It’s usually impossible to tell when an era is ending. Few predicted the market crash that would end the Jazz Age, for example. But it may finally be safe to report that the Progressive Era is coming to an end. And it’s time for Americans to decide where we go from here.
Here’s why: Progressivism has failed on its own merits, and people are starting to realize that.
Obama campaigned promising to shore up the progressive state handed down by Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. He vowed to preserve Medicare (LBJ), protect Social Security (FDR) and deliver effective expert governance (Wilson).
In the event, he even did those progressive “greats” one better. His signature achievement, ObamaCare, is the perfect Progressive program. It’s run from the top-down, assumes Americans are incompetent and will be run by self-proclaimed “experts.” But reality keeps getting in the way.
ObamaCare is set up, as we’re seeing, to “help” people by taking away their health insurance. This fall it’s people who buy their own health insurance; next year it could be tens of millions who get coverage through their employers when the mandate (suspended by Obama this summer) kicks in.
The administration’s policy is perfect progressivism. It assumes you don’t know what’s good for you, but experts do. They’ll tell you what your insurance must cover, for example. If you lose a policy you like, that’s as it should be. You’ll get “qualitatively better insurance coverage than what was available in many cases to Americans around the country,” as Obama spokesman Jay Carney explained. Maybe you’ve been forced into Medicaid, but that must be what’s best for you, even if it’s not what you wanted.
But progressivism has finally outrun its headlights. ObamaCare’s crowning achievement, healthcare.gov, doesn’t work. It keeps freezing up, even when the Secretary of Health and Human Services is trying to demonstrate it. And that’s not the site’s only problem. As of late November, it was only about 70 percent complete. The parts of the site that are supposed to calculate how much people owe and collect payments aren’t built yet, although they’re supposed to be up and running on Jan. 1. Merry Christmas to anyone who’s working on that site over the holidays.
Americans have noticed. Some 57 percent disapprove of ObamaCare, and the president’s overall approval rating is down to 42 percent. That’s bad news for him personally, but worse news for progressivism as a whole.
Gallup reports that more than half of Americans now say it’s not the federal government’s job to ensure that everyone has health care coverage. “Prior to 2009, a clear majority of Americans consistently had said the government should take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare,” the polling firm adds. As recently as 2006, 70 percent of Americans said they thought the government should provide coverage to all. ObamaCare is, at the least, setting the progressive project back.
It’s not simply ObamaCare, though.
Obama will be the final progressive president because Progressive government pretends to be competent, while he repeatedly highlights his own powerlessness.
In just the last year, the president has repeatedly insisted he has no knowledge of what his government is doing, and no control over what the federal bureaucracy does. Obama insisted he learned that the IRS was investigating conservatives only when that story made the news. The same is true of the fact that the NSA was spying on foreign leaders. Obama must not have thought to ask where all the classified information came from.
Then there’s the fact that the Justice Department is pulling the phone records of journalists. The president professes complete ignorance. And, of course, he wasn’t in the loop when his signature Web site was heading for a crash. “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as -- the way it was supposed to,” he announced on Nov. 14.
Of course not; his is an administration without an administrator.
Our country’s coming progressive collapse will be less a crisis than an opportunity. It should open the door to much needed entitlement reforms: Not simply ObamaCare, but Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as well. Conservatives should lead the way in reshaping the role of the state, especially the federal government, in our lives.
Obama is ushering out the Progressive era. Perhaps it can be followed by a rebirth of American greatness.