown up in pampered circumstances, they insist that their opinions are all that matter.  Often they drop classes where they are asked to think logically and read the assignments.  They’re able to find many, many other professors who value their opinions so long as they agree with their own.  They get their degrees and then find others with similar opinions in the academy and think tanks.   They end up at places like the Center for American Progress, an institution that received over $5.5 million from George Soros’s Open Society Institute between 2005 and 2009, placing it at number 14 in the top recipients, according to the Soros Files.  They end up working for Podesta, who served as an Independent Advisory Council member of ACORN, and who worked for Senator Patrick Leahy, an advocate of circumventing the Constitution by gaining control of the federal courts.  During his long tenure in the Clinton White House, Podesta was known for his innovative “Project Podesta,” which according to Discover the Networks, “enabled the President to bypass Congress through the use of executive orders, presidential decision directives, White-House-sponsored lawsuits, vacancy appointments to high federal office, selective regulatory actions against targeted corporations, and a host of other extra-constitutional tactics.”

 From such think tanks where they engage in theoretical speculations, they aim “to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.”  If it means reversing course rhetorically when they see the new-found respect for the Constitution the Tea Party inspired, they will do it.  As students remember from World War II history, it’s not the first time anti-American subversives have reversed course.