When Progressives Last Ran America

 

“There is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

A major pandemic that killed more than 600,000 Americans is finally winding down. Taxes are raised on individuals and corporations. The nation has experienced the most progressive presidency in American history. White supremacy is a major threat, as race riots hit some cities. Systemic racism is everywhere. Soldiers are coming home after a long war. A reportedly debilitated President is largely protected by his spouse. Major movements are afoot to improve the human condition.

An apt description of today? Try 1920, (more specifically, 1913-1921) some 100 years ago.

The major pandemic was the 1918 “Spanish flu,” the most devastating pandemic in history. The most “progressive presidency” was that of Democrat Woodrow Wilson and, some would say, his wife Edith, who is often credited for becoming de facto president following Wilson’s stroke that left him largely debilitated. The Klu Klux Klan was reaching its crescendo leading up to the 1924 Democratic National Convention, often referred to as the “Klanbake.” American soldiers were returning home victorious after World War I. Tulsa’s race massacre of 1921 resulted in hundreds of Black Americans being slaughtered and their community destroyed.

President Wilson, who hosted the first motion picture ever shown in the White House – the racist D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” a tribute to the KKK – also ordered the segregation of the federal workforce and the military (systemic racism). The major movements afoot to “improve the human condition?” There were two – Eugenics, supported by Wilson and led by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, and Prohibition, which culminated in the 18th Amendment to outlaw the sale of alcohol.

Progressives in Congress and the states – in control of both political parties – aggressively amended the Constitution. They enacted the 16th Amendment to authorize the income tax. Previously, the federal government relied heavily on tariffs to finance their activities. They enacted the 17th Amendment to provide for the direct election of US Senators, instead of relying on state legislatures, as originally provided by the Constitution. Seems the Senate suffered from some states’ inability to fill vacant seats.

And following the 18th Amendment, the 19th Amendment gave women, who were largely the driving force behind Prohibition, the right to vote. I’ll leave that one alone. The next amendments, the 20th and 21st, would not be adopted until 1933. The first would shorten the “lame duck” period between the election and inauguration of a new President, from March 4th to January 20th. And the 21st would repeal the 18th. President Franklin Roosevelt, in his first year in office, would celebrate with a dirty martini.

While we don’t have a flurry of Constitutional amendments, progressives today are demanding that the US Senate undermine its organizational purpose by eliminating the filibuster. Sanger’s Planned Parenthood remains alive and well as the nation’s largest abortion provider with most of its facilities located in predominantly poorer minority neighborhoods. And instead of banning alcohol, progressives are looking to ban other things: opposing ideas, free speech, and guns. As for improving the human condition, we also have Critical Race Theory that resembles the old racism of 100 years ago.

And progressives still claim that white supremacy is the biggest threat to America, ignoring more than 500 violent incidents and riots in 2020 in some 200 cities across the United States, most resulting from anarchists and others associated with Antifa and Black Lives Matter.

It may be a stretch – some will say it’s unfair – to compare early 20th Century “progressivism” with today’s. After all, progressives had leading roles in both political parties – it was bipartisan then, much less so today. Their home is clearly ensconced in the Democratic party. Of course, their ultimate argument will be that today’s progressivism hasn’t really been tried (just like Socialism. Uh-huh). And after all, it is progressives, less so conservatives who are working to legalize, not ban mind-altering substances like marijuana for recreational purposes (actually, it’s become quite bipartisan). Prohibition is so passé.

Prohibition had interesting supporters, which included Republican President Herbert Hoover, who referred to it as a “the great social and economic experience, noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose.” Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln were both on record as opposing it, as did Democrat Franklin Roosevelt. Evangelical Protestants, personified by preacher Billy Sunday, were very supportive, as was industrialist Henry Ford. Axe-wielding Carry Nation would destroy dozens of saloons and be arrested, only to be quickly released (not unlike today’s Antifa actors). Side note: no trip to Savannah, Georgia is complete without a visit to the American Prohibition Museum.

But there are eery resemblances to the motivations and desires of progressives 100 years ago to those today. The desire to use government to “improve the human condition,” be it controlling people’s activities because of pandemics, “climate change,” banning guns, for other top-down mandates is ubiquitous. Then, as now, progressives believe that our nation’s experts should lead us to our utopia, as best personified in the 1977 movie, Logan’s Run, as described here.

“Every aspect of life is planned. Freedom is abolished in the name of the fairness and equality. People live only for continual, instantaneous self pleasure. All relationships except those between the Self and the State are viewed with suspicion or are made impossible. The only thing citizens can look forward to is death and “renewal”, wherein the dismal process repeats ad nauseum.”

Sure, Logan’s Run is fiction, as was its recent sequel. But read carefully the pronouncements of today’s progressive politicians. Tell me where it differs from this description of Logan’s Run. Remember the 2012 Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia,” which outlined government’s cradle-to-grave involvement in every aspect of her life?

When it comes to so-called progressivism, it sure looks like Ecclesiastes 1:9 from the Old Testament remains true: there is nothing new under the sun. And speaking of the Good Book, perhaps it remains the best means to “improve the human condition,” not secular progressives. After all, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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  1. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Kelly D Johnston: Major movements are afoot to improve the human condition.

    ??

     

    • #1
  2. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    An excellent summation, I think.

    • #2
  3. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    When mankind tries to create heaven on earth they do precisely the opposite.

    • #3
  4. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Kelly D Johnston: The major pandemic was the 1918 “Spanish flu,” the most devastating pandemic in history.

    People who lived through the black death in the 14th century might disagree. 

    • #4
  5. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    My new theory is that every generation will have to fight a communist infestation.  This probably started with the assassination of McKinley.  Then again in 1920s, then the 1950s, then the Cold War, and now the 2020s. 

    • #5
  6. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Kelly D Johnston: Then, as now, progressives believe that our nation’s experts should lead us to our utopia, as best personified in the 1977 movie, Logan’s Run, as described here.

    You saw Logan’s Run?  You may be the first person other than me, who saw it.  And I didn’t know there was a sequel.  On the other hand, I follow bark beetles more than I follow movies.  But I digress.  

    I do recommend Logan’s Run to people who don’t get it.  I don’t think anybody has taken my advice.  Another movie that has way too much to teach is is the movie based on H. G. Wells’ Time Machine.  I haven’t found anybody else who has seen that, either. 

    • #6
  7. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: Then, as now, progressives believe that our nation’s experts should lead us to our utopia, as best personified in the 1977 movie, Logan’s Run, as described here.

    You saw Logan’s Run? You may be the first person other than me, who saw it. And I didn’t know there was a sequel. On the other hand, I follow bark beetles more than I follow movies. But I digress.

    I do recommend Logan’s Run to people who don’t get it. I don’t think anybody has taken my advice. Another movie that has way too much to teach is is the movie based on H. G. Wells’ Time Machine. I haven’t found anybody else who has seen that, either.

    I saw Logan’s Run and am reminded of it quite often.

    Fort Worth Water Gardens | Fort Worth, TX 76102

    Remember: Do not swim in the Water Gardens.

    • #7
  8. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: The major pandemic was the 1918 “Spanish flu,” the most devastating pandemic in history.

    People who lived through the black death in the 14th century might disagree.

    I’ll be sure to consult them, but 20-40 million people died from the Spanish flu world wide. That’s probably more than existed during the “Black Death.” It’s a numbers game. 

    • #8
  9. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: Then, as now, progressives believe that our nation’s experts should lead us to our utopia, as best personified in the 1977 movie, Logan’s Run, as described here.

    You saw Logan’s Run? You may be the first person other than me, who saw it. And I didn’t know there was a sequel. On the other hand, I follow bark beetles more than I follow movies. But I digress.

    I do recommend Logan’s Run to people who don’t get it. I don’t think anybody has taken my advice. Another movie that has way too much to teach is is the movie based on H. G. Wells’ Time Machine. I haven’t found anybody else who has seen that, either.

    There was a TV series, but no sequel movie.  In book form, however, there were TWO regular published sequels:  “Logan’s World” and “Logan’s Search,” and a third, “Logan’s Return” that was only an e-book.

    • #9
  10. JamesSalerno Coolidge
    JamesSalerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Progressivism is hard to discuss because it’s almost always broken down to surface-level Republicans-Were-Always-The-Good-Guys vs. Democrats-Were-Always-The-Bad-Guys arguments.

    I would argue that Lincoln did far more damage to an original understanding of the constitution than any other president. You can completely remove the slavery topic from the discussion and there is still plenty to talk about there re: progressivism. That’s a tough pill to swallow for most, but to give a more easily digestible example, look at TR and Taft, which were basically one administration. Wilson doesn’t happen without those guys laying the groundwork.

    • #10
  11. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Kelly D Johnston: Then, as now, progressives believe that our nation’s experts should lead us to our utopia, as best personified in the 1977 movie, Logan’s Run…

    And The Giver

    And Gattaca

    And Demolition Man (the best of the list).

    • #11
  12. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):

    Progressivism is hard to discuss because it’s almost always broken down to surface-level Republicans-Were-Always-The-Good-Guys vs. Democrats-Were-Always-The-Bad-Guys arguments.

    I would argue that Lincoln did far more damage to an original understanding of the constitution than any other president. You can completely remove the slavery topic from the discussion and there is still plenty to talk about there re: progressivism. That’s a tough pill to swallow for most, but to give a more easily digestible example, look at TR and Taft, which were basically one administration. Wilson doesn’t happen without those guys laying the groundwork.

    I agree that Lincoln did more damage to the republic than just about any other president.

    • #12
  13. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Instugator (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: Then, as now, progressives believe that our nation’s experts should lead us to our utopia, as best personified in the 1977 movie, Logan’s Run…

    And The Giver

    And Gattaca

    And Demolition Man (the best of the list).

    Been a long time since I’ve seen it, was the world of Demolition Man really that bad, before the bad guys got loose?

    • #13
  14. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Instugator (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: Then, as now, progressives believe that our nation’s experts should lead us to our utopia, as best personified in the 1977 movie, Logan’s Run…

    And The Giver

    And Gattaca

    And Demolition Man (the best of the list).

    Been a long time since I’ve seen it, was the world of Demolition Man really that bad, before the bad guys got loose?

    Everything was regulated and free people lived underground out of public view, in the subways system or somesuch, and iirc people loved their ratburger.

    I think the plot revolved around a government attempt at exterminating the free people.

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):

    Progressivism is hard to discuss because it’s almost always broken down to surface-level Republicans-Were-Always-The-Good-Guys vs. Democrats-Were-Always-The-Bad-Guys arguments.

    I would argue that Lincoln did far more damage to an original understanding of the constitution than any other president. You can completely remove the slavery topic from the discussion and there is still plenty to talk about there re: progressivism. That’s a tough pill to swallow for most, but to give a more easily digestible example, look at TR and Taft, which were basically one administration. Wilson doesn’t happen without those guys laying the groundwork.

    I agree that Lincoln did more damage to the republic than just about any other president.

    It’s like the line from National Treasure 2: “Before the Civil War, the states were all separate. People used to say ‘the United States are . . .’  It wasn’t until the war ended that people started saying ‘the United States is . . .’ Under Lincoln, we became one nation.”

    Well darn it, we were one nation before the war.  The only difference was the balance of power tilted heavily in favor of the Federal government afterward.  It’s up to the states to reclaim the power that is rightfully theirs per the Constitution . . .

    • #15
  16. JamesSalerno Coolidge
    JamesSalerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Stad (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):

    Progressivism is hard to discuss because it’s almost always broken down to surface-level Republicans-Were-Always-The-Good-Guys vs. Democrats-Were-Always-The-Bad-Guys arguments.

    I would argue that Lincoln did far more damage to an original understanding of the constitution than any other president. You can completely remove the slavery topic from the discussion and there is still plenty to talk about there re: progressivism. That’s a tough pill to swallow for most, but to give a more easily digestible example, look at TR and Taft, which were basically one administration. Wilson doesn’t happen without those guys laying the groundwork.

    I agree that Lincoln did more damage to the republic than just about any other president.

    It’s like the line from National Treasure 2: “Before the Civil War, the states were all separate. People used to say ‘the United States are . . .’ It wasn’t until the war ended that people started saying ‘the United States is . . .’ Under Lincoln, we became one nation.”

    Well darn it, we were one nation before the war. The only difference was the balance of power tilted heavily in favor of the Federal government afterward. It’s up to the states to reclaim the power that is rightfully theirs per the Constitution . . .

    “These” United States vs. “The” United States.

    • #16
  17. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Stad (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):

    Progressivism is hard to discuss because it’s almost always broken down to surface-level Republicans-Were-Always-The-Good-Guys vs. Democrats-Were-Always-The-Bad-Guys arguments.

    I would argue that Lincoln did far more damage to an original understanding of the constitution than any other president. You can completely remove the slavery topic from the discussion and there is still plenty to talk about there re: progressivism. That’s a tough pill to swallow for most, but to give a more easily digestible example, look at TR and Taft, which were basically one administration. Wilson doesn’t happen without those guys laying the groundwork.

    I agree that Lincoln did more damage to the republic than just about any other president.

    It’s like the line from National Treasure 2: “Before the Civil War, the states were all separate. People used to say ‘the United States are . . .’ It wasn’t until the war ended that people started saying ‘the United States is . . .’ Under Lincoln, we became one nation.”

    Well darn it, we were one nation before the war. The only difference was the balance of power tilted heavily in favor of the Federal government afterward. It’s up to the states to reclaim the power that is rightfully theirs per the Constitution . . .

    I noticed in one of his speeches, Churchill used the plural for the United States.

    • #17
  18. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Stad (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):

    Progressivism is hard to discuss because it’s almost always broken down to surface-level Republicans-Were-Always-The-Good-Guys vs. Democrats-Were-Always-The-Bad-Guys arguments.

    I would argue that Lincoln did far more damage to an original understanding of the constitution than any other president. You can completely remove the slavery topic from the discussion and there is still plenty to talk about there re: progressivism. That’s a tough pill to swallow for most, but to give a more easily digestible example, look at TR and Taft, which were basically one administration. Wilson doesn’t happen without those guys laying the groundwork.

    I agree that Lincoln did more damage to the republic than just about any other president.

    It’s like the line from National Treasure 2: “Before the Civil War, the states were all separate. People used to say ‘the United States are . . .’ It wasn’t until the war ended that people started saying ‘the United States is . . .’ Under Lincoln, we became one nation.”

    Well darn it, we were one nation before the war. The only difference was the balance of power tilted heavily in favor of the Federal government afterward. It’s up to the states to reclaim the power that is rightfully theirs per the Constitution . . .

    I’ve heard that the thinking until the 50s was that the US was not a nation as such  And this was why people objected  to the naming of the federal roads system, the national highway.

    • #18
  19. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Progressivism is hard to discuss because it’s almost always broken down to surface-level Republicans-Were-Always-The-Good-Guys vs. Democrats-Were-Always-The-Bad-Guys arguments.

    I would argue that Lincoln did far more damage to an original understanding of the constitution than any other president. You can completely remove the slavery topic from the discussion and there is still plenty to talk about there re: progressivism. That’s a tough pill to swallow for most, but to give a more easily digestible example, look at TR and Taft, which were basically one administration. Wilson doesn’t happen without those guys laying the groundwork.

    Progressivism’s roots, especially the Prohibition movement, go back to the Civil War (thus, Lincoln’s comments in opposition before his death in April 1865). So, yes, we can credit Theodore Roosevelt and many others for the feeding and nurturing of Progressivism of that era (even today). It is unfair, however, to put Roosevelt and Taft in the same bucket. After all, Roosevelt largely contributed to his defeat by running against him under the Bull Moose banner, giving us. . .Woodrow Wilson. 

     

    • #19
  20. James Salerno Coolidge
    James Salerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Kelly D Johnston (View Comment):

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Progressivism is hard to discuss because it’s almost always broken down to surface-level Republicans-Were-Always-The-Good-Guys vs. Democrats-Were-Always-The-Bad-Guys arguments.

    I would argue that Lincoln did far more damage to an original understanding of the constitution than any other president. You can completely remove the slavery topic from the discussion and there is still plenty to talk about there re: progressivism. That’s a tough pill to swallow for most, but to give a more easily digestible example, look at TR and Taft, which were basically one administration. Wilson doesn’t happen without those guys laying the groundwork.

    Progressivism’s roots, especially the Prohibition movement, go back to the Civil War (thus, Lincoln’s comments in opposition before his death in April 1865). So, yes, we can credit Theodore Roosevelt and many others for the feeding and nurturing of Progressivism of that era (even today). It is unfair, however, to put Roosevelt and Taft in the same bucket. After all, Roosevelt largely contributed to his defeat by running against him under the Bull Moose banner, giving us. . .Woodrow Wilson.

     

    I would say Taft continued with Roosevelt’s progressive agenda, and in many ways went further. Taft continued expanding the massive regulatory bodies and continued foreign adventurism. Dollar diplomacy. He also supported what eventually became the 17th amendment. Taft gets labeled as a conservative foil to TR because of his personality, in my opinion. If you look at the resume, there’s more than enough there to show how progressive his agenda was.

    I also think TR is the kind of guy who needed to get everything done on his own. Taft didn’t go as far as TR wanted in some areas, namely conservation, but overall their agendas were in line. I’m of the opinion that the reasons for TR splintering the party ticket were personal.

    • #20
  21. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member
    Nanocelt TheContrarian
    @NanoceltTheContrarian

    Kelly D Johnston (View Comment):

    James Salerno (View Comment):

    Progressivism is hard to discuss because it’s almost always broken down to surface-level Republicans-Were-Always-The-Good-Guys vs. Democrats-Were-Always-The-Bad-Guys arguments.

    I would argue that Lincoln did far more damage to an original understanding of the constitution than any other president. You can completely remove the slavery topic from the discussion and there is still plenty to talk about there re: progressivism. That’s a tough pill to swallow for most, but to give a more easily digestible example, look at TR and Taft, which were basically one administration. Wilson doesn’t happen without those guys laying the groundwork.

    Progressivism’s roots, especially the Prohibition movement, go back to the Civil War (thus, Lincoln’s comments in opposition before his death in April 1865). So, yes, we can credit Theodore Roosevelt and many others for the feeding and nurturing of Progressivism of that era (even today). It is unfair, however, to put Roosevelt and Taft in the same bucket. After all, Roosevelt largely contributed to his defeat by running against him under the Bull Moose banner, giving us. . .Woodrow Wilson.

    However, Taft was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court when it voted 8-1 (majority opinion written by the execrable Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, an Ur-Progressive, with concurrence by the  supposedly conservative Four Horsemen, the only vote against by the lone Catholic on the Court at the time) to allow the forced sterilization of a normal, though poor, young woman, Carrie Buck (Buck v. Bell).  Taft was an avid Eugenicist, having early on joined a Eugenicist organization (that of Dr. Kellogg).  This SC decision opened the floodgates for forced sterilization of the “Unfit.” And is still the Federal Law of the Land, Stare decisis uber alles (The site of the most avid application of forced sterilization was at Cal Tech, via the “Human Betterment Foundation” established by members of Cal Tech’s board and supported by Linus Pauling, Robert Milliken, David Starr Jordan, Thomas Hunt Morgan, etc.–records of that atrocity remain under lock and key.)  I would argue that Eugenics was far and away the chief effort of Progressives in the first half of the 20th Century to “improve” society by curtailing the reproduction of the “Unfit.” Such was the apex of “Science” in the first half of the 20th Century.

    Taft was every bit the Progressive that TR was.  And TR essentially “stole” the nomination from TR in the proverbial smoke filled back room.  TR had won what primaries had been run.  So it wasn’t that TR caused Taft’s loss to Wilson, as the rift between TR and Taft (which one bears the greater culpability?) was to blame.

    • #21
  22. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    By 1912, TR was a much more radical progressive than either Wilson or Taft.  He proposed a progressive constitutional reform program including the broad use of referendums, initiatives, recall of judges, and popular vote overriding of judicial decisions.  At its core was the desire to replace indirect republican representative government with direct democracy or, as Roosevelt put it, “people themselves must be the ultimate makers of their own Constitution“.   It was this that caused some of TR’s longtime political supporters and close friends like Henry Cabot Lodge and Elihu Root to support Taft (both also opposed the 17th Amendment).  Root remarked to a friend how difficult a decision it was since “I care more for one button on Theodore Roosevelt’s waistcoat than for Taft’s whole body.”

    Today’s progressives do not recognize Wilson as their intellectual ancestor and would repudiate him without hesitation.  All of these early progressives (up until the 1960s) were nationalists and insisted on assimilation of immigrants.  For the people who now control the Democratic Party and our societal institutions it is American Year Zero and they are happy to disassociate themselves from the history of both political parties.

    • #22