Viewing Progressivism With Perspective

, Allie Winegar Duzett, Leave a comment

“To see what is truly afoot,” the Heritage Foundation’s Matthew Spalding argued, current events need to be looked at with “perspective.”

“Nothing that is being proposed right now, including health care, is a new idea,” Spalding said at last week’s Bloggers’ Briefing.  “These are old, tired ideas that all go back about a hundred years or so.  The first time national federal health care was proposed was in 1904; it was in the 1912 Progressive platform.  These are ideas that have a pedigree in this country.”

Spalding explained that while nationalized health care is an old idea, the version we face today in America is far more intense than it has been in the past.  Spalding called the current health care reform a “radicalized version” of progressive idealism—an idealism Spalding argued is “deeply misguided.”

“Barack Obama has said many times that he wants to ‘remake America,’” Spalding pointed out.  “That’s more than a rhetorical flourish.  A progressive in America has set [remaking America] out as his goal to essentially deny … the notions of limited government set up by America’s founders.”  Indeed, President Obama has certainly been clear about both his inherent progressivism as well as his intentions with America.

Spalding argued that property rights, constitutionalism, limited government, and liberty all “represent the inheritance from western thought into the American founding.”  He said that these principles “largely explain the great prosperity and success in this country.”

By contrast, said Spalding, “Progressivism took as its aim to reject those things …They want to get the Constitution out of the way.”  Spalding related the story of Nancy Pelosi’s reaction to someone asking about the constitutionality of mandated health care.  Pelosi asked the questioner, “Are you serious?”  Spalding said that Nancy Pelosi’s reaction is “a perfect representation of the progressive mind.  They do not believe that [constitutional] concerns are of any concern for them.  The Constitution is just an old document in a glass case.”  This is why, Spalding said, progressives believe instead in a “living Constitution” that means whatever they want it to mean.

“This is really a fundamental debate… between a set of ideas stemming from the philosophy of the West played out in American constitutionalism, and a philosophy that rejects that, that really does want to take this nation toward becoming a European nation, which is very different,” Spalding said of the current conflict between liberty and statist tyranny. “This is also not a new idea,” he added.

Spalding explained that even Alexis de Tocqueville saw the potential peril of the progressive ideals.  If America begins to embrace things like socialized health care and a nanny state, eventually we will end up with “soft despotism, benign despotism, which is nicer, but which is just as despotic, in which the citizen becomes the child and the government is the parent.”

Spalding explains the principles Americans must return to in order to avoid domestic despotism in his new book, We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future.

Allie Winegar Duzett is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.

 

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