Paul asserted (and Carl echoed) that we live in an era of progressive ascendancy. What does that mean?

Michael Zuckert recently pointed out that today’s progressives (and anti-progressives) are like Zombies. Everyone thought that the brand “progressive” had been killed by history or at least inconvenient events. But the progressives and their enemies are walking the earth again. The perennial Zombie issue: How do you kill folks who are already dead?

FDR engineered the Democratic move from progressive to “liberal” to secure the party’s brand more firmly in American political discourse.

And of course “progressive” was further discredited by its connection, for a while, with being a “fellow traveler” with the Communists.

Bringing it back was begun, it seems to me, by certain conservatives: They wanted to out liberals as really progressives. They wanted to restore the Founders good/History bad distinction by connecting today’s Democrats with Wilsonian anti-Founderism and socialist/communist/fascist Historicism.

But, instead of running away from this branding, Democrats—such as our president—embraced it. It’s really working for them.

Consider two facts: They’ve turned progressive into the defense of entitlements against reactionaries who view the whole welfare state as unconstitutional. They’ve also turned progressive into a defense of reasonable sophistication against anti-science fundamentalism.

Progressivism, in the president’s clever Second Inaugural, isn’t anti-Founderism at all. It’s become a version of the aspirational theory of the Declaration/Constitution, the achieving of its truthful principles over time. It’s the movement from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall, and it’s the claim that conservatives do everything they can to dig in against that movement.

We’re clearly having our clocks cleaned on the branding front. Our guys clearly screwed up. There’s more to say, but I want to hear from you.

Meanwhile, consider the subtext of THIS .

Articles by Peter Lawler

Loading...

Show 0 comments