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The Regressive Progressives

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Editor's Note: This column is co-authored by Jim McCoy

The Oxford English Dictionary defines progressives as “supporters for or advocacy of social reform.” Ironically, the reforms that most progressives seek are actually regressive and take us back to darker and less liberal eras. A synonym for progressive is advancing, but it begs the question, advancing what?


A 2005 article in the Journal of Economic Perspective by Princeton’s Thomas C. Leonard argues that “less well known is that a crude eugenic sorting of groups into deserving and undeserving classes crucially informed the labor and immigration reform that is the hallmark of the Progressive Era.” Reform-minded economists of the Progressive Era defended exclusionary labor and immigration legislation on grounds that the labor force should be rid of unfit workers, whom they labeled “parasites,” “the unemployable,” “low-wage races” and the “industrial residuum.” This is where progressivism came from at the turn of the 20th Century. 

Rigorous history documents that for nearly a century Democrats were the supporters of slavery in America. The Republican Party was formed by Abraham Lincoln to counter Democrat-supported slavery and the Civil War was started because of two major issues. The first was states rights. Southern states believed the high federal taxes on agricultural production unfairly hurt the south and benefited the north—taxation without sufficient representation. The second was slavery. The south was, by significant degrees, better off economically because of cheap slave labor, despite the federal taxes they paid from this labor disproportionately benefiting the north. This was at a time when slavery was still practiced among most nations of the world. For example, progressives in Canada might be surprised to learn that slavery in Canada was not just a white man’s failing but included slavery practiced by First Nation (indigenous) people from the earliest times and even later under European colonization. Much of the world including the United States realized the error of their ways and progressed, ending slave trading with Africa throughout the 1800s. 


Today’s progressives have social amnesia about their Democrat past. This is the result of the deteriorating quality of our education system--the abject failure of school reform in both K-12 and college to teach a non-progressive version of history. What they have been teaching for the past 50 years is a bait-and-switch history invented by Marxists, and used by socialist teachers and professors. This approach continues full throttle. In fact, progressives have doubled down on the Times’ 1691 version of history. With apologies to the 1984 Jonathan Demme/Talking Heads’ film, they have stopped making sense.

Paradoxically, the proud progressive label impounds a history that is the opposite of wokeness. Victor Davis Hanson has characterized them succinctly in these words, “The woke but godless, the arrogant but ignorant, the violent but physically unimpressive, the degreed but poorly educated, the broke but acquisitive, the ambitious but stalled—these are history’s ingredients of riot and revolution.” This cast of characters don’t want a democracy because it entails mutual answerability and reciprocal respect. Progressives have no idea who they should respect other than anyone who is against everything—tear it down and start anew like CHAZ in Seattle--a great and lasting progressive accomplishment!

The regressive progressives, be they the MSM, politicians, labor unions, academics and teachers, believe they have emancipated themselves from the alleged systemic racism of American greatness, arguing for a new era where everyone else must say the right things, think the right thoughts, follow the right ideals, believe and support what they tell you. If you do not, you will be punished and that seems to be reward enough for them. As Abraham Lincoln said in 1858, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.” Progressives are doing their best to become our new masters and erasing America’s history of goodness and exceptionalism with the brush of angry mobs and corrupt progressive journalists. They are the new masters while nonbelievers are now their slaves.


A recent case in point comes from Heather Mac Donald who revealed in the Wall Street Journal that two psychologists, one from Michigan State University and the other from the University of Maryland retracted their 2019 study debunking endemic racism among police, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, only because she had the temerity to cite the study in a previous Journal Op-Ed. Heather Mac Donald concludes, “If scientists must disavow their findings because they challenge reigning orthodoxies, then those orthodoxies will prevail even when they are wrong.” This is exactly the goal of progressivism, to wipe out history and rewrite it to a version they can abide by. 

Another example of progressive efforts to control everything in the country, occurred on July 9, 2020, when Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue praised President Trump in the Rose Garden. Unanue praised Trump’s leadership and his initiatives in building America. These sincere and accurate statements were against progressive doctrine and consequently vilified. This vilification came in spite of the fact that Unanue had also praised President Obama and many of his programs, donated large sums of product and money to various charities and employed thousands of workers. Progressives attacked Unanue without mercy, compassion, or a sense of respect for the right of an individual to have a personal opinion different from theirs. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez immediately sent a tweet suggesting that she'd boycott Goya. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro joined in the attack asking people to reconsider buying Goya after Unanue's White House appearance. Sounds like another progressive Drew Brees shakedown. 


All Americans should be very concerned about regressive progressivism and its tactics. If you stand up for your beliefs and are not a target today, you may likely be tomorrow. As soon as you espouse an opinion contrary to the left, you subject yourself to the real possibility of both psychological and material retribution. Your position on life, abortion, marijuana, gay and transgender rights, wealth redistribution, type of government, immigration laws and every other social and political issue had better align completely with what progressives demand you adopt. If you are outside of their groupthink expectations, make no mistake about it, you will be targeted, canceled or forced into progressive conformity.

Welcome to our new Civil War in America.

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