Whenever the media high foreheads or anyone else labels “progressive” those politicians and agendas that any fair-minded person would term way-out-left zany liberal, my ears bleed. Letting liberals get away with pretending they are progressive is akin to wiping out an entire population and calling it, “ethnic cleansing.” Oh wait, thatis what they call it. Yet from the sound of it you’d think it’s some kind of Martha Stewart disinfectant instead of rampant murder. To control language is to control meaning.
Similarly, “progressivism” sounds jauntily forward-thinking but is actually a moldy graveyard of exhausted ideas, cousin to the long-dead tyrannies of the 19th and 20thcenturies. The progressive agenda of strong government control of society and the economy by administration “brilliants” who insist on regulating our lives because certainly they have our best interests at heart has worked out beautifully. Except wherever it’s actually been tried: in the Lenin Administration, the Stalin Administration, the Hitler Administration, the Mao Administration, the Pol Pot Administration, etc. Populations on the receiving end of the progressive agenda of the time—variously known as socialism, Communism and Marxism—rather than thriving, have instead perversely expired in huge numbers due to progressivism in action: 120 million or so of them, according to historians.
Anointing themselves “progressives” is simply a way for liberals to claim intellectual and moral ascendancy over the rest of us, especially Conservatives. “Progressive” is defined by Webster as “movement toward a goal or to a higher stage; advancements in general…continuous improvement; the development of an individual or group in a direction considered more beneficial than and superior to the previous level.” After all, who can argue with “progress?”
Progressives thus proclaim themselves the Fellowship of the Ring; the rest of us are the hairy, slobbering Orcs. They’re the entire enlightened magic faculty at Harry Potter’s Hogwarts; we’re the hopelessly dull Muggles. Interestingly, this is the only arena in which progressives embrace meritocracy instead of social leveling, because here meritocracy promotes their own superiority.
But progressivism is really all about the past, not the future. The first prominent politician to promote progressivism in America was actually a Republican - Theodore Roosevelt who became president in 1901. He greatly expanded the executive power, forcing more government control over the economy with regulation and anti-trust lawsuits. His legislative proposals included employer liability laws, government supervision of insurance companies and, most importantly at the time, giving the Interstate Commerce Commission power to regulate railroad shipping rates (The Hepburn Act) which in 1906 set a precedent for the interfering modern state.
Roosevelt also voiced the philosophy that would become modern progressivism, chastising “the malefactors of great wealth” (although he hailed from wealth himself), instigating class envy, and promoting graduated income and inheritance taxes that would happen later.
Much of the language, policies and thinking in his speeches and writings echo Barack Obama. He called himself the “steward of the people” and insisted he could exercise his executive right to do whatever benefited the nation – which he would decide himself without benefit of constitutional provision. Sound familiar?
As scholar and professor Jean M. Yarbrough in an article for the Heritage Foundation, “Theodore Roosevelt: Progressive Crusader” observed:
Roosevelt’s stewardship theory thus unmoored presidential power from the Constitution and made it directly accountable to the people. It is not uncommon today for progressives to give short shrift to constitutional questions or to cite phrases such as “We the people” and “the general welfare” rather than specific constitutional provisions to justify their proposals.
Today’s progressives feel entitled to determine what kind of healthcare 320 million people should have, to subsidize their favorite types of energy while punishing others, to use the IRS and other government agencies to silence political opposition, to decide which banks will prosper and which to shut down, how many millions of illegal immigrants to grant executive amnesty, to advertise for more people to apply for “food stamps” credit cards, and much more; all for “the general welfare.”
When his term ended in 2008, Roosevelt’s progressivism became even more Obama-esque prior to his third run for the presidency. He advocated emulating Europe in its pursuit of social welfare statism and creating the bigger government needed to run it. Roosevelt began to reject the American idea of “natural rights” and even property rights (“You didn’t build that!) In speeches he said Americans should “progress” beyond their concern with “legal” justice to a more “ethical” justice in which individual rights and especially property rights were subordinated to “duty” – the duty to take care of their fellows: wealth redistribution in Obamaspeak. When his radical ideas failed to win him the Republican nomination, he created his own party, the Progressive Party, and ran for president again in 1912. He lost, and the Progressive Party only lasted a few more years.
But zombie-like, the idea of command-and-control government never dies. Marxism, Communism and Nazism (The German National Socialist Party) are certainly more viral versions, but the foundation is the same: a group of governmental elitists convinced they know what is best for all of us, and willing to use bullets or guile to enforce their belief.
Because progressives exist in a realm light years above and beyond the common herd of humanity, it’s only sensible for the rest of us to allow them to take charge of our world. We are far too feeble-witted to make our own decisions and so they determine what kind of light bulbs we must buy (the squiggly kind that have destroyed American jobs because they are made in China as it turns out, plus they’re stuffed with lots of toxic mercury), what kind of food our kids must eat (sugar and other fatso stuff must go), what kind of car we should drive (whatever vehicle the government will pay us to buy), what kind of gas we use (ethanol, so corn product prices can go stratospheric and as an unintended consequence promote world-wide hunger), what kind of healthcare we must have (the pass-in-the-middle-of-the-
In reality, progressives are “regressives,” taking us backwards a century and more, not forward. But if you think that government’s magic beans will solve everything and long for bureaucrats to run even more of your life, vote by all means for the Democrats and their dusty, failed ideas. If not, go Republican while you still can.